YOU DON’T HAVE TO COME OUT IF YOU DON’T FEEL SAFE YET!
Life as a gay man can be quite difficult in many parts of the world. Especially in an African country like Nigeria where you can spend up to 14 years in a penitentiary if convicted. While social acceptance for gay people is getting better in some countries, some queers aren’t having better luck in other places. Coming out as gay is a long psychological process for many, and sudden for some others.
Coming out basically means accepting one’s own sexuality and being unapologetic about it. Coming out as gay might be different in individuals due to their different social values, family pressure, and background. While some people find out about their sexuality early some people don’t, until an older age. Nonetheless, it can be very scary due to fear of rejection by families and friends, fear of homophobic attacks in some parts of the world, and social discrimination.
It’s okay to have second thoughts due to these reasons. However, coming out allows you to be yourself rather than living a lie. The reasons for coming out vary among individuals. Probably you’re tired of suppressing your sexuality, you want to meet other communities of people who share your sexuality, or you want to free your person and feel proud and comfortable with yourself. Nonetheless, coming out should not be rushed, and should solely be for personal liberation.
Furthermore, concealing your sexuality might do you more harm than you think. Studies have shown that a closeted man is at increased risk of suicide, poor mental, and physical health. The more people know about your sexual orientation, the more liberated and positive you feel.
Before coming out, you should be prepared for initial negative reactions. For example, your parents might get mad but come around eventually, while you may probably lose some friends. Some people need more time to come to terms with what they’ve just heard from you than others.
Although, it is imperative to note that coming out doesn’t free gay people from oppression, but it sure helps us to be authentic and proceed on the path of social acceptance.
As a gay man considering coming out of your closet, these 5 steps would certainly help! Remember that you’re not alone, a number of gay men face the same questions and uncertainty on whether to come out or not. The steps are:
Come Out of Your Closet
You should always feel empowered to be yourself! However, there’s no need to rush. If you feel you’re not psychologically ready to deal with consequences of your outing or coming out would jeopardize your safety, then it’s better to remain closeted. However, if you aren’t at risk of a threat to your life, you should come out. “The most powerful tool we have is dismantling the misconceptions, and lies that still surround our community” – Harvey Mark.
Coming out is like lifting a heavy weight off your shoulders. I still remember how I felt when I came out as gay. Yes, it’s one of those things you won’t forget easily, it’s a moment of being re-born. I have no regrets though, it enabled me to realize my full potential as a gay man. Even though I had to flee my country of birth to escape homophobic attacks, I feel proud of my decision every day. Now, I’m in a community where I don’t have to suppress my sexuality or live a lie, I’m true to myself and everyone likes and accepts me as I am.
First of all, accept yourself as a gay person, find the right time, be calm when coming out to your loved ones; try not to get nervous, and finally be prepared to accept the consequences.
It’s your choice if you decide to flaunt your sexuality or not. While some people don’t like being called names, some other people really don’t care. Some people may consider themselves experimenting on their newly found sexuality and might decide to be gay, bisexual or transgendered. Just be yourself however that is!
Choosing Who to Come Out to
Choosing who to come out to at first can be very tricky because the people we love deeply might be ones to resent us the most. Nevertheless, choose that person you consider most supportive of you. It could be your parents, your friends, a person that has a lot of gay friends or another homosexual.
Coming out can be very tough, and having someone to confide in on your side is a huge step to getting through the process. Self-acclamation also works. A friend of mine on sharing his experience revealed - “My first time was when I was 18, and I was out on a field. I wasn’t talking to anybody in particular but, I was screaming up to God and said ‘I am GAY’. Just saying it aloud for the first time released so much pressure”. Don’t keep it to yourself, have conversations with people or yourself. It helps relieve the pressure.
If you’ve looked around you and still see no one you can confide in, consider contacting a gay support group. They would surely give you all the support you need. Family could be biological or chosen, so feel safe to love the people who love you and make them a part of your life. The height of relief and self-accomplishment that comes with coming out cannot be overemphasized. I’ll advice you to come out now!
Negative Reactions of Haters
This could be quite tricky as they would include a mix of family and friends. Although some of them would come around eventually, you have to come to terms with the fact that some of them are not going to love you for who you are. And going forward, things would be different. They may call you different names, and go as far as throwing objects at you. But on the bright side, don’t worry about oppressive people, the only power they have is the one you give to them. Your identity is you, and accepting who you are, brings magic into the world. Give less attention to taunts and haze, that might come with coming out. Trust me, the liberation you’ll enjoy would make up for it.
Try as much as possible to live a normal life, don’t segregate yourself by any means. Gather as many experiences as you’d like. By living an authentic life, you’re spreading love to the world, and at the same time doing what’s best for you. Remaining in your closet is hard and depressing. Don’t regress your physical and mental health for fear of public acceptance. Remaining in your closet puts you at risk of suicide.
You have an opportunity to be yourself for the rest of your life. I’ll rather choose to live happily for one day than to be miserable for the rest of it. You do not need anyone’s permission to live authentically, you need your permission and if you grant yourself that permission you have won.
Don’t feel sorry for being gay. Although the world may not understand it now, but it’s nobody’s business who you choose to love, and you shouldn’t be victimized for it. You’ll be surprised how your coming out could prompt other friends and family to open up about their own sexual orientation.