Peeking Out of the Closet? Six Tips for Rural LGBTQ+
It’s National Coming Out Day, and what better time to address this beautiful, terrifying, heart-pounding major life moment that so many LGBTQ individuals experience? Coming out has always been a courageous and often dangerous choice, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals living in families and communities that don’t accept them or their relationships.
As a former country kid myself, I witnessed firsthand the bigotry and bullshit faced by many of those who came out in rural communities in the 90s and early aughts. While things are certainly still far from perfect, LGBTQ+ acceptance in rural communities is on the rise. Consequently, more queer youths — and adults — feel safe coming out to friends and family today than in past decades.
If you’re considering peeking out of the closet in your rural area, these six tips can help you prepare:
1. Know your community.
Who is part of your personal community? It might consist of your family, your closest friends, or even an online group you’re part of. Whatever your community looks like, it should be built up of trusted people who support you. Before coming out to someone new, reach out to members of your community. Tell them about your plans, and find out who can be available to you if you need help or extra support.
2. Don’t push yourself.
The decision to come out — to your family, your friends, or the world at large — should be made on your own terms. If you’re not ready, don’t rush yourself, and don’t let others rush you, either. Of course, remaining in the closet comes with its own challenges, but remember that sharing this piece of yourself with others should only happen when you’re ready.
3. Be ready for questions.
Be aware that the people you come out to may have questions. That doesn’t mean you have to answer them yourself. If you’re comfortable doing so, then by all means, go for it — but you can also point them to The Trevor Project, PFLAG, or The Safe Zone Project for information. It’s important to decide ahead of time whether and which questions you're comfortable answering, and be ready to tell curious friends and family when it’s time for them to do their own research.
4. Prepare for a range of reactions.
Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that when you’re ready to come out, others will be ready to listen. You may be met with more love and support than you ever expected (I hope you are!), but you may also end up on the receiving end of negative responses. Some friends and family members may say they need some time to process this new information. Responses to your coming out may fall anywhere along a range of reactions, and it’s important for you to be prepared for them. Give people the time they need to process, and know which trusted member of your community you can reach out to for help.
5. Identify your resources and know how to contact them.
Coming out can be an overwhelming and emotional experience. That’s why it’s important to know the valuable LGBTQ+ resources in your area and online. Have a plan for contacting them and reaching out for help if you need to. An array of options is available, but this list from the Movement Advancement Project is a great place to start.
6. Prioritize your safety.
If you’re going to pay attention to any of these six tips, this is the one. No matter when, where, how, or to whom you decide to come out, make your own safety the top priority. This may mean initiating the conversation in a public place, inviting a trusted friend to be present, or even delaying coming out until a safer time. It’s a terrible truth that LGBTQ+ individuals still face the threats of hatred and violence, but never forget to prioritize your personal safety above all other concerns.
For more, check out the video 8 Coming Out Tips from Psych2Go or any of the sources used for this post (listed below).