Coming Out Safely: A Guide
The journey of sharing our true selves with the world is a profound experience. For many within the LGBTQIA+ community, this journey often includes the act of "coming out": a personal yet transformative process. For some of us, this can be a moment of liberation, but it can also be intertwined with fears and anxieties.
Voda's "Coming Out Safely" guide has been designed with the intention of being a supportive companion through your coming out journey. In this guide, we explore this multifaceted, intersectional experience through different lens.
This guide isn't just about the act of coming out, it's also about navigating the emotions, challenges, and joys that come with it.
From weighing the decision to disclose your identity, to embracing and affirming who you are, to connecting with a community that understands and uplifts you, this guide is designed to address specific aspects of the queer journey.
As you proceed, remember that every individual's experience is unique. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to coming out or living authentically. What's most important is finding what resonates with you, ensuring your safety, and always prioritising your well-being.
Welcome to "Coming Out Safely," your roadmap to understanding, acceptance, and joy in your queer journey.
Whether to Come Out or Not: Your Decision
Firstly, it's important to understand that coming out is an intimate decision, one deeply personal to every individual. Recognising when, how, or even if to come out is your prerogative.
Understanding the Desire to Share
For many, the urge to come out stems from a longing to be authentic with ourselves and the people around them. It's about aligning your external reality with your internal truth. Yet, for others, the decision may be tied to a particular situation or phase in their life, like entering a new relationship or wanting to be open in a new environment.
Considering Safety and Receptivity
Before making a decision to come out, consider your safety and the environment you are in. Some questions to ponder:
- How receptive are the people around you to LGBTQIA+ identities and issues?
- Are there any risks, emotional or physical, in sharing this aspect of your identity?
- Do you have a support system in place, should things not go as expected?
While coming out is your choice, and your choice only, do also consider whether coming out is safe for you.
Coming Out on Your Terms
It's essential to remember that you can come out in stages, to select individuals or groups, or choose a particular time or place that feels right for you. Some people begin by confiding in a close friend, while others might start by joining an LGBTQIA+ group or seeking counsel from a professional. Do what feels best for you, and remember, there's no rush.
Possible Reactions and Preparing for Them
It's natural to hope for acceptance and understanding from loved ones. However, reactions can vary widely. Some might be immediately supportive, while others may need time to process or may react negatively. It's essential to mentally prepare for different reactions and have resources or supports at the ready. Remember, their initial response might not be their lasting one.
Seeking Support and Resources
Finding a community, even if it's just one other person, can be vital during this time. From local support groups, online forums, or LGBTQIA+ organizations, there are myriad resources available to help you navigate this journey.
Your Right to Privacy
Lastly, remember that you have every right to retain your privacy. Coming out is a choice, not an obligation. If you decide that now isn't the right time, or if you prefer to keep your identity private, that's entirely valid.
We explore this issue in further detail on the Voda app with our self-guided therapy programme "Whether to Come Out". This programme helps you weigh the prons and cons of disclosing your LGBT+ identity, and helps you build self-awareness of safe communities and figures in your environment.
The Fear of Being Outed
Addressing and acknowledging the fear of being outed is a significant step. The fears of being outed is a very real fear that many of us in the community experience. To help us cope with these fears, we can also equip oneself with coping mechanisms and resilience-building strategies. Here, we outline some techniques that can serve as a toolbox for navigating the emotional landscape surrounding this fear.
Creating Safe Spaces
1. Digital Footprint: In the age of the internet, be mindful of your digital footprint. Ensure your privacy settings on social media platforms are up to date. You might wish to limit what you share, especially if it can unintentionally disclose sensitive information.
2. Trust Circle: Identify a close-knit group of friends or family whom you trust deeply. This circle can act as a safe space to express yourself freely and seek support when feeling vulnerable.
1. Grounding Techniques: When consumed by fear or anxiety, grounding exercises can help anchor you to the present. Techniques such as the "5-4-3-2-1" method, where you identify five things you can see, four you can touch, three you can hear, two you can smell, and one you can taste, can be particularly effective. We cover many of these emotion regulation techniques on the Voda app.
2. Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing can help to calm the nervous system. Try inhaling deeply for a count of four, holding for a count of four, and then exhaling for a count of four. This exercise is also available on the app.
3. Affirmations and Queer Joy: Affirmations can help build self-compassion and release shame, while the practice of tapping into queer joy can help affirm our identity.
Queer Joy is often not talked about much. In the news and in the media, it can seem like being queer is something that is only difficult. The truth is, being queer is indeed difficult right now. It can feel scary just being who we are. But there is joy in being our authentic self. The Voda app explores this with programmes on Queer Joy and Trans Joy.
1. Educate Yourself: Understanding more about your fears can make them less daunting. Consider reading about others' experiences or joining online forums where people share their coming out stories.
2. Seek Professional Help: If your fear becomes overwhelming, consider seeking help from a therapist who specialises in LGBTQIA+ issues. They can provide tools, resources, and coping mechanisms tailored to your needs.
3. Connect with Community: Joining LGBTQIA+ groups or organisations can provide a sense of belonging. Engaging with others who have had similar experiences can offer both insight and camaraderie.
Embracing the Journey
Remember that you're not alone in your fears, and seeking support is a sign of strength. By equipping yourself with coping strategies and resilience-building tools, you're paving the way to not just navigate your fears but to thrive despite them.
Welcome to Voda, your queer mental health companion. Created by leading LGBTQIA+ psychotherapists, Voda combines leading psychotherapy expertise with AI to make mental wellbeing support more accessible, more inclusive and more intersectional.
No matter your gender, sexuality or relationship-diversity, Voda offers queer folks evidence-backed tools to move towards thriving and fulfilled lives. Our innovative offering includes daily AI advice, queer-led meditations, cognitive journaling and self-guided therapy programmes rooted in the lived experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community.
You can download Voda here.
Relevant Programmes on Voda:
- Whether to Come Out: Weigh the pros and cons of disclosing your LGBTQIA+ identity.
- Embrace Your Authentic Self: Embrace your identity and live authentically, with pride.
- Tackling Your Own Queerphobia: Build self-awareness and self-acceptance.
- Coming Out As Bi to Your Partner: Guidance for sharing your bisexuality with your significant other.
- Dating Someone Who Is Not Out: Understand the dynamics of dating someone who's still not out.
- Overcoming Internalised Stigma: Break free from internalised stigma and shame.