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coming-out_big.jpgComing out is an incredibly tough choice and there are so many things to take into account before taking it on. The media presents coming out as a process that is usually painless and viewed as a joke - some obvious, effeminate man identifies himself as a homosexual, everyone has a laugh, and the plot continues. However, there are countless faces in America and around the world of homeless lesbian, gay, bi, and transsexual people. As a matter of fact, the majority of homeless youth primarily consists of GLBT (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender) youth. It's fantastic that people are coming out earlier and earlier in life, but one can put themselves at risk by doing so. Here are some tips to consider before coming out.

First, know that once you come out to someone, you can't un-come out. People will now know your sexual orientation. The secret is out. Even if your best friend is sworn to secrecy, they still might share with someone. It could be a drunken mistake. They may not know how to process the news and need to discuss it with someone. They might be gossipy. Sexual orientation is a hot topic and gives people a reason to have discussions that go into personal beliefs. Identifying oneself as someone who knows a GLBT person is a way to earn attention during a conversation. Be prepared for your news to reach unintended ears.

Probably the most important factors to take in to consideration are your basic needs. Will coming-out affect your basic needs such as housing, food, health, and money? If admitting your sexuality publicly will change this, are there resources and support systems to help you get through this?

Let's first look at housing. How would coming-out affect your living situation? Are you living with family? Are you living with friends? Are you living alone? If you live with family or friends, they may be unprepared for the news and react quite strongly. Everyone is entitled to their belief system despite the fact that it might conflict with your sexual orientation. Do your best to be patient with some strong language. Unfortunately, these people might react so strongly that you lose your living space or it becomes unmanageable to live there. Friends of mine have gotten kicked out of their parents' house when they've admitted their sexual orientation. College students will fight to get reassigned to a new dorm room when they are continuously harassed by their roommates. I was fortunate enough to get a shoulder shrug and a 'no big deal' approach from my parents. If you live alone and are not financially dependent on anyone, this point may be moot.

Next, consider your safety. Do you live in an incredibly homophobic area? There are reports put out by a number of organizations, including the Human Rights Campaign, that identify what areas have high incidences of discrimination or violence against GLBT individuals. Even if you live in an area that it typically viewed as homophobic, is it truly as homophobic as you think it is? Although the South in the United States has typically been viewed as a homophobic part of the country to live in, perhaps you live in an area where people just don't care. Maybe their minds will change when they meet someone who actually identifies as GLBT. Has there been violence or slander against your local GLBT community? Are there local GLBT organizations to help you if you do experience harassment or if you want to become part of the community? If so, would you feel safe going to the physical location of the organization? Although it is easy to be fearful of walking in to these organizations the first time, don't let that fear prevent you from coming out.

If you come out, could it endanger your employment status? There are a lot of laws set in place in different parts of the country, but that doesn't guarantee job security if you have a homophobic employer who is going to watch you like a hawk in order to find any excuse to terminate you.

Some hurtful things might come up when you come out. People might not even intend to be hurtful, but they could say something that really hits you emotionally. You're making yourself vulnerable when you publicly identify as GLBT. Keep in mind that whoever you tell is going to experience your news differently. Some might want to take you out to the local gay bar. Others might try to get you to go through conversion therapy.

Now that I've sufficiently scared you, let's talk about the positives. Being who you are and open with who you are is perhaps the best thing you can do for yourself. Your sexual orientation can be liberating when your friends and family support you. Knowing that you can love or have sex with the person you really want to do those things with is wonderful.

But how in the hell do you do it?!?!?

If you are going to tell someone, try to find someone you can trust. It may be your close friend who isn't disgusted when two people of the same sex kiss in a movie. It may be someone who's been your best friend and probably already has a good idea of your sexual orientation. It may be your mother, sister, brother, or father. Once you tell that person, you'll probably feel a million times better. You've told them the truth about who you are and if that person continues to support you, it's like finding $50 on the sidewalk. If you're telling a friend of the same gender, be prepared for them to wonder if you are sexually attracted to them. If you aren't attracted to them, make it clear that the reason you're telling them is not because you want to have sex with them but because you trust them. This will hopefully eliminate any fears that they may have.

One more thing that you can do is reach out on the Internet. It's a great resource. Start with social networking like gay.com or other chat rooms and ask for resources. Try volunteering for local GLBT organizations, HIV organizations, or the Human Right's Campaign. You'll meet some great people. Volunteering is sexy.

Coming out is not easy and you should be commended for wanting to be honest with the world about who you are. Being truthful to yourself is perhaps the hardest part of coming out and admitting that really shows a lot of strength of character.


Write the Author: Gay Rick

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