Globally, for LGBTQ, coming out can be a terrifying ordeal and it carries the potential of rejection, neglect, or even bullying and harassment. But coming out is also incredibly helpful. It can make you feel comfortable about yourself, and that will lead to you living a happier life. Coming out can also help you surround yourself with people who love and support you for who you truly are.
No matter when or how you come out, it is important that you feel prepared to do so. There is no one right way to do it: every person has different wants, needs, and surroundings, and therefore a different experience.
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.
1. 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 do is come out to yourself. There are many ways to do this and one of the best is to say it in front of the mirror. If you’re gay, look into the mirror and whisper “I’m gay”. Do this once a week, then every day, or as often as you want, until you can say it with confidence and pride.
You can also write it in a notebook or journal. You could write in small words or big words, write it once or a hundred times. Again, do it until you feel confident.
Whatever method you choose, you should keep doing it until you can look yourself in the eyes and confidently say “I’m gay”. You will need this confidence and sureness to come out to other people. After all, they will probably ask a lot of questions, or maybe even fight you on it, so if you aren’t confident, you might not be able to stand up for yourself.
Sometimes this step can be hard than we expect and we might need external assistance. A good place to start is 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.
2. Make sure it’s safe
Although coming out may feel daring, sometimes it can be dangerous too. So the most important consider your safety before coming out to anyone. This is especially true in India, where large families, religion, and age old morals are still in place although the legal battle is won.
First, your family. Does your immediate family feel like they are safe people to tell? How about your extended family? Is there a good risk of you being kicked out, shamed, or hurt? If the answer to any of these is negative, it might be a good idea to not come out to these people.
Think about your career. Getting a job in India will likely be harder as an LGBTQ person, especially if you want to be a teacher or hold government office or in defense. There are places that can actively discriminate you or even get fired from your job. Consider these factors as you prepare for coming out at workplace.
If a situation doesn’t feel safe to come out in, never do it. Your safety should be your number one priority. You should also have a support plan in place in case something does go badly, and you need a friend, a place to stay, or even money.
In India, many people and families are still not ok with LGBTQ people. So part of the plan you have for coming out should be a backup in case things go bad. Being as independent as possible will help you if you get a bad reaction. If possible, try to have:
- A place to live
- Enough financial security to make it on your own for a little while
- A job you can definitely guarantee on getting or keeping
Having these three things will make sure you stay as safe as possible. 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, getting this kind of independence can be hard. If you can’t do that, try finding people you can definitely depend on. A friend whose house you can stay at; a relative who can lend you some money; a company that can offer you work. 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.
4. Know the laws and challenges
As an LGBTQ person in India, you will face a lot of pushback and hardships. If you take the time to learn about them before you come out, you can 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.
But the ground reality is that there is still discrimination in smaller towns and most work places. In many places in India, LGBTQ people are not hired, transgender people can have difficulties obtaining welfare and people from the LGBTQ community cannot register their marriage. So, do read up about the legal rights that the government has in place for LGBTQ community while you think about challenges like non supporting family, losing your job, harassment, and domestic violence.
Equip yourself with the knowledge before you plan to come out, so you can plan for 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.
5. Educate yourself
When you come out, you’re going to get a lot of questions, some of which you might not know the answer to. So before you do, 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 the 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, 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.
As we said, there is no one right way to come out. Everyone’s different. But if you follow these guidelines, and make sure you are safe, hopefully you will feel more prepared about coming out, and your journey will go a little bit more smoothly.