Coming out and openly declaring to the world that you are LGBTQ+ is going to be one the biggest moments of your life. Whether you’ve known for a long time or you’re still figuring it out, coming out is a deeply personal experience, and you shouldn’t feel pressured into doing it if you’re not ready. More importantly, you want to make sure you’re actually coming out for the right reasons. If the idea of dropping the news is intimidating or makes you feel insecure in any way, that’s probably a good indicator it’s not your time yet. We know how hard it is to tell when to begin this process, so here are some telltale signs that you should wait longer to come out, and why that’s okay.
1. You’re still figuring things out for yourself
You’re still working out the kinks of your sexuality and gender identity, and until you know for sure, you might feel more comfortable keeping it to yourself. This doesn’t mean in any way that if you’re dealing with uncertainty you have to keep it private––you may choose to share with your partner or a close friend that you’re on a journey discovering your sexuality, but many choose to wait until they have a definitive answer to officially come out to publicly. Additionally, ~nobody~ can pressure you into coming out. Make the big announcement on your terms without being coerced into it.
“Don't come out because of pressure from friends or a significant other,” says Alaina Leary, a second year graduate student at Emerson College. “They may think they know what's best for you, or think you'd be happier if you were out. You want to make sure you're making the decision that's best for you. Coming out should be something you decide––your SO and friends can support you and help you through it, but it ultimately needs to come from you.”
There’s no harm in waiting. Taking the time to fully explore your sexuality and identity should be an enriching and informative process, and it’s strengthening to feel grounded in that.
2. You feel embarrassed or insecure about your identity
Truly, you haven’t come out to yourself yet. Even though you’ve had that “ah ha” moment, you’ve been suppressing it by letting your mind fill with nasty thoughts. You might be in the boat of spending so much time worrying that people will reject you, that you start to reject yourself. You feel insecure that you’re still figuring out who you are. Some part of you is secretly ashamed to not be a “normal.” Basically, all the insecurity clogging up your brain is making you too scared to come out. Make sure you hear us loud and clear: you have no reason to be embarrassed. You will continue to be loved, nobody has it all together and you are definitely normal. However, until you realize this for yourself you should hold back on coming out.
“Society tells you that you aren’t normal,” says Maria Turner Carney, a writer at AfterEllen and expert in LGBTQ mental health. “Society tells you that your choice is wrong, and eventually you hear it so much that when you realize you’re queer you believe you them. The way to overcome this is through support groups, positive reinforcement and waking up each day and validating your identity and your decision.”
Feeling secure with yourself will make you more powerful in dealing with negative responses and give you joy when sharing your true self with the people that support you. Know that after you come out and embrace yourself, it gets better. You will learn to take pride in your diversity and can be stress-free about LGBTQ+.
3. You feel like you don’t have a support system
With the support of family and friends, coming out can be an enlightening and painless process, but not all of us are that fortunate. Coming out to the people you’re closest to might invoke hostility, hateful comments or flat-out rejection. You feel as though coming out would only bring you heartache.
“I haven’t come out because I’m scared,” says Kayla* a senior at New York University. “Not only do I think my family would kick me out, I know I’d probably lose my internship. Also after the shooting in Orlando, I don’t know if I ever feel safe. The combination of not having a support system and the risk of being part of a hate crime just makes coming out seem pointless.”
While your personal joy is the highest priority when coming out, please keep in mind that most people carry more love than hate. Try going to the people you know will be the most accepting first, and ask for their help with this process. You may also want to visit your campus’s pride center or a LGBTQ+ group for support and guidance on how to come out in an unloving situation.
4. Your well-being could become threatened
The unfortunate reality is that the LGBTQ+ community can be a target of hate and violence both in the home or on the streets. If you are surrounded by family or in a community that will likely result in you being abused, kicked out or in financial trouble, then your well-being is threatened and coming should not be a priority over your safety.
Alaina has some great advice to those of you who feel unsafe. “If you feel like your safety is threatened by coming out and you don't have a back-up plan, it may be best to wait, even if you'd rather come out,” she says. “Some LGBTQ+ people face threats of being kicked out, cut off financially, or physically or emotionally abused, and if you're still living at home and think this might be a possibility––and you don't have anywhere else to turn if it does happen––you might be safer waiting until you're out on your own and physically separated from your family/guardians before coming out.”
Trauma, oppression, abuse and harm leave lasting impressions, but know that as soon as you’re away from it, you can overcome it. As life moves on and you distance yourself from unsafe situation, you will learn to create the life you want and deserve as a proud and fully out person.
There’s no specific circumstance or concrete list of steps to tell you when you’re ready; it’s something you have to choose for yourself. Coming out isn’t the be-all, end-all of your life, it’s just a step in self-expression and acceptance. Know that you can still find ways to feel pride in who you are in your own safe way, and that waiting is just fine.
*Names have been changed