Expectations After Coming Out as LGBT

I'm not going to tell you how to come out. I wish I could, but I think that process is different for everyone and it depends on too many variables for me to even begin to broach it. There are entire books written on that particular topic. Go read one of those. 

What I want to talk about is what you should expect from those to whom you have revealed your orientation or gender identity. I think too many of us have this expectation or insistence that others immediately accept us as we are. It's an unreasonable expectation.

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Adam's Toy Box

My coming out process has been relatively easy. It went about as well as I had anticipated. My coming out process had pretty much amounted to coming out to two people: My best friend at the time, and my mom, a few months later. My friend was ecstatic, mostly because it meant that her suspicion that I was attracted to her was wrong and she wouldn't have to continue occasionally being a bitch to me to drive me away. My mom was okay with it. She had kind of suspected it, but it did cause us some awkwardness for a while. 

My mom and I never really talked about sex or relationships. I mean, she never had a problem talking about sex in general, and how it's all done, and where babies come from, etc., but we never talked about our own sex lives later on, or about dating. For a while, "gay" was a word she'd whisper if she had to utter it at all. Now she's perfectly fine. 

Oh, I only came out to two people, in the beginning. Later on I came out to others here and there, but I mostly let the rumor mill take care of it so I wouldn't have to deal with it. This worked well for me. Really, only those first two were anxiety inducing, so I consider just those two as my "coming out process." Coming out, though, is a life-long task. 

A lot of people go through a lot of family drama when they come out as trans, bisexual, gay, or lesbian. Parents freak out, or grandparents do. An aunt or uncle might refuse to talk to you, or a brother might disown you. Some people go through a lot of shit. I'm grateful that my coming out was drama free. 

Now, it may surprise you to read this, but I'm okay with family and friends freaking out somewhat. I give them a bit of a pass. Just a bit. Why? 

Long before I came out, I went through years of denial, depression, and struggling with self-acceptance. It took me from about the 5th grade, when I first started realizing I was gay, until maybe 10th grade to finally accept it. Five years! Five fucking years! But the thing is that I had those five years to process it and deal with it. I had time to mourn the loss of "normalcy," and accept that my life was going to be a bit more of a struggle, which is what the prospects of being gay looked like, back in the 1980's, when I was in school. 

If it took me five fucking years to come to terms with my gayness, how can I come out to someone close to me and expect them to instantly be cool with it? Does that seem fair? Let's say that my mom had no clue whatsoever, and maybe her head was filled with a bunch of stereotypical images of gays and right-wing propaganda about us. This revelation would then be somewhat jarring to her. She may have had hopes for grandkids, or seeing me marry some woman (back then, same-sex marriage wasn't even close to being an option). Now, all of what she had imagined and hoped for me is getting erased and is being replaced with worries about me getting potentially gay bashed, or, as the stereotypes go, contracting HIV, etc. Back when I came out, there was little known about HIV/AIDS, and it was pretty much called the gay plague, or some such. 

People who don't know a single gay, bisexual, lesbian, or transgender person often have their heads filled with misinformation about each of these groups. They don't know what to think of it. You can't lay this on them and expect them to instantly process it and disregard all of their previous notions, and be cool with it. In an ideal world, that's how it would go down. And for some people, that is how it does go down. For many, though, they freak out, just like you did a few years back when you realized that you weren't quite straight, or that you weren't the gender that everyone has thought you to be. 

I generally think that your family and close friends deserve a bit of leeway when you come out. They need some time to process it. Maybe even as much time as it took you. I'd say it was probably harder for you to realize that you were not quite straight. Harder than it is for others to deal with someone else being gay, etc. Should you give them years to deal with it? As many years as it took you? Eh, I don't know. Maybe? 

I don't think it's fair to expect them to just give you a big hug and tell you they still love you, although I would hope that they do. I think it's fair to give them about as much time as it took you to deal with it... to a point. I don't think it would be reasonable for me to give my mom a pass, to deal with her issues with it, for five years. I would give her a few months, or maybe even a year. I'd also expect to see some progress being made towards acceptance. If I had to repeatedly explains things to my mom I think I'd tire of that pretty quickly. I was fortunate that that wasn't the case with her. 

During that time that you're granting them to come to terms with what you've told them, you can expect that you'll have to answer dumb questions, and deal with people telling you that it's a phase, or that you're just trying to rebel, and such. I don't think you should tolerate abuses, however. Your friends and family should be expected to work towards acceptance. If they can't. If they just can't fucking deal with it, it's time for you to look for support elsewhere. 

I think that we should all expect acceptance from our close family and friends. Not just tolerance, but acceptance. If the best they can do is tolerate you, then you really don't need them in your life. There's no room for people in your life who don't love and support you, and accept you as you are. There's no room for people who are just going to put up with you. Strangers and acquaintances put up with you; not family and friends.