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Coming Out of the Closet: What It Means & 31 Steps to Help Others Accept You

Coming out of the closet is a huge step and one you should only take when you’re ready. Here are the steps you MUST follow, and the pros and cons to consider.


In movies, they make it look so effortless and natural to come out of the closet. However, the reality is often much more scary and overwhelming. There are so many factors at play before you decide that you feel ready or safe enough to reveal who you truly are to the world.

We know being gay isn’t easy in society, but it also isn’t nearly as difficult to be you as it was just two short decades ago. There is no reason to hide who you are anymore. People who love you will always love you.

However, deciding whether or not to come out is a very personal choice. Some people choose not to, and that’s their own decision. But why should you hide who you are? [Read: List of sexualities – 15 gender orientations you need to know about]

What does coming out of the closet mean?

Coming out of the closet basically means telling people that you are gay, bisexual, or otherwise part of the LGBTQ+. The word ‘closet’ is used because, before that point, it’s been a closely guarded secret, something you’ve been hiding away.

When you choose to come out, you’re allowing the world to see you for who you truly are. [Read: How to know if you are gay – All the signs you can’t ignore]

Follow your heart

In life, whenever anyone does what is in their heart, there is always going to be someone who isn’t going to like it. You being honest about who you are and what you want isn’t going to be easy for everyone. But that is just as true in many other situations.

Everything from working as a musician instead of being a doctor to being an artist instead of putting on your three-piece suit to hit the office – your decisions can disappoint anyone with other plans for you. So if you decide to come out of the closet, realize that there are people who aren’t going to like it, and that’s okay.

These are the people you don’t deserve to have in your life anyway. What matters is you followed your heart enough to show your true colors – and that takes a lot of courage. [Read: How to be comfortable in your own skin – 20 ways to love being you]

Who should you come out to?

Whoever you feel the most comfortable talking to. You don’t have to come out to everyone if you don’t want to. What you need to do is choose the person who you feel is going to hear you, understand you, and listen to you.

However, you also have to understand that it may come as a shock to that person. If they don’t act in the way you wanted, don’t be discouraged. Your bravery is your pat on the back.

Perhaps they just need a little time to process it, and they’ll come back to you afterward. Either way, owning who you are is never a bad thing. [Read: Does liking a man mean I am gay? No, but these signs might]

Reasons you should NOT come out of the closet

While we’ve talked about owning who you are, there are some situations when you might choose not to come out. So, let’s get started on the cons of coming out of the closet.

You know there will be cons, so here’s what you should look out for.

1. Not everyone will accept or understand your sexual orientation

This is one of the many sad truths about coming out. We are sorry to break the bad news, but unconditional understanding or acceptance doesn’t necessarily follow.

We do not want to discourage you; all we are saying is that you have to be mindful of these things because there will always be people who will not be pleased with who you are. The thing is, the more you know about the unexpected, the less you bleed in combat. [Read: How to tell if someone is gay]

The only thing that coming out can guarantee is the possibility that people will react differently. It could be a response of frustration, betrayal, anger, confusion, and sometimes even shock or outright denial. And all thanks to the countless misconceptions and myths we learned from the misinformed mainstream media!

Yet, regardless of how erratic the reactions could be, remember to be honest about who you really are and address every issue and question respectfully.

2. You could be disowned

Losing financial support and being thrown out of the house are some of the most common setbacks of coming out.

If you are young and financially dependent on your parents for support, make sure you can sustain yourself independently, if necessary, if you think your family may react explosively or disapprovingly to your sexual identity.

Be prepared for the worst-case scenario and have a concrete plan to fall back on. Better yet, as much as we hate saying this, you can choose to wait until you are capable of self-support. [Read: Small ways to deal with big changes in your life]

3. You can’t hop back into the closet

There is no backspace or delete button when you come out. Either you do it, or you don’t. Once said, it’s done and irreversible.

As Julius Caesar puts it, “Alea iacta est,” or “The die is cast.”

4. You can’t expect others to do the same

It’s true that coming out is liberating and fulfilling, but keep in mind that the whole coming out process varies for everyone. No one should feel pressured to come out, not even your own partner!

