We have just looked at the challenges that can occur as a result of coming out as gay later in life. Now we'll look specifically at the process of coming out. This is not an exhaustive list, nor should it be considered a how-to guide of coming out. This cannot possibly cover the scope and broadness of all the issues that surround the idea of coming out. Every coming out story is unique, and personal, and is influenced by a myriad of factors. What this article does intend to do is to simply provide a helping hand along the way.
Before anything else can happen, there's one all important thing that you'll need to do. That first step is to come out to yourself. Coming out to yourself is a stage with which you acknowledge and accept that you are attracted to other men. It's about putting aside the feelings of denial that you've been carrying around and moving beyond that. It's also about putting aside any negative feelings, thoughts and attitudes that you may have been holding towards the queer community. Carrying this negativity is what often results in making some feel bad and depressed and it's a form of internalised homophobia. You would not be the first person to wish that they didn't have feelings for other men, and you're not going to be the last man to do so either.
This is an emotional journey that can occur for anyone regardless of age, as you’ll see in the above video, you can even come out in your eighties! Whenever you come out, you can be certain that it’s a challenging experience. For the most part, people have reported that after coming out, that it is like a burden which has been lifted off their shoulders. They still face challenges and obstacles, but they will find a renewed strength in these endeavours as they have become true to themselves. What this is often referred to as, is the idea of dealing and confronting denial. For the most part, men will say that they have experienced attractions towards other men which they have ignored.
Whilst sometimes these feelings might have been obvious with strong sexual connections, others might have simply felt an incredibly strong emotional connection. Sometimes there's very little indication at all, and this can lead to confusion and doubt. Hiding that attraction from yourself, as well as hiding it from others, is called denial. There a variety of reasons why people will choose to deny their attractions and these reasons can encompass everything from religion, to social pressures and expectations, and even family. Sometimes it might seem easier to deny the feelings, but what this generally results in is an adverse effect to your health. When you come out, you’ll find a great pressure relieved from your shoulders and you’re going to be far happier and healthier. It may not seem like it, but it will.
From this point, you might come to stage where you're working out what being gay is for you. This is generally an important step to consider before coming out to others, as once you have given it some consideration, you'll find yourself in a position of confidence. At the end of the day it is an important thing to remember that the definition of being gay has different connotations than to other people. Identifying as a gay male is not just about the type of sex that you have. Sex and sexual activity is just a small part of being gay. Identifying as gay might refer to the attractions that you have as your go through your daily life, it might refer to the type of love or relationship that you need, and for others it’s used as a lens through which they see the world in different ways. Even if you do not engage in sexual activity with other men does not mean that you can't be gay.
The idea of being gay is a personal construct, and you might need time to develop and explore this idea before you decide to come out. You might feel frustrated, you might feel angry that the changes in your life that you are looking for seem not to be happening. These changes can take time, and as with most things new you need to approach it with a little patience and gentleness. You're allowed to make mistakes as you explore, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. The exploration of the gay scene is where a lot of people will make mistakes. So long as you're learning from those mistakes, then you're certainly not doing anything wrong. The gay scene, with all its like-minded people and potential new friends can be an overwhelming new aspect of your life, and it is important to work out what you want from the gay scene, from socialising with friends and to look beyond gay stereotypes and be comfortable with yourself. This might involve going to the clubs, going to gay bars, or even on a gay cruise – the choices are yours and whatever that you feel happy with.
Telling others is the scariest step. There's always that element of fear of rejection, and that you're never going to quite know how they will take it. If you're finding yourself overwhelmed at this prospect it might be a good, and healthy, idea to seek the support of a therapist/counsellor that specialises in queer issues, there’s a variety of reasons why a counsellor can help. We can't tell you how to come out. There's no right way to come out, and the experiences will be very different from each person. As such, there's no way that we could tell you how to come out to your loved ones, friends and family. What we can provide advice on is ensuring that it is the right time and place, and that there are no other stresses within the environment. Telling someone over a quiet dinner at home, is certainly going to be a more beneficial way to talk to someone as opposed to a musical concert.
