A day to not be me
by Mikel LePorte
Mental Health Columnist
I love Halloween. It is the time of year when we all get to don our masks, put on our costumes, and live out our fantasies of being someone else. Yes, I love Halloween – now.
In my early adult years, I hated Halloween. Not because of the garbage I had been taught about how it was Satan’s night, and evil incarnate roamed the earth.
No, I hated Halloween because I didn’t need a special day to wear a mask. I wore one every day, trying to pass myself off as being straight. Halloween was just a reminder I wasn’t comfortable in my skin. Every hour of every day I was pretending to be someone I was not.
When I came out, I started to enjoy Halloween. Releasing the need to be someone else everyday allowed me freedom to explore and express my creativity of taking on a different persona once a year. The task was much lighter than trying to do it day in and day out.
For me, coming out was an overall positive experience. Like many, I experienced the benefits of coming out. These included having the freedom to live my life openly, reduced stress from trying to hide my true self, improved self-esteem, stronger relationships built on truth, connecting to my LGBTQ community, and even helping to influence others to change their beliefs about people who identify as LGBTQ.
Don’t get me wrong; I was terrified to come out. Having grown up in a small rural farming community I received the message early on that being “queer” was sinful and that I would likely end up a pedophile or worse. I worried that I would lose family and friends alike.
The truth is, some people in my life did choose to distance themselves from me. Those spaces were filled, though, with people who loved me and accepted me for who I am.
I’m not naïve enough to know that my experience is the same for everyone. While I wish I had come out as a teen, I thought at the time that it was not safe for me to do so. Coming out is such a personal choice, and no one can tell you when it is the right time to do so.
I want to talk to any teenager reading this story and considering coming out. Adults listen up as this information can be useful to you too. The Trevor Project has some great information on things to consider when coming out.
Here are some things to consider.
- Think ahead about the reactions people will have. Not everyone will have a positive outlook on LGBTQ people. If you rely on financial support from someone, consider how their reaction might impact that support. Do you have a backup plan should you need it?
- Test the waters by asking questions. Pick a celebrity you know to be LGBTQ and ask them what they think about that person. Ask their opinions on topics such as marriage equality or equal rights for all.
- Reach out to those you know who are supportive. Maybe a friend, teacher, coworker, or even a religious leader (if you attend an affirming and open congregation).
- Think through the timing. Telling someone who is already stressed, angry, or anxious about something may elicit a less than ideal response. Consider waiting until this person is calmer and more relaxed.
- Think through the location. If you are worried about your safety, telling someone in a more public place might be a better option. Find a place where you feel comfortable.
- Take care of yourself. Have a safety plan in place and watch for signs of depression. You may initially have a sense of relief, but it’s not unusual to panic after you’ve told someone you are LGBTQ. Reach out for support, if needed.
October 11th - National Coming Out Day, is a day to truly celebrate! If you are already out, celebrate yourself! If you have not come out yet, consider this as a day to tell at least one person. I know it is scary, and it is important to think through the above considerations before telling people. Once you start to allow others to see your true self, your journey of healing can begin.
If you would like to read more about considerations for coming out, visit www.thetrevorproject.org and search “Coming Out As You.”
Copyright The Gayly. 10/12/2019 @ 4:00 p.m. CST.