You are entitled to encourage and provide reliable support, but you don’t get to decide for others. They are free to come out ONLY when they are ready, just like you did. Give them a break, and don’t be pushy! [Read: 20 relationship problems that push a couple apart or bring them closer]

5. It’s not enough to change the world

Because you are expected to do more than that. The entire LGBTQ+ community is proud of you for opening up, but your coming out story is only the beginning of a life-long commitment to look after the entire community.

We have rights to uphold and responsibilities to honor. You can do better than just coming out and living your own life while other members of the community are suffering, being bullied, harassed, and treated terribly. You have to CARE about your community.

6. Workplace discrimination

This shouldn’t happen, and obviously, there are laws against this sort of thing, but we can’t deny that it does happen in some cases.

Coming out may cause your employer to act in a discriminatory manner and make your working life nothing short of a nightmare. [Read: 15 millennial problems that reveal all is not Instagram perfect]

7. Lack of physical safety

We live in a far-from-ideal world, and unfortunately, there are still cases where members of the LGBTQ+ community experience violent attacks while out and about.

When you choose to come out of the closet, know that your personal safety may reduce because not everyone is accepting of your choice.

The challenges of not coming out of the closet

After reading those cons, you might wonder whether coming out of the closet is worth it. Well, in terms of being able to live your life freely, it is worth it.

If you choose not to come out, you’re always going to have to suppress a very important part of who you are. For many, that can lead to poor mental health because if you’re not free to be yourself, your life is only half-lived, and you’ll end up miserable.

You will also find it very hard to meet people and fall in love. If that’s what you’re aiming for, not coming out of the closet is basically ruining your dream. [Read: 34 life-changing steps to fall in love with yourself all over again]

Reasons you SHOULD come out of the closet

Okay, enough of the negative stuff. This time, let’s talk about the PROs of coming out because everybody loves a happy ending, right?

1. It’s a one-way ticket to freedom

Coming out is a chance to finally stop faking things; you can finally be genuine.

Stepping out of the closet is an opportunity to live your life without homophobic boundaries, exactly the way you want it to be: to love whomever you want to love and whenever you want to, to dress in a manner that you deem fit, to let your inner voice out, and most especially to do all these without the fear of being discovered.

It is the ultimate sense of acceptance of your own skin and flesh, regardless of how the closed-minded people around you may think of you.

It is an indescribable state of happiness, a self-declared autonomy from always having to either explain oneself or apologize for who you really are. [Read: Tips to fall in love with yourself and be a better you]

2. It’s an effective filter

How amazing is it to know that there are those who are willing to put their necks on the line for you?

Coming out gives you a fresh start to spring-clean your relationships and weed out those who cannot handle your honesty.

It is safe to say that friends who support you are the ones who are worthwhile. After all, who cares about all those other people anyway?

3. You’ll realize a bunch of myths

You will recognize that you are not sick and that you don’t need a therapist. Also, you’ll realize that your feelings are not just a phase: it is life. You’ll come to accept that someone’s personal judgment against you is not a fact.

Above all, you are neither immoral nor deviant. [Read: Definition of queer – What does the Q in LGBTQ really mean?]

4. It gives you more strength to deal with backlash

The famous author Rachel Maddow once said, “the single best thing about coming out of the closet is that nobody can insult you by telling you what you’ve just told them.”

She is right. Isn’t it dumb for people to insult you with what you just said? Nevertheless, people will always be entitled to their own opinions, no matter what. But coming out will empower you to learn not to let their opinions overpower yours.

Remember that you are the captain of your ship, and you are the master of your fate. Your life is yours to control. [Read: Should you worry about justifying your life choices?]

20 steps to ease yourself out of the closet

Perhaps the best way to come out of the closet is to keep one thing in mind. You might have known who you are and what you felt inside for years, maybe for as long as you can remember, but other people in your life might not have a clue.

When coming out of the closet, let people around you come to terms with the new you slowly and in their own time.

1. Choose the right time

There is a right and a wrong time to come out of the closet. There might be a day when you have an epiphany that life is too short.

But timing is everything, so while it’s crucial to show yourself to the world, you also need to give yourself enough time to prepare yourself for any potential backlash.

