Kim Hoffman: You might find out that coming out happens in stages, happens over and over, happens when you least expected it. You might write it in a long email to your mom, who says: “Aw, that’s OK—I could see myself one day leaving your dad to live among women, like the Golden Girls!” You might run into your dad with your new girlfriend who has a multi colored mohawk and be relieved when he tells you he is so OK with you being gay but isn’t so sure about the hair. You might feel things that you long forgot were part of you: that weird sensation of being an adolescent all over again, but in a way, as if for the first time, or hey, you might be an adolescent reading this right now! (Which is rad.) Just know that loving yourself and giving yourself a pat on the back is step #1 and step #2058838. You’ll need you. You might even meet you. So remember to greet yourself nicely. You might be surprised by what you find.
Trish Bendix: If people question you upon your coming out, hold strong. You know yourself better than anyone else. You will get questions like “How do you know? Are you sure? But have you tried being with a man?” You might even get more personal, challenging inquires from people who think it OK to ask these things of you, no matter how well you know them, or they you. Just know that you don’t have to be the one to educate them, but if you feel comfortable enough and want to give them the answers they are looking for, remember that you’ve had a lot more time to process this then they have, and for most people, a little time and learning will help them to understand this isn’t a phase or lack of dudes knocking at your door. And no one is “too pretty to be gay.” THAT IS NOT A THING.
Ali Davis: There is so much good advice here: Yes, wait until coming out is right for you. Make sure you’ll be physically safe and, if you think there’s a chance that your parents or guardians won’t accept it, make sure you’re self-sufficient before you come out. Do all the thinking you need to. You are on nobody’s timetable but your own. Also, nobody tells straight people that they have to have sex with someone before they can call themselves straight, so don’t ever feel pressured to do anything more than you’re comfortable with. (That’s a good rule of thumb in general.) It’s true that there may be people who react badly—I was genuinely surprised by a couple of them—but there are so, so many people who will be so much more lovely than you ever imagined. Go ahead and take the opportunity to bring those friendships closer. You will also find a great swath of people who truly do not care what anyone’s sexual orientation is, and they are to be treasured as well. Find your tribe, whether in real life or online. People you can talk about the big things and the silly little things with.
Being in the closet is like carrying a rock around in your stomach. There’s a weight and an anxiety that makes everything more difficult. And coming out, finally putting down that rock, is so wonderfully freeing. My best advice is that you don’t need to pick up anyone else’s rock or step into anyone else’s box. Just like there are people who will have always been happy to tell you that you are not straight/womanly/whatever enough, there are plenty of people on the other side of coming out who will helpfully tell you you are not gay enough/not butch enough/not femme enough/attracted to the wrong people/shipping the wrong fictional characters. Those are people who need rigid rules in their own lives; they are not people who have any jurisdiction over yours. Let them sit in their own boxes and carry their own rocks.
You have a superpower now: You know what carrying that rock feels like, and you know what letting it go feels like. It’s a great way to check in make sure you’re being true to yourself in every area of your life. Forge your own category or defy them entirely. Have fun. Be safe. Dance a lot. Make out with people who are good to you and deserve you. Congratulations and welcome.
What’s your advice for coming out?