Coming out is a personal experience that should be done on your own terms. You get to decide who knows, how they know, and how much they know. It isn't an easy process, and you might feel pressured to come out for various reasons.
You don't have to come out. No one can force you to do so.
While something is liberating about coming out, this feeling of relief, of a weight being lifted. But coming out is very rarely an easy thing to do and, it is still a privilege today. Many people stay in the closet simply because there is no other solution for them, safety-wise. Not everyone is lucky to be surrounded by people that embrace their differences, and it is not always easy to find a circle of people that fully embraces you. Others may still be in the closet because they don't feel ready to get out yet, even if they don't live in a hostile environment, and that's okay too.
Being in the closet can get lonely and exhausting at times, constantly having to pretend to be someone you’re not, to the point where you sometimes lose yourself in this fake persona and you can no longer make the difference between who is the real you and who is the one wearing the mask. You may want to reach out to someone, but you may not know who you can trust, and that’s completely fair and understandable.
One way, among others, to feel closer to the LGBTIQ+ community is through media, particularly books, movies and TV shows which have positive representations of LGBTIQ+ people, whether they are about their journey as LGBTIQ+ individuals or stories with LGBTIQ+ characters but their identity does not constitute a plot point. Consuming LGBTIQ+ media can help with understanding and accepting that the way you identify is perfectly okay, that it’s something that you can be proud of rather than be ashamed of it.
The Internet: A New Way to Connect with the Community
One of the advantages of the Internet is the anonymity it provides, it allows many people to drop off their everyday life masks and be themselves. In this age of technology, building a safe circle of people who have your back no matter what is made easier. The Internet has become a place for people to get the support and love that is missing in their daily lives. It is a place where people find the strength to be themselves in “real” life as well through meeting people who become a support circle in their “real” life.
By seeing this community online, or even in real life, you get to realise how amazing it is to be you. You may have been okay with your identity before, but seeing people embracing and celebrating you enhances this feeling of pride. You do not have to engage with them in any way if you aren't comfortable doing so, but, sometimes just seeing a trans character or a same-gender couple on TV is enough to make you feel good about yourself, at least for a little while.
Pride also comes within yourself. Being in the closet and being proud of your identity are not exclusive, they can work hand in hand. There is no secret recipe that will magically make you embrace your identity, it isn't always an easy and nice process, and this is okay. Sometimes it's easy, and that is okay too. Being proud of who you are doesn't have to mean going around telling everyone about who you are if this is something that you are uncomfortable with. It can mean accepting yourself, being gentle with yourself, giving yourself the love you deserve for being you. You are allowed to give yourself nice things. You are not a fraud because you are in the closet, especially if the closet is a safe place for you.
Your safety should always come first. Be gentle and kind with yourself, you are not any less part of the LGBTIQ+ community for being in the closet.
The important thing to remember is that you are not alone, there are people out there who not only are like you, but they are also ready to support you and give you the feeling of being part of one big family. Being proud of who you are should not have to take away your safety.
Being yourself is amazing; it's the best thing you could ever be.
Disclaimer: This is an opinion article and should not be construed as the official position of Allied Rainbow Communities. If you need professional support, please contact Rainbow Support Services on firstname.lastname@example.org or +356 7943 0006.