Coming out can be many things: liberating, terrifying, courageous, necessary, vulnerable, and always deeply personal. While it’s true that the experience can be empowering, there are aspects of the experience that aren’t always discussed.
- Internal struggles can persist: Coming out is a big step toward self-acceptance but it doesn’t automatically erase years of internal struggles and insecurities that someone may have dealt with. People may continue to deal with feelings of self-doubt, fear of judgment, and anxiety, even after coming out.
- Unexpected reactions: No matter how prepared you may think you are for any reaction, there’s no way to know exactly what will happen when you come out each time. Just as each person’s coming out journey is uniquely personal, just as unique are the people’s perspectives that you’re coming out to.
- Educating others: Coming out can push you into the role of being an educator, explaining your identity and experience to others. This can help with understanding but can also be emotionally exhausted. Not everyone will be familiar with your identity, and they may ask you to answer questions, dispel misconceptions, etc. Remember, educating others is a decision, it’s ultimately not your responsibility.
- Relationships shift: When you come out to people who you have a preexisting relationship with there is always a possibility that relationship can shift. The relationship may strengthen or become strained, so it’s necessary to leave the space for shifts to occur and be prepared for a possible change.
- It’s ongoing: You don’t just come out once. You will come out over and over again through your life. In a perfect world we would come out only once and be done with it, but that’s unfortunately not our reality. As you navigate new spaces, people, and circumstances, you’ll need to decide whether and how to share your identity.
Coming out is a complex journey that can encompass moments of triumph, vulnerability, and self-discovery, and that process may not always align with the narratives we often hear about. Each journey is wholly unique, and by embracing those complexities and being compassionate with ourselves we can navigate our journey with greater resilience and authenticity.