Taking Care of Your Mental Health When You Are Deciding About Coming Out

By Amber Leventry 

If you are questioning your sexuality or gender identity or you have found a label for yourself that isn’t cisgender or straight, it’s OK to feel nervous or scared to talk about it with someone. Know that your story is yours to tell when you are ready, even when you don’t have everything figured out. None of us do. 

When deciding if and when you want to come out to someone—or everyone!—the focus should always be on your mental and physical health. Here are some things to consider and ways to keep yourself safe.

Benefits of Talking to Someone

Although it can be scary to finally come out to someone, by doing so you will likely feel some relief and be less lonely. Finding at least one supportive person to talk to about your sexuality or identity can improve your mental health. That person can be a sibling, parent, teacher, or someone at a safe space online such as TrevorSpace.

A supportive person can help you improve your self-esteem, find more people to talk to, and build stronger connections with others. Finding allies and other people who are questioning or who identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community reduces depression, anxiety, and burnout. It can also help you feel a sense of pride and desire to help others who are beginning their own coming-out journey.

Others’ Reactions Are Not a Reflection of You

Before coming out, know that it’s an emotional and sometimes exhausting process—even when someone’s reaction to your news is positive. If the response isn’t what you hoped for or anticipated, know that their reaction is more of a reflection of them than you. 

Some people need time to process their own expectations about who they assumed you were. You are still you and people should never assume they know your identity, but you may be asked to be patient as they adjust their thinking. It can be frustrating because it can feel like lukewarm acceptance or even rejection. 

Try to avoid all-or-nothing thinking. When you feel hurt or rejected by unenthusiastic or vague reactions, you may see it as completely negative feedback. It can be hard to be patient with people, but try to remember that this information is new to them even though it isn’t new to you. With time, they may become more supportive than you anticipated.

Coming Out Self-Care

If you feel difficult emotions during your coming-out process, take a step back and take care of yourself by seeking support from people who celebrate your identity, getting enough sleep, or finding joy in hobbies or exercise. Remind yourself that you deserve peace and don’t need to process anyone’s emotions but your own.

People will make mistakes as they learn, and the impact of good intentions can still cause harm. Family and friends should not put the onus on you to help them understand what it means to be queer or trans, so set boundaries around when and if you want to answer questions or talk more candidly about your journey of self-discovery. 

You can also suggest that loved ones check out books or organizations such as PFLAG to better understand LGBTQIA+ people. 

Knowing When It’s Time

If you are worried your parents or caregivers will take away necessary resources such as money, shelter, or physical autonomy, it may be better to wait to come out until you are no longer dependent on them. There are benefits to coming out, but those benefits may need to come from other people who can keep your story private. 

If you need to find shelter or safe people to talk to after you come out, or if your family is speculating about your identity and making you feel unsafe, CenterLink can help you find an LGBTQIA+ center near you. The Trevor Project has a lifeline and online resources to find shelter if you are no longer safe at home. The Covenant House helps LGBTQIA+ folks find affirming shelter too. 

If that’s not a fear, then remind yourself that you will likely feel better when you take the first step toward sharing this awesome piece of who you are. It’s OK if you don’t tell your closest friends or parents first. It can be harder to talk to the people we love the most because they are the ones we want the most support from. 

You will feel less alone when you feel the unconditional support of people who care about you. 

Whether you want to kick open the closet door and shout from the rooftops or introduce your news slowly and quietly, know there isn’t one correct way to come out. Coming out is a lifelong journey, and you don’t need to know all the answers right away. You aren’t alone, and there is a vibrant community ready to welcome you.

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If you or someone you know needs to talk to someone right now, text, call, or chat 988 for a free confidential conversation with a trained counselor 24/7. 

You can also contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741-741.

If this is a medical emergency or if there is immediate danger of harm, call 911 and explain that you need support for a mental health crisis.