Kade Sharp, LICSW, CMHS
How Do I “Come Out” as LGBTQ+?
It’s about to be October 11th, which is National Coming Out Day here in the United States. A lot of factors play into whether or not someone tells others about how they identify when it comes to their gender or sexuality. In this post, I won’t dive into those factors or talk much about how to decide if you should tell others or not - that is a discussion I love to have with folks but it’s a lot better in-person than it is in written words on a screen. That decision is so unique to each individual that I don’t feel right about providing blanket guidance or advice here. So the suggestions you’re about to see are for the people that have decided they ARE coming out!
Just a quick note: “coming out” is not my favorite phrase because it kind of implies we’re hiding away somewhere until we tell others about our identity, which is not what’s up... but for the sake of clarity, I will still use it here and in related posts.
What are some serious ways to come out?
Letters: This is a classic - from gay authors back in the day writing letters to their loved ones to inform them of their sexuality to musicians these days that post letters online to sports athletes that put their letters in newspapers and magazines, there is no right or wrong way to do it. This method allows you to put all of your thoughts, feelings, and journey into a monologue that others can read to learn more about you and your story without being able to interrupt with questions, concerns, or supportive words. It allows your message to sink in before they respond.
Facebook: You could make this one “fun”, as I’ve seen some folks that have a “gender reveal photoshoot” to come out as trans or posting photoshopped pictures of them with some potential dates with famous folks of varied genders… But generally this is a pretty serious way to come out to your friends, family, and acquaintances. A thoughtful post sharing whatever information you want the world to know can be very impactful and to-the-point.
Texts/Emails: If a letter feels too formal and Facebook gives too broad of an audience to your message, you can always directly text (or email) those that you want to tell. This gives you a chance to have a pointed message to each person you’re contacting (or to copy and paste the same thing or send a group text or group email, if you want.)
Conversation: Sitting down with the person you intend to tell (or a group of people all at once) and putting yourself out there also takes a lot of bravery. You will see their reactions in real-time and they will have a chance to clarify what you’re telling them. If you do best with in-person discussions around big topics, this might be the right path for you.
Writing a book or zine: If your journey has been a long one and there is a lot that’s been left unsaid, you may choose to write and self-publish a book or zine as a way to come out. Whether it’s a narrative, poetry, collage, or picture book/zine, this could be a way to show others how you feel and identify. And you can set the tone - if it’s serious, it’s serious. Once you’ve completed the book or zine, you can send (digital or physical) copies to those that you want to announce your identity to.
What are some fun ways to come out?
Tweet: Take a page from Lil Nas X and come out casually on twitter. If you have friends and family on there, you may end up with some follow up questions and conversations. If you don’t, it can be a way to test out what it’s like to have others know about your identity without telling folks you know in real life. (Just keep in mind that someone you do know IRL might stumble across it!)
Gender Reveal party: If you are informing others that you are gender expansive or transgender, one fun way can be to host a (virtual or in-person) Gender Reveal party! Many parents hold these when they first find out the anatomy of their child from an ultrasound, but you can hold your own to let others know about your gender. Send invites, get celebratory food and drink, some balloons and banners, and let your world know what’s up!
Introducing your new partner: Some folks decide not to talk to others about their sexuality until it’s relevant to who they’re dating. You could definitely do this in a serious way but you could also make it fun. Maybe you challenge another couple you’re close with to a Couple versus Couple game night or you decide to go on a double (or triple or quadruple) date night to introduce them! This could look like a casual get-together where the focus isn’t necessarily on your partner or sexuality but instead just hanging out with loved ones to have a nice time.
Do it live: Hop on IG Live or FB Live and let others know you’ve got an announcement! If you like being on video, this is the way to go. Plus, if people miss it, usually the feed can be watched later on! They can hear it right from you and even interact in the comment section if they have questions or congratulations.
Go big and bold: Honestly, like with other announcements, the sky is the limit here! You can hire a plane that skywrites it, design cute cards you mail to your loved ones, create a blog where each post is part of a scavenger hunt where the end result is a message about your identity, host a dance party where you play exclusively LGBTQ+ musicians’ stuff and tell everyone during that, create a song yourself and upload it, write some poetry about it and show others or hold a poetry slam event, etc. Whatever you decide, make sure it’s what YOU are most comfortable with and that it represents you!
What if I can’t decide what way to do it or I’ve changed my mind about telling others?
It is perfectly okay to choose to wait or to decide against coming out. There should be no pressure to tell others if you’re not ready or haven’t figured out which way you’d like to share your identity. There can be a lot of reasons that people decide not to come out: safety concerns, worries about how others will react, uncertainty within themselves, etc. You have to do what’s right for you and your unique situation. If you are coming out this year, I wish you the best of luck!