How to deal with a very public coming out
Our writer’s new, she’s the Irish K-Stew, and she has this for you!
My very public coming out came in the form of a sparkly tiara and a sash that read Ms Gay Limerick.
I had come out as bisexual a year previously but now I was out: pictures-in-the-paper-even-my-nana-knows out. It also didn’t help that my extended family was seriously confused by the fact that I was neither straight (as they had always thought) nor gay (as I insisted I wasn’t, but the local media maintained I was). That, however, is a story for another post..!
At the end of the day, it was a relatively lovely outing. It was done with my permission, I was being commended by the local scene; there were a few awkward moments, but my family had reacted well – and there were diamantes involved! What more could a girl ask for?
Unfortunately not all forays into the queer community are as bejeweled and appreciated. There is still the unfair thrusting of individuals into the limelight when they were just getting comfortable with poking a toe out of the closet. Things happen. And when they do, sometimes it seems the only option left is to wrap yourself up warm in your Spice Girls duvet, inhale the Ben and Jerry’s, and pray for the world to forget about you.
If you want to take the more practical option to dealing with this upheaval, here are my steps for survival.
Step 1: Be honest. Fact check. And own it.
People know you’re queer now. Whether you like it or not, if you’ve been publicly outed, you’re past the point of no return. Go to your parents/grandparents/friends, sit down with a cup of tea and explain the whole mess. Tell them the truth. Maybe they had suspected your love for the ladies for a while now. Maybe they’ll faint in shock.
I also found it really important to get my facts right in the beginning. As a bisexual woman, I was met with a lot of curious and unpleasant (for me) questions. “Are you fully gay so?” “But I thought you had a boyfriend…”. And “Are you just lying to yourself?” rank among my favourites.
You may be asked about your potential confusion, your certainty about your sexual orientation and weird inquiries into your sexual activity. Clarify as well as you can: I am sure I’m not straight; I’m not changing who I am anytime soon; and please don’t ask about my sex life, mom.
Own it. You’re out. You might as well be proud.
Step 2: Accept that not everyone will react well to this. And embrace those who offer their support.
Ignoring the not-so-nice stares I got while manning the stand for my college’s LGBTQ society, I have only met with one adverse reaction regarding my sexuality. Sadly, it came from one of my best friends, which made it much harder to deal with than hateful comments from strangers.
He reacted badly so I reacted in kind. This person who claimed to love me unconditionally was calling me greedy and a liar, was telling me how to think about the nuances of sexuality, was generally just being a dick; but I was in such a state of shock that he was voicing all these nasty opinions that I almost started to believe them. I yelled, he yelled, I cried. We don’t talk as much these days.
You may be surprised by who turns against you when you open that closet door. And the only way to survive these emotionally challenging and draining situations is to utilise the supports around you.
I leaned heavily on my mother during this; I have friends who aren’t so lucky. If you fall into this category, don’t be afraid to seek help from the supports that are there for you. If you’re in Limerick like me, My Diversity in the Red Ribbon Project will lend a hand. BeLonG To is the resource for Dubliners, and has a convenient list of all the support groups in the country.
Just because the road is rough doesn’t mean you have to trek it alone.
Step 3: Don’t binge away your troubles. Be constructive instead.
I have the utmost respect and envy for the people in this world who deal with their problems without a self piteous binge. Particularly with a public outing, you may garner more attention than usual. This can be both a blessing and curse, depending on whether you prefer to throw on your biker boots and raise the profile of LGBT equality, or pop on your cloak of invisibility and run away.
In either case, whether you smoke, drink, overeat or do something altogether more damaging when you’re down, this is not the time to go overboard. No matter how stressful life may get at this time, treat your body well and don’t add lethargy, a severe hangover and other people’s judgement into the mix of how crappy your day might seem.
Do things that make you feel amazing. Get active in the LGBT community, meet new people, take a political stance. If you want to stay away from the scene completely, take a trip, spend some time with your friends, get a massage, watch re-runs of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Just think of this as another interesting anecdote you can add to your autobiography.
The hard part’s over. You’re out. Time to join the party!