We have all searched for “how to come out” and “how to come out as gay” at one point or another. For queer people anywhere in the world, coming out can be a tough ordeal because of the heteronormative culture we live in. There are chances of bullying, harassment, and so many sorts of discrimination. On the other hand, coming out can be incredibly helpful too! It can make you feel comfortable about yourself, which in turn will lead to a happier life. It can also help you surround yourself with people who love and support you for who you truly are.
Being prepared for the situation is important, no matter when or how you come out. There is no one right way to do it because every person’s journey and the situation are different. Your wants, needs, situations, and surroundings are different, and so the impact or reactions would also be different.
Though that is true, here are a few general tips you can follow. There are also challenges more present in India, so you should keep those in mind as well, and we will address some of them.
Come out to yourself first
If you aren’t comfortable with who you are, it would be hard to come out to other people. So, the first thing to focus on is you! You should try and come out to yourself. Accepting your own sexual orientation or gender identity is the first step necessary before coming out to someone else.
Finding a confident role model in the LGBTQ community can be immensely helpful in bringing out self-acceptance. While that is there, one should be aware of the homophobia and societal biases that have been imposed upon you all your life. Growing up in a society like this, it is hard to not internalize these ideas, and they will only be self-destructive if not addressed. Reading about others’ experiences of coming out can be helpful too, whichever is relevant to your identity. These can help guide you through your process.
This first step can be more difficult than we expect, and we may require outside assistance. A good place to start is by looking for a queer-affirmative mental health counselor or therapist. This first step will definitely help you be prepared for coming out, so it is a must-do. Again, without confidence, you might not get the acceptance and support you need.
Consider your safety while coming out
Coming out may feel daring, but sometimes it can be dangerous too. The most important thing to consider is your safety before you come out as gay to anyone. Especially in a heavily heteronormative culture like India, coming out can be a harder battle because even if the legal battle is won, there are still large families, religions, and age-old morals that are still heteronormative.
Friends can sometimes be more understanding than family. Think about coming out to a supportive friend before planning to come out to your family. With your family, do you feel safe sharing these emotions and coming out? Is there a risk of you being abandoned, shamed, or hurt by your family post coming out? If the answer to any of these is yes, it would be a good idea to wait it out.
Think about your career before coming out. Getting a job in India will likely be harder, especially as a transgender person. If you come out, there are places that will actively discriminate against you or even get you fired from your job. Consider these factors as you prepare for coming out at work.
If a situation doesn’t feel safe to come out as gay, it is best to ensure it is safe before coming out. Your safety should be your number one priority. You should also have a support plan in place in case something does go wrong and you need a friend, a place to stay, or even money.
Emotional and financial independence
Many people and families are still not OK with LGBTQ people. So, ensuring you have financial independence and an emotional support system of people who are supportive is crucial. Being as independent as possible will help you if you get a bad reaction.
If possible, try to have:
A place to live or a supportive friend who can offer to stay for a little while, at least
Enough financial security to make it on your own for a little while.
A job you can be certain of getting or keeping.
Having these three things will make sure you stay as safe as possible before you come out as gay. If your family kicks you out or stops supporting you financially, or you lose your job, having this kind of independence will guarantee you don’t end up on the street.
However, achieving this kind of independence can be hard. A friend whose house you can stay at; a family member who can lend you some money; or a network of queer people who can help you find a job. If you can’t be completely independent, the next best thing is to be dependent on those you trust. If you feel like this won’t be a problem, then that’s good for you. But if not, then you should do whatever you can to prepare for independence before you come out, just in case.
Know the LGBTQ laws and challenges
As a queer person in India, you will face a lot of pushback and hardships. If you learn about the possible hurdles before you come out, you will be better equipped to handle them.
For example, you may know about Section 377, which was struck down in 2018 by India’s Supreme Court, making it legal to have consensual gay sex. There was a lot of misconceptions around this law when it existed. There were a lot of people who felt they would be criminalised even for being gay, but the law says “prosecute people engaging in oral and anal sex along with homosexual activity”, as it was considered “against nature.” This was a colonial law and was brought in by the British Empire in 1860.
In India, the ground reality is that, even with the law read down, there is still discrimination in smaller towns and most work places. In many places in India, out LGBTQ people are discriminated against, and sometimes transgender people have difficulties obtaining welfare and living a decent life.
So equip yourself with the knowledge before you plan to come out, so you can plan how to deal with them. These points and steps can also help you decide if it is safe for you to come out right now.
Educate Yourself About The Queerness In Your Culture
When you come out, you’re going to get a lot of questions, some of which you might not know the answer to. Before you come out as gay, take some time to do a little research. You can look up statistics on how many people are LGBTQ in India, learn a brief history of the struggle for gay rights, and read about queer representation in Indian mythology and cultural history.
Learn more about whatever identity you feel comfortable with, and how other people experience that, while also getting prepared to answer the myths around LGBTQ. That way, when you come out as gay, you are prepared to answer the questions people might have. This will make it easier for others to respect you, and can help build the confidence you need to come out.
There is no one right way to come out, and everyone’s situation is different. But if you follow these guidelines, and make sure you are safe, hopefully, you will feel more prepared to come out, and your journey will go a little bit more smoothly.