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Is It Okay to Not Come Out?

Robyn Exton

Oct 11, 2021

Is It Okay to Not Come Out?

Your Coming Out Journey: Why It’s Okay to Wait

All LGBTQ+ people have different coming out journeys.

However you choose to come out and however long it takes, know that it’s completely valid.

Every queer person’s situation is different with their family, friends, and loved ones, so every coming out journey is different too.

Depending on your sexual orientation or gender identity, coming out can be a very different experience.

Some people come out in person, and some do it by email or phone call. Some come out young, some wait until they’re much older. Many people come out to certain groups or individuals and wait to come out to others.

Whatever your coming out journey looks like, it’s valid.

Do it in whatever way feels the best to you, and ensure you have a support network in place if things don’t go the way you want.

If you’re reading this article, you’ve already taken the first step: coming out to yourself.

Self-acceptance and self-love are the most important things. 

For National Coming Out Day, we’ve come up with a few things to think about before you tell people about your sexual orientation or gender identity.

Everyone fears negative reactions, but know that however long it takes you to come out, or if you decide to wait indefinitely, you’re still a valued member of the LGBTQ community.

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Coming Out Can Be Scary for Anyone

Almost all LGBTQ+ people are intimidated by the idea of coming out, especially the first time.

Of course, everyone hears horror stories, but that isn’t everyone’s reality. But even if it is yours, remember you deserve to be yourself and live your best life.

That’s the main thing. 

Coming out almost always feels scary, whether it’s your first time or your fiftieth. It requires you to let your walls down and be really vulnerable with people. But most people will instinctively know when it’s time.

It might feel scary because it could be potentially dangerous or destabilize your life. In that case, it’s okay to wait until you’ve worked on your self-esteem, become more independent, or built a stronger support network.

Being scared doesn’t always mean you’re not ready. Nothing worth having ever comes easily. 

Your support network is vital to get you through your coming out journey.

Whether these people are family members, other queer people, or close friends, you need people to be there for you as you take this step.

If you have particular concerns or worries, or you have a lot of questions about the best ways to come out, consider looking for online resources.

There are organizations all over the world with free online resources, counselors, therapists, and information that can help you think through the different stages and emotionally prepare for the journey. 

Influencer Tanya Compas encourages reframing the coming out narrative.

Instead of thinking about it as a coming out, think of it as letting people in.

You’re giving people the opportunity to know you more fully, and that is a privilege. You deserve to be able to have freedom in your sexual orientation and your gender identity.

It is certainly scary, but know the LGBTQ+ community loves you and is grateful to have you.

Safety Is Your Number One Priority

Your safety is always the most important thing.

If you think coming out to someone might compromise your safety in any way, it’s completely okay to wait. If there’s someone you feel might react badly or reject you if you come out to them, ask yourself a few questions first. 

Think about your financial situation.

Are you financially dependent on this person? If they were to cut you off, would you be able to continue affording your lifestyle?

If you live with or are financially dependent on someone you think may respond badly, wait until you are financially independent of them. Or make sure you have the funds and support system to survive without them if you need to.

Think about your physical safety.

Regardless of what anyone says, if you think there’s a chance of you being in physical danger if you come out to someone, you don’t have to.

You can wait, you can not come out to them at all, or you can come out to them on the phone or via email while you’re in a safe environment. 

Think about your emotional safety.

Being rejected when you come out hurts.

While sometimes this may be worth the hurt, ensure you have a good support system around you in case this happens.

Bring a friend with you if you want to, or let someone know when you’re doing it so that they’re available to talk to you or be with you if things don’t go the way you want them to.

Your mental health and emotional wellbeing should always take priority.

Take care of yourself, and let other people take care of you if you need it.

You Don’t Have to Tell Everyone at Once

Coming out isn’t a one-time thing.

For the vast majority of queer people, you will have to come out numerous times over your life. Family members, friends, co-workers, online followers, even dating.

It can feel intimidating at first thinking about all the different people you might have to come out to.

But if you break it down into smaller chunks, it doesn’t seem so daunting.

My advice would be to pick the people you think will react best and be supportive first.

Even if that’s not the person you’re closest to. It can help build your confidence to come out to an active ally or another queer person first.

They can help you not feel so alone in your journey.

By starting with the more accepting people, you’re building a support system of people who know the real you.

These people are vital, and they can be there to hold your hand and be a shoulder to cry on during more difficult parts of the coming out journey.

And don’t worry how long it takes.

Even if there are many years between coming out to your friends and family, or different people in your life, that’s completely valid.

Take as long as you need.

It’s a big deal, and you need to take it at your own pace.

It’s Ultimately up to You to Decide When It’s Right

At the end of the day, no one can tell you when to come out.

Only you know how you feel and your relationship with your loved ones. It’s up to you to decide when the time is right to let them in and reveal your authentic self to them.

Don’t let anyone else tell you when or how to come out. It’s entirely up to you.

If you think it might be time to come out, it’s okay to take it slowly and make sure you’re ready first.

Do some research.

There are plenty of resources online and offline that will help you to emotionally prepare for the process.

Think about reaching out to a counselor, therapist, or a charity like the Trevor Project for advice. They’re there to support you on this journey, and there’s nothing wrong with taking your time.

You don’t have to be waving the rainbow flag on a Pride float to be a valid and beautiful part of the LGBTQ+ community.

Even if you’ve only come out to yourself so far, that’s incredibly brave and powerful.

Whether you come out in a mass email to your entire contact book, in a social media post, or one by one over the course of many years, do it your way and at your pace. 

LGBTQ people come out in different ways and ultimately, it’s a deeply personal decision.

For transgender people, it can be a part of socially transitioning. For bisexual people, it can be when you have your first same-sex partner.

Or for any gender or sexual identity, it can just be when it feels right.

HER is a Safe Space for Queers

No matter how or when you decide to come out, there are places you can go to connect with other queer people who will understand and relate to your journey.

Whether you’re out yet or not, you can connect with LGBTQ+ people on HER.

It’s a safe space where you can meet like-minded individuals and feel part of a community, whether you’re out to your family and friends or not.

Even if you’re not ready to date yet, there are plenty of people looking for friendship, companionship, and community.

HER is completely free to use and open to LGBTQ+ women, trans, non-binary, and gender non-conforming people to connect, chat, laugh, and hang out.

If you don’t have many other queer people in your life who understand what you’re going through, you can find them on HER.

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Robyn Exton

Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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