Waiting one more day, or even a week, to make sure you prepare for the fallout that could ensue, or to let the dust settle if things are out of control, is the best way to make it go over better and be less emotion-laden. [Read: Timing in love and relationships – Why it’s so important]

2. Choose the right situation

Some situations beg for you to come out of the closet, and others beg for you not to. Don’t hijack someone else’s event by making it all about you. Sure, you want to make a statement, but doing it at the expense of someone else isn’t really fair.

If someone else is at the center of attention that day, don’t steal their spotlight and make it all about you. Examples of wrong situations are when someone passes away, on birthdays, at weddings, during family or work events, and the like.

Otherwise, you could make a whole mess that would’ve been avoided if you only choose the right situation. [Read: Indecisiveness – when your inability to decide is a decision too]

3. Single out people instead of making a big announcement

Letting everyone know at once cuts down on the rumor mill and gets it all out there without the hassle. But, if there are people who you have an obligation to tell ahead of time to give them time to process, then do that. For instance, this could be your parents, siblings, or even your best friend.

Take turns to share this with groups of your closest friends or family members, all in the span of a few days, before breaking the news publicly.

If there’s someone really important that you feel should know before everyone else, talk to them first. This is mostly because you respect the person and want to explain it to them in the best way possible before they hear it from someone else. [Read: How to set boundaries: Crucial steps to feel more in control]

4. If someone is upset, it is on them

Remember, if you come out of the closet, you are out, and you won’t wish you kept it hidden any longer. If someone has a problem with your lifestyle, that’s on them.

So in coming out of the closet, don’t worry about the people who can’t accept who you are even after you explain yourself to them. That’s not your problem anymore. What matters is the people who do accept you and love you either way.

5. Be honest

There might be questions that come from your coming out of the closet. Don’t take offense; you have known about it for a while, but those who didn’t know just found out. Be open to answering any questions they might have and be honest with them.

If you are honest about how you feel, how you have always felt, when it started, and how long you have known, it eases any guilt others might harbor. [Read: How to not give a fuck – Your guide to less fucks and more laughs]

6. Speak from the heart

Telling people that you are gay is one of the hardest things in the world. But, if you speak from the heart and speak directly to theirs, they quickly realize your happiness is what is important and see you have hidden who you are and that it isn’t fair. That brings acceptance more quickly.

So if you’re coming out of the closet, you don’t have to sugarcoat things. Just simply speaking from the heart is enough. When your loved ones see how happy you are, they’ll also be happy for you.

7. Don’t be afraid

There is nothing worse than feeling like you can lose the important people in your life if they don’t approve. If they can’t accept who you are, then they aren’t providing you with unconditional love. You are worthy of nothing less.

If they can’t accept who you are, you don’t deserve to have them in your life. Even if it’s someone you thought was your person, maybe they’re not who you thought they were. [Read: Am I bisexual or lesbian? How to understand the differences yourself]

8. There is an order you should follow

Think about how the rumor mill is going to follow and go with the heavy hitters first. Often, we prolong the hard things longer, which, when coming out of the closet, might come back to bite you. Tell those who will be the toughest the soonest.

In the same way that you should finish the hard tasks first in any challenging work, the same goes for coming out of the closet. So it’s always best to deal with your closed-minded and traditional family and friends first.

9. Answer questions if necessary instead of clamming up

There are going to be a lot of questions. Show people that it isn’t just a phase or something you are experimenting with by answering all the questions they have. Accept that people will ask you whether it’s just a phase or suggest that maybe you haven’t found the right person yet.

These are the people who can’t accept who you truly are. If you answer their questions without pause and with conviction, then they will have an easier time accepting the truth. [Read: Biromantic vs. bisexual – How to understand who you really are]

10. Allow them time to process

Once you tell them, give them time to process. They might avoid you for a time as they come to terms with what you shared.

It doesn’t necessarily mean they are angry or not accepting; sometimes, people just need time alone to process. You just dropped a bomb on them that they probably were not expecting.

So you need to allow your loved ones to process your coming out of the closet. Give them the space and time they need without getting in their face. Let them come to you.

11. Don’t apologize

Don’t ever apologize for being you or feeling the way you do. Being gay isn’t a life choice; it is who you are. You have NO reason to be sorry for who you are. The minute you apologize, you’re not respecting or loving yourself enough.

