UPDATE: Link to the updated post on our new site here
I just came out as being gay this past summer to my close friends and family. I’m not the type to make a big deal out of things, I just wanted them to know who I was. I consider myself to be open about it and it’s not a secret anymore, but there are still lots of people who don’t know simply because I haven’t told them. Many of these people are my friends from school because they weren’t around when I came out out and now things feel slightly uncomfortable. I want everyone to know so that there’s less questions and explaining to do, but at the same time, I don’t want to make a grand spectacle of it all. Also, I went into the summer with a girlfriend and ended the summer gay, so a lot of people are still under the impression that I am straight. I just wish everyone knew already but that I didn’t have to tell them, does that make sense?
Thanks for this important question!
I’m really glad that your were able to safely come out to those closest to you. I’m hearing that you’re feeling like you wish everyone could just know that you’re gay without having to make a big deal out of it, and I think this absolutely makes sense. It can be exhausting coming out to different folks!
It’s unfortunately that we live in a society that assumes heterosexuality, but it does afford lots of opportunities to disrupt heteronormative assumptions in subtle ways.
There are a couple of ways you might consider for getting across the message that you’re not straight:
- If you have Facebook, you can set your “attracted to” option to your same gender. You can customize who this is visible to, which is nice! But keep in mind that the information may spread further than you intend.
- If you’re having a conversation where someone assumes that you’re straight, you can correct them casually: “actually, I’m gay”, or “yeah, my boyfriend…”, “this boy I’m dating…”. Though this is a casual way to come out, you may wish to be prepared for questions they may have, like “…what about your girlfriend…?”. This could be a good strategy when you’re in a group with folks you’ve already come out to, that way you know you’ll have their support.
- Put a pride flag on your backpack or in your space.
- Let the rumour mill do the work for you. If you aren’t shy about your sexual orientation, it very possible that the information will get around to your social networks casually and without you having to do much work. This has it’s advantages and disadvantages – you have less control over who knows, but you don’t have to make a big deal out of it. Again, you may wish to be prepared for questions or misinformation that people may have.
Some less subtle ways to come out might include:
- Posting a status update on social media casually declaring your identity, for example: “as a gay man, I think chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream”. Injecting a little humour can help to diffuse people’s feelings (including yours!) about this declaration.
- Make a cake! This would be great at a party or potluck.
- If you’re not fond of large groups or social media, plan to have one-on-one chats with people that you’d like to tell. Get them into small groups IRL. Explain to them that you don’t want to make a big deal out of it, but you’d like them to know.
If you do end up coming out to your friends in any of these ways or another, be prepared for a variety of reactions and try to be patient. It might be helpful to have some resources available for them, and give them permission to talk about it with one of your trusted allies. Explain why you’re coming out, and try to be ready to teach. At the same time, remember that it’s not on you to completely explain to another person why you are gay and what that means – encourage them to do their own research and don’t be afraid to set boundaries with folks around the questions they can ask. Share what feels comfortable for you.
Coming out should be your process – go at your own pace, care for yourself, and do what feels right.
Not all of us choose to announce our sexual orientation in a flash mob with glitter and rainbows, but I get the sense that you’d like for people in your life to know so that you feel more comfortable and understood. Unfortunately, coming out isn’t so much an event as it is a process, but on the plus side, it gets easier with practice. It’s okay for you to do it in different ways at different times, or choose not to do it when you don’t feel like it.
Coming out can be hard, so do things that nurture you and don’t be afraid to reach out. If you’re feeling bummed out or unsure about this, or just want someone to tell you that your feelings are legitimate (they absolutely are!), why not give our volunteers a shout? We’re on the lines and online. You can give us a call at (519) 836-4550 or send us a message during our office hours: Mondays, from 3:30-6pm, Wednesdays, from 6-9pm, and Fridays, 1-3pm. We’ve been there, and we’re here for you.
All the best to you in your journey,
❤ Liz and Amber