Originally published in The Love Issue, 2016
I am a gay man, but since coming to uni I haven’t actually come out to any of my friends. I feel as though now it’s too late to come out, and that if I did it would be really uncomfortable or awkward, or that people might take it badly. My friends keep trying to set me up on dates with girls, and I’m afraid that if I keep turning them down they’ll get suspicious. What should I do?” – Locked In The Closet And Lost The Key
Coming out to those around you is tricky – it’s often presented as something that is done once, like a ceremony where you’re given your gay card, a framed certificate denoting your new status as Officially Gay™, and a badge you wear at all times so that you never have to come out again. Unfortunately, it’s less straightforward than this; there are no badges or certificates, and you’re likely to find yourself coming out to new people on a semi-regular basis throughout your life. Coming out is not something that gets easier, either. Depending on the context and the company you’re in, coming out can be at best, a bit scary, and at worst, a threat to your safety. Only you can decide if and when you should come out to others – there is no obligation to do so, though. However, be sure to ask yourself why you’re conflicted about coming out – if it’s safe to do so, the feeling of freedom that comes with coming out is totally worth the fear of doing so.
As mentioned before, coming out is not something that happens only once, nor is there a time limit on when you should do so after meeting new people. It’s never too late to come out, as coming out is an on-going process, and one that you have the right to have control over. The first thing you can do to make the process easier though, is ensure that the people you are surrounded by are supportive, kind and trustworthy friends – if you have doubts about how your friends would handle this information, consider the consequences of remaining in a friendship life this, and think carefully about how you choose to proceed with these relationships. If these aren’t friends that you feel would support you in coming out, how good a friend are they? Friends are there to love and care for you, and these are the kind of situations in which those qualities are tested. Whilst it might take some friends a bit of time to come to terms with your sexuality, you shouldn’t have to deal with abusive or homophobic behaviour after coming out. You’ll hopefully find that they are accepting of your decision to come out and that it won’t affect your relationships with them, but if it doesn’t work out as well as you’d hoped, there is no obligation to remain in friendships that compromise your happiness.
If you do decide that you want to come out to your friends, how you do so is entirely up to you – whether you tell people one by one or all together, whether you do it in person or over text, or whether you bring it up yourself or wait for it to come up in conversation, base your decisions in what will make you feel the most comfortable. Some people find it easier to mention it in passing and make a bit of a joke out of it, whereas others find it easier to sit down with the person they’re coming out to and plan what they’re going to say beforehand. What matters most though is that you are coming out on your own terms, in the way that you’re most comfortable with.
It might also help to become involved in the university’s own LGBTQ society, GULGBTQ+. The society run a range of social, welfare and campaign events throughout the year, offering everything from regular safe spaces to meet other queer people, to opportunities to get involved in LGBTQ activism. They’ll also be able to offer advice and support in coming out, and a space to explore your sexuality, free of judgement or discrimination. Outside of university, Glasgow has a thriving LGBTQ scene, and in coming out you’ll find yourself part of one of the most fun and friendly communities the city has to offer – coming out may be daunting, but there are numerous sources of support available to you outside of your immediate circle of friends and family. If you do choose to come out to your friends, I hope you are met with love and support, and that you enjoy the freedom of being out!
[Hannah Burke – @hannahcburke_]
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