Question: What Should You Expect After Coming Out?
"I have recently begun my coming out process and have found it to be a real reality check," Gay Life reader Chris shares. "On day one I felt everything change, including my eyes. What do I have to look forward to in my coming out process? What thoughts do you have for a newly gay guy like myself?"
Answer: Coming out is an ongoing process.
Disclosing your sexual identity to those close (or not so close) to you is rarely a one time event. It's a process that continues throughout your life. You'll find yourself coming out to many people over time. Some of those individuals you will confide in and others will find out by circumstance.
Coming out should happen at a pace that makes you the most comfortable and you should always consider your safety and the stability of your environment before coming out. I've found it best to prepare to come out, but be weary of trying to control the circumstances in which it happens. Life may presents unexpected opportunities for you to come out. Prepare by first coming in, knowing your surroundings, creating the safest, most comfortable, environment as possible, and by keeping a coming out journal.
The more you come out, the more you will get to know yourself.
Coming out is about personal expression, not what others' may feel or think about you. Take each time you come out as an opportunity to increase your level of self-awareness. I've found that the more self-aware I am, the easier it is to navigate through the complexities of being gay at work, out in my community and in my family. Coming out is a gesture pointing outside of yourself, but the rewards of the process are all internal. As you stated in your question, you'll begin to see the world through a new set of eyes. And those lenses can help guide you to other areas of self-expression you never thought you had.
Some reactions to your sexual identity will be joyful, a few indifferent and others emotionally taxing.
"I bet you think this song is about you," Carly Simon sang. Well, it is all about you when you begin the coming out process. You can't control other peoples' actions or reactions, but you can create the best possible situation for yourself. I try to focus on the most positive people in my life. It's too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of negativity. It's not so easy to pull yourself back up. Don't waste years trying to convince those that have issues with your sexuality to turn away from the dark side. Instead, concentrate on the people in your life that accept you for who you are. If you don't currently have open-minded individuals in your life, seek them out by engaging in the activities you love. Joining clubs and engaging in other areas that interest you are great ways to meet new, like-minded people.
You'll feel the pressure of dating. Use the force and you'll be able to resist.
First you come out. Then, with lightening speed you embark on your quest to find a man. It's understandable: You've been waiting in anguish for quite some time to hold hands with another man. However, don't let your eagerness to couple up with another guy overshadow the process of getting to know someone (or yourself). Not everyone is inclined to be in a relationship or relationship ready. Neither are all guys one-time-only material. Adjust your dating life according to your priorities. Do you want a relationship, a buddy, or a casual encounter? Remember: What you give off is what you will receive. Also, keep in mind that some people will put in the work to make a connection while others won't. That's not your problem. Just be yourself and stay true to your dating goals.
You'll feel joy. You'll feel pain... and everything else in between.
You've already checked grief off of your list. Get ready for more emotion. There could possibly be guilt, anger, frustration, happiness, anxiety, peacefulness... No matter what you are feeling, keep in mind that it's all a part of the process. Manage your emotions by managing how you view your "new gay life." Coming out doesn't exempt one from experiencing the ups and downs of the every day. Plow through by surrounding yourself with an affirmative support system.
You don't have to accept the labels.
Top, bottom, femme queen, bear, trade, twink... I find labels to be quite restricting. They leave no room for growth, flexibility or undiscovered fun. Look, you are who you are and you like what you like. Those "likes" can change over time, as you continue to grow. People are most comfortable when they can categorize others. As queer people how can we expect others to keep an open mind about us while we in turn close our minds about ourselves? Keep it open. Keep it happy. Now that you have taken this step, there is so much to look forward to.