How to Come Out to Yourself: A Guide for Self-Acceptance
Questioning Your Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity
Coming out can be a difficult process for many young LGBT+ people. For some people, the most difficult part of the coming out process is coming out to themselves and accepting their sexuality, especially for people who grew up in an environment where LGBT+ people were not widely accepted. Because there is still so much stigma surrounding gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in certain communities, it can be difficult to admit to yourself that you may be attracted to people of your own gender or that you might be questioning your gender identity. If you feel shame because of your feelings, you may wonder if you actually are actually gay, lesbian, bi, or trans, or if you are simply “confused.” If you were raised in a homophobic family, you will likely be reluctant to accept this part of your identity and may be tempted to continue to live in denial. It is normal to feel this way when you first begin to wonder about your sexual orientation or gender identity, but it is important to learn to accept yourself for who you for the sake of your own happiness.
How Do I Know I’m Not Just “Confused?”
If you grew up in a family or in a community where LGBT+ people were commonly accused of being “confused,” you might wonder if your own feelings are valid, or if you, too are actually just confused about your sexual orientation or gender identity. How can you know if you really are gay/lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or simply just "confused" about your orientation or gender?
If you are a man and find yourself attracted only to other men, you are likely gay. Likewise, if you are a woman, and are attracted only to other women, you are likely a lesbian. If you find that you are attracted to men, women, and perhaps people who identify outside of the gender binary, you are likely bi or pansexual. It is as simple as that.
The reason some people feel confused about their sexual orientation is because they may be denial about who they are, which is deeply rooted in shame they feel about their orientation or gender identity. This “confusion” comes from religious or cultural narratives that make many people feel guilty for their feelings.
Most children are told from a young age that they will eventually settle down with someone of the opposite sex to start a family. This narrative is so pervasive that many people have internalized this "goal" and feel like they must follow this cultural script to have a successful and meaningful life. Because of this, it can be difficult for some people to determine if they are actually attracted to the opposite sex, or if they are simply attracted to the idea of settling down in that "normal" life that their family and society always wanted for them. For example, many lesbians date men for years, and often get married and have children with these men, simply because they have been socialized to want marriage and children someday. It is not uncommon for these women to come out as lesbians later in life after realizing the life they lead wasn’t what they really wanted. Their “confusion” over their sexual orientation comes from the fact that their real desires do not match the traditional cultural narrative that they have been living.
If you feel confusion about your sexual orientation or gender identity, it is likely because you are still, on some level, in denial about who you really are. You may have internalized feelings of shame from growing up in an environment that is not supportive of LGBT+ people. Once you accept yourself, you will not feel confused any more. Homophobic people like to throw the word “confused” around to make non-straight and non-cis people feel like there is something wrong with their sexual attractions or gender expression.
Journaling to Help You Accept Your Identity
It is important too feel comfortable with yourself and to learn to accept and celebrate who you are before you come out publicly. You should come out to yourself and fully accept yourself before you begin the process of coming out to the other people in your life.
As you begin the process of self-acceptance and coming out to yourself, it can be helpful to write down your feelings. Though it might feel childish, keeping a journal or diary to work through your feelings can be a helpful way for you to begin accepting yourself. Your first entry can be as simple as just writing “I am bisexual” or “I am gay,” or whatever identity you think might best describe you. Getting these words out on paper can go a long way in helping you to accept your orientation.
Once you have taken this first step, start writing how you feel about this new revelation about yourself. Some things you may want to consider while writing are:
- When did you first started thinking you might be different?
- How did it make you feel when you first learned someone else you know is LGBT+?
- How does writing this down make you feel about yourself?
Remember, no one else is going to read this, so you don’t need to censor yourself. You might feel silly writing down your feelings about this at first but getting it out on paper can go a long way in helping you to process your feelings and to begin to accept yourself.
Finding A Community
Once you have begun to accept yourself and feel comfortable enough with your identity, it may be beneficial for you to meet other people like yourself. While the thought of coming out to your family and straight friends might still feel too intimidating, you might wish to connect with other people in the LGBT+ community.
If you are in college, check to see if your school has a Gay-Straight Alliance or other groups for LGBT+ students. If you are not in college, there may be other local LGBT+ support groups in your area. This will allow you to connect with other people like yourself in a non-threatening environment. Connecting with other people who have been through similar experiences as you can help you to feel less alone and to come to terms with your own sexuality.
If you don’t have a local group in which you can participate, or if you are still too nervous to let anyone know you are LGBT+ in person, you may want to consider joining an online forum for LGBT+ people, where you can connect with other LGBT+ people all over the world either anonymously or semi-anonymously.
It is important to have a support network in place, especially if you don’t think that your family or existing friends will be supportive when you do come out to them. You want to have someone to turn to if you need someone to talk to if your family and friends don’t support you the way that you had hoped. Having a support network in place will help you to feel less alone and help you to become more confident and comfortable in your own skin.
Accepting Yourself for Who You Are
Accepting yourself for who you are is important to your mental health and well-being. If you are still in the closet, you will likely feel better about yourself if you stop living in denial and come out. The first person you need to come out to is yourself. The number one person you need to accept you is you!
Questions & Answers
© 2018 Jennifer Wilber