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Coming Out of the Closet

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cowboy dancers 275x212Knowing when to come out — and to whom — might be one of the most pivotal and personal decisions you'll ever make. It's the first step in building relationships with family and friends that are based on honesty and openness, instead of the stressful and never-ending need to hide.

Content provided by Revolution Health Group

"Being 'in the closet' is just that," says Jason Cianciotto, research director for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force in New York City. "It's a place of isolation. You may think that no one else like you exists."

After coming out, many people feel excitement and zeal, along with enormous relief that they no longer have to suppress their true identity, he adds.

 

That said, you must weigh certain risks before coming out. Not everyone will accept you for who you are. Family, friends and co-workers might act shocked or in a hostile manner after your announcement.

The most important thing to remember is that you drive this decision. Don't let anyone pressure you into coming out if you're not ready, or if you think the timing's wrong.

If you've already weighed the risks and decided to come out, here are some tips to help ease the journey — and some advice from people who have already been there.

Decide if the timing's right

 
 
 

Pay attention to the mood and situation of anyone you'd like to come out to. Choose a time when the people you want to tell aren't dealing with their own stressful issues, such as job loss, death or divorce. And never come out in anger or during an argument.

If someone you want to tell has made disparaging remarks about homosexuality in the past, you might want to hold off on coming out to that person. If you're financially dependent on your parents, and you think they might withhold college money or tell you to move out, consider waiting until they don't have this sway over you.

cowboy dancers 275x212This advice comes from David, 29, a public relations representative in Washington, D.C., who hid the fact that he was gay from his parents because his homosexuality was at odds with their evangelical Christian faith. When they found out, they enrolled him in therapy to try to change him into a "straight" person. Years later, the relationship remains strained.

"Luckily, youth today have access to information and support groups that simply didn't exist when I was a teenager," David says. "Hopefully this will help them make decisions to protect themselves from the kind of rejection I experienced, which eventually led to me being kicked out of my home before I was ready to financially support myself."

Have a support system in place

Telephone hotlines, school guidance counselors, other gays or lesbians who are living openly, mental health professionals, support groups and supportive clergy can be great resources before and after you come out.

Even an understanding friend can lend support. Debby, 42, was a senior in high school in a small town when she first told a friend that she was gay. Debby didn't want to tell her own parents, but did confide in her friend's mom, who helped her set up an appointment with a counselor.

"It was such a relief to finally talk about my feelings with people who didn't judge me or think there was something wrong with me," she says now.

Provide resources

Providing written materials can help others understand homosexuality. Have available at least one of the following: a book or pamphlet written for parents, a phone number for the organization Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays , and the name and number of a heterosexual counselor who can provide an unbiased view of the issue. 


 
 

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