Much as some of us would like to just get it over with — Giant party! Confetti! Streamers! Personal Pride Parade! — most of us experience something more akin to coming out to our mother via Skype from 18,000 miles away, while sobbing over a Missy Higgins album. (But that's another story.) Either way, coming out is rarely a single process or event, and involves years of thinking about who to be 'out' to, how, and why.
Maybe it's an RA, a friend, or that girl or boy in your class with the nose ring and the excellent hair, but suddenly, you've got that fluttery feeling in your stomach and are plotting ways to engineer 'accidental' run-ins in corridors. It might have emerged without you realizing it — or it might have been there for years — but it's definitely there, and you can't ignore it. Oh dear.
Thinking Everyone Knows
This is the phase where you realize the implications of your feelings, and go into panicky-introspection mode. What's going on, where did it come from, is it going to go away, and does everybody know? (No. They don't. But you might wander around convinced that everybody possesses military-strength gaydar, and that you are a nuclear sub of Homosexual Feelings anyway.)
There can of course be very sincere fears involved in the process of accepting your own sexual orientation: Case Western University's LGBT Centre rounds them up as terror of 'rejection, gossip, loss of spiritual foundation or family, harassment, discrimination, being seen as immoral' and a host of other wonderful things. But you also know the consequences of keeping this inside. So this is likely to be a terrifying as well as enlightening time.
Seeking Out LGBT Culture
As confidence builds, small inroads into actual same-sex-loving behavior may become a little less scary. This is the time when you start pushing yourself to do new things. And maybe make out with some truly inadvisable people. Lip rings? Really?!
Telling A Friend
Most people, when it comes to coming out, start small with friends who are important to them, or that they think will take it the best. Amazingly, HRC statistics say that 90 percent of LGBT young people are out to their groups of close friends. That's where it starts; one conversation at a time.
Fielding The Reactions
Joining The LGBT Community
You are an out person in your college community! Maybe you start wearing rainbow pride bracelets and actively participate in every Pride Parade. Maybe you start seeing a person of the same sex — publicly. (Godspeed with that one; use protection.) Maybe you just keep it to yourself and your friends. Either way, this is a big new phase. Have some cake.
According to Israeli research conducted in 2011, family support is the most crucial factor when it comes to coming out. (LGBT people say: duh.) While the choice to come out to families first is popular, the realities of living away at college, the desire to do it 'in person,' and fear of a bad reaction can mean that coming out to your family in college can get put off or saved till you're 'sure.'
Realizing The Process Never Ends
You're out of the closet and hopefully comfortable with your identity. But coming out never really stops. New people and new situations always throw up the nagging thought: should I tell them? It's annoying, but at least you've now got people who have your back, and maybe some less inadvisable make-out partners — so you've made the first really big steps. You did it!
Happy Pride Month!
Image: Antonio Tajuleo/Flickr