It’s first instinct to apologize when sharing shocking or, to some, upsetting news, but don’t give in to this tendency. You were perfectly made the way that you are, and you owe NO ONE an apology.[Read: Am I a lesbian? 20 clues to know the truth without asking around]

12. If they are upset and choose not to respond, then you have to walk away

If someone can’t accept you, then you can’t continue to hide it for their benefit or go with their request to just keep it under wraps when in their presence.

Sure, out of respect, if your parents aren’t accepting of it, then you can try to be a bit discreet with your PDA *this goes for heterosexual couples out of respect too, so it’s not gay-specific*. 

However, if they aren’t your family, it’s better not to continue a relationship or friendship with them. [Read: How to let go of a relationship]

13. Don’t let them find out through social media

If you have not told the people in your life about coming out of the closet, then don’t post things to social media that will shock or hurt them. They should be the first to know, they don’t want to be the last!

You don’t want to be coming out of the closet through social media, as that’s the worst place you want people to find out.

You want people to know on a personal level instead of finding out online. Also, it leaves a lot of room for judgment and criticism when you do it online *people can be really harsh sometimes*! [Read: Social media and relationships – The good, the bad, the ugly]

14. Explain that it has nothing to do with anyone but you

If you tell those who feel responsible that they haven’t done anything, you were born gay, it lets them off the hook and disallows them from feeling any remorse or guilt that they did something to make your life harder than they hoped for you.

Before the people in your life start to feel any form of guilt, explain to them that this is who you are.

15. Don’t take their reaction to heart

You are likely going to get some reactions that aren’t exactly positive. Try to separate yourself from it. They are shocked, reacting without thinking, and aren’t trying to hurt your feelings. They are just trying to come to terms with you coming out of the closet.

Give people time to process, and make sure to tell the people most important to you first. In the end, those who love you do so unconditionally and want you to be happy. [Read: How to know if you’re gay – All the signs you can’t ignore]

16. Only do it if you’re ready

Nobody is forcing you to come out of the closet, especially if you’re not yet ready. So if you’re not prepared to reveal your identity to your loved ones, that’s alright. Everyone has a different timeline for coming out, and it just so happens that yours isn’t now.

Also, don’t feel pressured when people force you to do so. Kindly remind them that this is your decision and yours alone. They don’t get to weigh in on when you get to come out.

17. Take it gradually

You don’t have to come out in one instant right away. You can take it gradually first. Start by telling just one person you trust with your entire being and take it from there.

Take it one step at a time, and once you’re more comfortable, you can start telling other people. But coming out of the closet doesn’t have to be done all at once. [Read: The most common bisexual stereotypes we need to get rid of ASAP]

18. Practice the manner of how you’re going to tell them

It can be really nerve-wracking to tell others about your secret sexual identity, so it’s always best to come prepared. Practice how you plan to tell them, including your speech.

Again, it’s important not to undermine yourself or apologize for who you are – that shouldn’t be part of your speech. Admit that you’re gay, and take it from there. Most importantly, stay true to who you are.

19. Don’t do it drunk

This should be a pretty obvious point, but doing it when you’ve downed some liquid courage is the last thing you should be doing. It’s not personal, and you might end up coming out of the closet when you’re far from ready.

Most often, you might even regret confessing your identity. Of course, we can’t always control our actions and behavior when drunk, so on the off-chance that your trusted friends know, let them hold you accountable for this. [Read: Drunk texting – How to avoid the awkward drama of drunk texts]

20. Everyone has different ways

Look, everyone’s way and timing of coming out of the closet is entirely different from yours. So don’t compare yourself to others. 

The minute you’re ready, that’s the only time you should be revealing who you truly are. Don’t tell everyone you’re gay just because all your friends did. Trust your gut instinct.

Choose the right route for you

When coming out of the closet, you have to follow your heart. It’s as simple as that. You should definitely bear our advice in mind, but at the end of the day, this is your life and your choice.

Never feel pushed to come out if you’re not ready or if you don’t want to at all. However, always know that you should never have to hide who you are.

[Read: Sense of self – 21 steps to raise it and feel like a million bucks]

Coming out of the closet isn’t an easy decision, but whether you choose to do it or not, you must always remember to love yourself, no matter what. Then, you’ll be able to handle what happens when you finally decide to come out. 

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...