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The Best Approach To Coming Out

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Q: I need help coming out of the closet. What's a good way to approach the subject?

A: Well, my friend, if you approach the subject academically be prepared for the unexpected. Let me share a few anecdotes:
  1. As a college freshman, I fell in love with a boy, a senior.
    My plan: Go to his house and hang out.
    What actually happened: I stood in front of him, paralyzed. I kissed him on the forehead and ran out of the house, terrified.
    After that: He showed up at my dorm and let's just say he was my first boyfriend.

  2. My best friend throws a party.
    My plan: Drink and be merry.
    What actually happened: I found myself upstairs making out with the girl who to this day I think I'd be married to if I were straight.
    After that: I went downstairs and told my best friend I was gay.

  3. I'm hanging out with my mom. She's asking me about girls. I hesitate.
    My plan: Come out.
    What actually happened: After a long, melodramatic intro into how devastated I'd be if it weren't true that she'd love me no matter what, she replied with a simple: "You're gay? I already knew that."

  4. Irritated by repeated warnings from my dad "not to get girls pregnant" while I'm in college, we begin to argue.
    My plan: Win the argument.
    What actually happened: I didn't plan to come out, but eventually it slipped in my reply: "I won't be getting any girls pregnant because I'm gay." I guess I won?
I'm sharing these short coming out tales to highlight a very basic, yet real, condition of coming out: The only predictable thing about coming out is that it's unpredictable.

As you you come out, one of two things will happen: Those that accept you for who you are will stand by your side, and those that aren't cool with it will keep their distance. No amount of planning or calculation is going to change that.

When you get tired of holding back or telling lies or alluding questions, you'll find yourself coming out slowly to the ones around you, regardless of the potential outcome.

I'm not suggesting that you don't make a plan. Plans help us organize our thoughts and prepare for what's to come. However, recognize that when you tell other people, it may not come out as you rehearsed it and their reactions won't be as you imagined them to be.

The Approach

That said, I've found the following approach to coming out useful:

(a) Trust yourself. Not at all easy, but an effective strategy to determine when and to whom to come out. As stated above, you'll "feel" when it's time to come out. Mostly, your feelings will be driven by the frustration of not being able to be your authentic self.
Tools: How Gay Are You?

(b) Do what's best for you. Some may try to convince you to wait or choose a different time to come out, for reasons other than your own. Popular ones include waiting "out of respect for grandma" or "until dad gets back on his feet" or "after the family reunion." These stall tactics are not in your best interest, but theirs. Don't fall for them.
Tools: Will Your Family Stop Loving You?

(c) Be prepared. As illustrated above, things may not go as planned, so keep expectations at a minimum. Remember, coming out is about you freeing yourself. That's the benefit.
Tools: 4 Ways Not To Come Out

(d) Create a roadmap. So, you've come out? Now what? Start mapping out how you want to live your life, now that you can live it openly. Many guys forget this step, come out, and then wander the gay scenes aimlessly.
Tools: Keep A Coming Out Journal

(e) Remember what you've learned about dating before you came out. In the excitement of coming out, it's not unusual to get wrapped up in the idea of allowing yourself to date other men. It's easy to forget about the realities of dating. This isn't a problem, but remember that dating (whether gay or straight) is not always easy. It takes patience and a true understanding (and love for) yourself to attract the right partner and the right situations for you.
Tools: Top Gay Dating Tips

(f) Your popularity may increase. Sometimes, especially in smaller gay "scenes," there aren't many gay guys around. And if there are, many are used to seeing the same faces at the bars and online. Once a new guy comes onto the scene, those who haven't found what they're looking for will flock to the new face. A normal reaction. They'll be curious about you (for many different reasons). Enjoy the moment. It may last. It may not. Just be aware that this is a great opportunity to establish who you are within the scene (this includes choosing to stay out of the scene), and form your boundaries and expectations based on the roadmap you made earlier.
Tools: How To Meet Other Men
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