What does it means to come out?
Coming, otherwise known as “coming out of the closet”, is the process of telling your sexual orientation and/or gender identity to one or a group of individuals such as family, friends, work colleagues, etc. Coming out is a phenomenon that has already become common among LGBTIQ+ people as a result of a heteronormative society and the assumption of the majority that everyone lives a heterosexual life within binary systems. Such an approach by society for a long time already has harmed LGBTIQ+ persons, making it difficult for them to live in public and private spaces. This inequality and denial of authentic living have created a new wave of acting among LGBTIQ+ people by encouraging activists to come out, both in their families and friends, as well as publicly in the media.
Coming out is known as a bold and encouraging step given the current circumstances around the world, especially in a society like Kosovo, where in an interview conducted a few years ago, over 80% of respondents said they were against having a child who may belong to the LGBTIQ+ communities.
This process can often be emotionally difficult, and sometimes even dangerous. Therefore, coming out is a process that should be done gradually, step by step, testing the situation and preparing yourself to face reactions of all kinds – unfortunately, including negative or unacceptable attitudes.
How to come out?
How to come out – one of the most frequently asked questions by LGBTIQ+ people around the world, and most often by children and adolescents, the answers to which are numerous and diverse.
The truth lies in that there is no set way to go about it, nor are the attitudes and reactions of others predictable. However, there are some circumstances that can be analysed for a safer journey when coming out to a family member, friend or someone else.
One step you can take during this process is not to react emotionally. It is more than understandable that hiding your sexuality and/or identity and living a double life can bottle up a lot of emotions inside, which eventually need to explode. Although it is difficult to hold back sometimes, such explosive reactions can lead us to unenviable situations and aggravate our process of development and self-acceptance. Emotional outbursts can sometimes result in trauma as well.
Test the situation. Before talking to anyone about yourself, try talking about LGBTIQ+ communities-related topics and see what they think about such issues. While this helps in how you approach the other person, it does not assure you of others’ reactions. The person in question may be supportive of you because of the closeness but have a different opinion about this phenomenon in general. It can also be the opposite – be neutral with LGBTIQ+ people but have difficulty accepting someone close. Either way, keep focusing on yourself.
Find the moment when you feel ready and do not get influenced by external factors. You do not have to tell anyone about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You are in control of this process! Take care of yourself and practise self-love to empower yourself and fight for yourself.
How should other people act?
When someone close to you approaches you with the intention of telling you about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, one of the best reactions is to refrain from an exaggerated reaction.
In the opinion of a significant number of LGBTIQ+ people, the biggest fear during the process of coming out is how the other person will react. So before you react, make sure you are listening to what the person has to say and always remember that they are telling very personal information that has been locked up for years.
Offer a sense of confidence and ensure that everything will remain secret. Since such information is very personal, do not exploit the trust of a close person.
Telling such a secret to someone else is one of the most malicious acts, regardless of it being intentional or by neglect. Revealing such secrets harms the well-being of the person, putting them in other troubles that they did not initially imagine could occur, affecting them emotionally, mentally and sometimes even physically, and resulting in the loss of trust in other people. Coming out is a personal decision that belongs only to the person who wants to come out, at the moment they decide for themselves.
Where else to find support if you are an LGBTIQ+ person?
If you do not have someone in your family or friends with whom you can talk about these issues, contact other LGBTIQ+ people you know or visit places frequented by LGBTIQ+ people.
Lastly, remember that even if you do not come out, you are part of the LGBTIQ+ communities and will always be accepted as members of a chosen family. Even without your knowledge, you are an encourager and example of resistance for younger people in the LGBTIQ+ communities.
Also, to receive services for your well-being, you can always ask to hold psychological sessions and receive legal services from organizations working for the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons in Kosovo. These services will ensure that you take care of yourself and claim your rights more safely and that you are accompanied along these journeys by informed people who offer you comfort.
You are valuable and you belong to this society!