As a psychotherapist in Hoboken, NJ who specializes in seeing lgbtq identified clients, I find that the coming out process never ends- no matter what age or how long ago you first came out. In hoboken and jersey city, there are a lot of accepting groups and people that welcome the lgbtq community. We are also so close to NYC that it makes sense for hudson county to be pretty liberal and accepting of all people- no matter how they identify. While I say I specialize in the LGBTQ community, I really mean that I am accepting of all people and I have experience working with people who identify as something they feel is different than the population “norm”. There are definitely unique hardships that accompany identifying as lgbtq, such as the coming out process. And that process never ends.
Anchor Therapy is a counseling center in Hoboken, NJ with psychotherapists specialized to help teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions.
How to know when to first come out:
In short, there’s no perfect answer here. Every person is different, their situation will be different, their environment is different, their culture is different, their family is different, their values are different, and so on. It is also not up to me, or anyone else, to say when the right time is for you to come out. That should 100% be your choice and when you’re ready. You don’t even have to come out to everyone you know at once. You can come out to one person you truly trust and then no one else for years. The process is really whatever you want it to be.
There are times when you may tell someone who you thought you could trust, but then they betray that trust and out your identity to others before you are ready. This can often happen and it is something to prepare for emotionally beforehand. When you do come out to the first few people, you can tell them who else knows and who doesn’t know so that they don’t assume you told everyone in your social circle, family, or workplace. There are unfortunately still going to be people that may betray your trust so when you do start coming out you want to make sure you are ready for anyone you know possibly finding out.
The best thing to do to prepare is to have a great support system. You want to try to tell people who you are closest with first, but also people who are accepting of you and how you identify. This will help build up your support system early so that you can go to them in times of need.
Who should I not come out to?
Again, every person is different so this is totally up to you. But there are certain circumstances in which you may not want to come out to certain people or groups due to discrimination. If you are transgender and in the military then you may not want to come out as of now since the laws are turning backwards and you can be denied serving for the United States. If you are in a religion that does not accept your identity, but your faith is important to you then you may not want to tell others there. If you have a grandmother who is set in her beliefs and does not approve of different identities then you may not want to tell her now. If you feel you will be discriminated, or treated differently, at work or school then you don’t have to share it there.
While this article is about having to come out throughout your life, it does not mean you have to come out to everyone and anyone. It is up to you to decide who you share your identity with. Some people share it far and wide and are very open with their identity. They will take any discrimination that comes their way and will move forward. They may lose something or someone in this process, but they are confident and proud of who they are. Some others may feel proud of who they are, but don’t feel the need to share it with everyone as they may lose their job which they also care about. This is why there is no right answer, but it is something to think about.
I came out 10 years ago, why is it still hard for me to explain my identity when I am meeting someone new?
Just because you came out 10 years ago, doesn’t mean that you are done coming out. You will have to come out every time you meet someone new throughout your life. Unfortunately, in 2019 we assume someone is straight and cisgender unless something makes us think otherwise (dress, style, personality, makeup, etc.) As humans, we are all observers and have our first impressions of new people we meet. Sometimes, or most of the time, our first impressions are wrong in some way. An example would be that the male quarterback of a football team must sleep around with a lot of girls. When in reality, we don’t know what his identified gender or sexuality even is. It’s impossible to know anything about this person other than that they play football.
When you are meeting others, whether it be a first date, an interview for a job, or someone in a yoga class then it may be in the back of your mind to debate if you want to come out as gay to this new person. There is no rule book that says you have to come out to everyone you meet, even if you are openly gay with everyone in your life. If this person becomes your friend on some level then you will probably want to tell them at some point.
Should I come out at work?
It depends what your job is. There are definitely some work places that would not be accepting of someone who identifies as a different gender or who identifies as gay. You may want to first get vibes of the work culture and see if anyone else has come out in the workplace. You can ask this person for advice and see how their experience was coming out at the workplace. They could even be your support system if needed. If there is no one out at your workplace, then I would gently test the waters. You may want to tell a trusted and accepting colleague first and get advice on how they think your other colleagues would react if they knew. If you do find out that your company is not accepting of LGBTQ individuals then you most likely will want to go and get a new job that is more accepting. But if this is your dream job and/or you need the income then you will have to hide a part of your identity at work. This can feel challenging and like you’re back in the closet again hiding who you truly are. It is up to you to decide your values and what feels right for you.
Why do I have to come out to others while straight cisgender people never have to?
Hopefully this will shift in the future. But for now, it is assumed that everyone is straight and cisgender unless told otherwise. It is unfair, but it is what our culture is used to. This is why you have to come out to everyone new you meet. It can be exhausting, annoying, frustrating, exciting, etc. Sometimes it will be easier while other times it will be harder. If you identify differently than the cultural “norm” just know that you are not alone.
If you are just starting to come out to your friends and family, it is important to have a support system in place. It could be helpful to seek professional support as well from a counselor. Feel free to reach out to me by filling out the form below if you would like extra support in your coming out process.
Courtney Glashow, LCSW
is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in Hoboken, New Jersey. She specializes in helping teens and adults with anxiety, depression, and life transitions through counseling. Courtney can help NY or NJ residents through telehealth (video/phone) therapy sessions as well.