Coming out isn’t an easy process, and there is no one way or ‘right’ way to do it. However, only one rule applies – it should feel right to you. But the good news is that studies have shown people who come out of the closet are healthier and happier.
A study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine Journal shows that lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders who were out and open about their sexuality had fewer signs of anxiety, depression, and burnout (i.e. emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and feelings of personal accomplishment), and lower cortisol levels, than those who were still closeted to friends and family. LGBTs who came out were just as happy and healthy as their straight counterparts.
However, the same cannot be said for teenagers, as the ‘teen phase’ is already known to be a confusing and vulnerable time in your life. The hard truth is that in a country like ours, homosexuality still remains a foreign concept to many. But if you’re circle belongs to the part of society that is aware, there’s nothing like it!
A useful way to go about this is to talk to someone who has already come out. While their experience will certainly not be the same as yours, it is always healthy to weigh out the good and bad associated with such bold moves. Your next step should involve educating people about it. While you may not always be lauded for this, you can never go wrong with spreading awareness about it. Next, you must choose the people whom you’d like to come out to first. They could be your parents or your peers, but the key here is to do so to someone, whom you know wouldn’t react negatively to your revelation. It is important to have a set of people as your support system. On the flip side, you have to be prepared for ‘hate’ and backlash – it is inevitable and is something you’re going to have to deal with, especially with homophobes.
Uday Kakkar, a 21-year-old university graduate was all of 17 years when he came out to his siblings and cousins. But the aftermath wasn’t as smooth sailing as he thought it would be. “Initially people were helpful and supportive, but even the most liberal of people can be real homophobes. But I don’t blame them. It’s all due to lack of awareness and backward mindset of society”, he says.
Due to the stereotypes and stigma associated with being homosexual, Uday has faced discrimination and felt alienated by his peers. This biggest misconception, in his experience, is believing that ‘Gays are like girls’. “I hate this narrative established in the society. People think we are girlish effeminate boys who would not play sports, who would like to cross-dress or are like girls. This preconceived notion has created a lot of problem for closeted gays”, he adds.
When it comes to lesbians, people often associate them with being butch – wearing baggy clothes, or having short hair. But the matter of the fact is that even the most feminine of girls you know could probably be lesbians. Gays or lesbians come in all shapes, sizes, colour, race, etc. For transgenders and queers, the common notion is that people in this category are automatically labelled as ‘gay’, when the actuality is that being transgender or queer is a matter of ‘gender identity’. It almost has nothing to do with who they pursue relationships with.
Negativity aside, if you’re surrounded by people who are open-minded, accepting, and love you irrespective of your sexual orientation, coming out of the closet is hardly but a ‘task’. Uday lists some useful tips, if you’re someone who’s toying with the idea of coming out –
- If you are below the age of 25 and stay in India, I suggest you to wait for the right time till you are financially independent. The biggest con in a society like ours is that you may not always be welcomed with open arms.
- Don’t get too excited and announce it to the whole world. Think about the consequences and weigh them out, you need to develop a ‘gay-friendly’ environment first.
- Do research about sexual orientation, so that it may help the people around you understand it better. Lack of awareness has already led to many unnecessary stereotypes.
- Educate your parents about LGBT, as they are the ones you’d probably come out to first. Initiate this topic in the house and let your parents get comfortable with homosexuality. This makes it easier for you to come out to them.