You Need Help: I Just Came Out, and I Feel Weird

You Need Help: I Just Came Out, and I Feel
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Q:

I recently came out to my family and friends last week and ever since I’ve been feeling weird and confused about it. Is this normal? You always hear about how people feel free and weightless after they come out but I’m feeling the exact opposite.


A:

Coming out can be very weird and confusing! It’s common to hear stories about coming out instantly making people happy and confident, but in reality, it’s rarely that simple. There’s also the other side of the spectrum: stories about coming out that place folks in danger or lead to the end of a relationship with a friend or family member. The sort of in-betweeness that you’re feeling—not wholly good, not wholly bad—sometimes gets lost in coming out narratives.

I understand why queer spaces push the general narrative that coming out is this wonderful, freeing experience, but I also think it’s an incomplete and unfair look at how coming out really works. Coming out, as with most things in life, looks different for different people.

I think because of backlash against the idea that being gay is a choice, it sometimes gets lost that coming out IS a choice (or, at least, should be—many people are outed against their will). It’s a huge choice, and it also can seismically change the way we see ourselves and the way we’re seen by others. And that can be scary! Which is why I think a lot of the messaging avoids it. But I think we’re all doing ourselves a disservice by looking at coming out without any kind of nuance.

It would be lovely if coming out were not such a big deal, but in reality, we live in a patriarchal, heteronormative society where coming out is rarely straightforward. Even when it goes well, it’s still a shift. Coming out the first time means coming out over and over. Coming out isn’t a magic trick that makes us suddenly understand ourselves completely. And it doesn’t mean everyone else suddenly understands us perfectly either.

Even if your friends and family have been supportive, it’s still normal to feel this funk you’re in. Coming out requires vulnerability. It requires self-awareness. For me, it was both easier and harder than I ever imagined, and I know that doesn’t really make perfect sense, but it’s true!

It sounds like you’re used to hearing stories about people feeling free after they come out, so I suspect that’s contributing to the way you’re feeling. It becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy: Because you expect to feel different and better, when you don’t, you come down hard on yourself. I don’t think there’s any way to determine how we will feel about coming out until we’ve done it. Because again: Everyone is different!

But the whole “expectation vs. reality” thing and/or the whole “major life shift” thing might not be the only reasons you’re feeling this funk. So I encourage you to try to interrogate within to figure out what it could be stemming from. But while you’re doing that work, please hold in your heart the idea that there’s nothing wrong with what you’re feeling. It’s even okay if you can’t quite pinpoint the source. Coming out can be hard—sometimes for reasons that aren’t super obvious. And I think recognizing that can help you to work through the feelings.

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