Their reactions might be positive, and it might be negative, there's really no way in knowing until you bite the bullet and arguably, the knowledge as to exactly where they stand will be far more beneficial than not knowing. There might be mixtures of shock, surprise, anger and hurt with which you may have to confront and deal with. Their reactions might be hurtful and upsetting, but keep in mind that you have had a longer time to deal with these feelings as opposed to the few minutes that they have to think about things. As such, when they've had a chance to digest these thoughts and feelings, they may find themselves regretting the first thing that they said to when you told them. What's important is ensuring that you're heard, and ensuring that they have the opportunity to listen to your points and your feelings. It may be hard, but there may be some people in your life that simply can't accept this new change. Keep in mind that they have only ever known you as to what you were before this point, and this new you may directly contradict the image that they have held towards you. For some people it may take time for them to adjust, and others never will. It's important to reassure everyone that you tell, that you are still the same person that you were, and that this new you, is only an extension of that person.
Some Tips To Consider When Coming Out:-
1. You should never feel pressured to come out. You might feel that someone is pressuring you to come out whether that be your friends, your family or anyone in between. You might feel that the only way out of your current situation is to tell someone how you feel and that you are gay. Don't. What people often fail to realise is that coming out is about you. It's not about them and it never will be. The moment that you start making you’re coming out as something to please or placate others is the very moment that you will lose sight of what is really important. Coming out is about making you happy, it’s about releasing that pressure off you, and about taking charge of your life.
2. There's a lot of concerns when it comes to labelling yourself within the gay community. On one hand it can provide an avenue through which you can feel closeness and belonging, but other times it can cause great frustration and negative feelings in yourself if you feel that you can't subscribe to a particular label. Using words such as gay, bisexual, or some other variant might help you feel comfortable, but never feel pressured into taking a label on if you don't want to. You might not identify as a gay male, you might simply identify as a man who has sex with other men, and that is perfectly okay. Here you’ll find a link to a resourceful guide that concerns different sexualities.
3. Don't ever feel that you will have to decide between your sexuality and your religion. If you're worried about labelling yourself out of fear of religious repercussions, then just consider the point that there's a variety of different queer religious groups out there. The interpretation of religion can be the contending point. Understanding Christianity, or even Taoism, can lead you to thinking that homosexuality is not an acceptable practice, but there is generally the provision of acceptance and interpretation. Just because you identify in a particular way, doesn't mean that you still can't be religious. Just jump online to look for them in your area.
4. There's a thousands of stories that have been written online about people coming out. That includes stories from celebrities, from every day people and from people from all walks of life. What you'll discover by reading these stories, is that many of them will mirror your own fears and anxieties. By reading other people’s stories, the good and the bad, it can help you prepare for your own coming out.
5. When you're ready, and only when you're ready. Tell one person. You'll know when the time is right. Don't be under the impression that you have to gather all of your closest friends and family over in your house one day for a surprise coming out party. Choose a person whom you trust the most. This could be a friend, it could be a sibling, therapist or it could be your wife. By choosing one person the world will become a far easier place, and telling other people won’t seem to be so intimidating. Talking it out loud, puts the problem out there as something tangible as opposed to something in your head.
6. Ignore the stereotypes. People get so caught up in the stereotypes that when they don't fit into one of them, it causes an immense amount of confusion and pain. Especially when you've been brought up, and travelled through life, with certain expectations of gay men, finding that you're a gay male yourself and then having to negotiate where in the spectrum you fit can be an emotionally challenging time. Why not just ignore the stereotypes, and be who you are because at the end of the day, it's only you and your happiness that matters.
7. Thinking about the positives may seem like a useful thing to do for some, but for others it will be their lighthouses during the storm. You've survived this long in life, why would you then let all your fears and anxieties rise to the surface when you're thinking about coming out. The positives will be that you will finally be able to have the chance to be yourself. Yes, there are challenges and obstacles that you're going to have to face in the short term, but in the long term what you've decided to do will have lasting and positive effects on your life.