I Think I'm LGBTQ+, Now What?
Self-Discovery and Fear: I Feel Alone
Every individual within the LGBTQ+ community will tell you that they have felt fear. There is an initial point—the starting point—of self-discovery that is both terrifying and freeing at the same time. Most of the fear may come from not understanding one’s self. Other parts of fear may come from the community or culture surrounding you. Of course, there is also fear of judgement or change.
Regardless of where it comes from, when you first have suspicions you may be what is perceived as different, you are going to feel fear. The first step that you need to take is to breathe. Don’t panic. You are not alone.
There is no correct way to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community. You do not have to label yourself. You do not have to come out to all of your friends, family, or coworkers immediately. You do not have to make a post on Facebook admitting you’re gay, transgender, or asexual. You do not have to follow any specific set of rules or steps. Take your time to understand yourself and how this new piece of information fits in to who you are.
Your journey to self-discovery is your own and your safety should always come first.
Coming Out: What If I Want to Tell My Family and Friends?
That’s great! I am glad you’re comfortable and want to share your true self with the people you care about. Coming out to anyone can be an emotionally exhausting and terrifying experience. It can be equally relieving and rewarding if your loved ones embrace you. Regardless of how great the potential for relief may feel, you must always take into account your own safety.
Despite the LGBTQ+ community becoming more acknowledged, there is still a long way to go in spreading understanding and acceptance. If you perceive any bit of a safety hazard—whether this is harsh words, potential homelessness, or physical violence--you may choose to not come out to those individuals. This is perfectly okay! You should never put yourself in harm’s way if you can avoid it. Not being out to some people in your life is okay, in fact, there are many people within the LGBTQ+ community who never come out to parts of their family or their coworkers. This does not make you any less of a part of the community.
If you think the situation is going to be safe for you, the next step is to decide how to tell people. Just like there is no right way to discover yourself, there is no right way to come out. Some people do it over a phone call, others through a letter, and others in person. Decide how you want to tell people and just be yourself. Be open and honest. If you feel comfortable, remind them that they can ask any questions they have and that you want to have a conversation about it. This is a great way to let them know you understand it may be hard for them to understand and you’re willing to meet them where they are.
If the situation shifts during the conversation to an unsafe environment, you may want to remove yourself if possible. Remember that not everyone will immediately understand or accept it. Space and time can often be important to the coming out process.
Finding Community: How Do I Get Involved in the LGBTQ+ Community?
There are many different ways you can support the LGBTQ+ community. The best way to discover opportunities is to google search LGBTQ+ organizations in your local area. There are many organizations that are looking for volunteers or supports.
If you are looking for people to relate to and don’t know anyone in your area, use the internet! It’s an amazing place to meet people on the other side of the world who may share experiences with you. It’s a great reminder that you are not alone.
Moving Forward: This Is Part of Who I Am
Accepting yourself and moving forward with life can be hard. Just remember, there are people in the world who have been where you are. There are people who love you and want you to be safe, even if you don’t know them personally. There are people in this world who will love you just the same and support you no matter what.