Like many members of the LGBTQ+ community, I spent several years in the closet. The realization that I was gay was immediately followed by the understanding that in my small, Southern Baptist town, this would be a journey I would have to endure alone.
Ideally, no one should ever have to live a lie out of fear for their own reputation, wellbeing or safety. But in cases such as mine, where any of the aforementioned things would be genuinely threatened by coming out, doing so just isn’t realistic – and that’s okay.
Regardless, being in the closet can be mentally exhausting. Here are three tips I’ve learned for making things easier on yourself:
1. Be prepared to hear offensive things from people you care about.
Conversely, be prepared to hear offensive things from people who you think care about you. Homophobic family members, friends or coworkers who assume that you’re straight will feel comfortable sharing their bigoted beliefs with you and may even expect you to reciprocate. Luckily, it’s totally possible to shut down their rude comments without inadvertently outing yourself. If they start to seem suspicious, you have two options: either insist that you’re standing up for a close friend of yours who happens to be gay, or simply tell them that, unlike them, you’re a decent human being who won’t tolerate discrimination.
2. If you decide to date, make sure your partner is on the same page.
This one can be pretty tricky. Many people who haven’t come out want to experience being in relationships, but being closeted can present a huge obstacle in doing so. You may go on dates with fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been lucky enough to always find themselves surrounded by love and support and who consequently don’t understand what it’s like to be in your shoes. While this discrepancy can be frustrating for both parties involved, you should never be condemned for your position in the closet. Ensure that your partner is understanding and accommodating so that you don’t end up being outed before you’re ready.
3. Don’t make any rash decisions about coming out.
As time goes on, you’ll probably get the urge to come out to someone. While being selectively out of the closet can provide someone to confide in when times are tough, it’s wise to think carefully before you bare it all. Ask yourself how much you trust this person, what their reaction would be based on your knowledge of their character and how you would cope if the worst case scenario occurred. From personal experience, I wouldn’t advise coming out to an unrequited crush, as a negative reaction from them can be especially devastating.
Whether you’ve been in the closet for years or have just begun to embrace your sexuality, you’ve learned that it’s no easy place to be, but hopefully you feel more prepared after reading this article. Don’t let anyone bring you down!