Even in the year 2021 a majority of people are still forced into ‘coming out’ to their friends and family. Feeling that you have to disclose your sexual orientation to others in such a formal way is baffling to me, and the fact that people still feel the need to disguise themselves even more so. In a perfect world everyone could be themselves free from judgement and having stereotypes thrust upon them. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world and sexuality is still a topic approached with a large degree of caution and obscurity. Once a person has ‘come out’ the idea is that they can start living their truth free form the burden but the reality of the situation in my experience is that those around you go through an ‘adjustment period’ where they ask you the same questions 100 times over, they walk on eggshells around the topic and become overly cautious with what they say around you.
The Adjustment Period
When I talk about the adjustment period, I am referring to the time after a person has decided to live their truth and the people around them aren’t really sure how to react or what to do now. I personally do not believe that this period should be a thing and that people should not be forced into this archaic tradition of ‘coming out’. No coming out = no adjustment period. This period of time can be stressful for some as they are bombarded with questions about their sexuality that they themselves may not even know the answer to yet.
I am very fortunate in the sense that when I came out to my friends that they were extremely accepting and supportive of me as I am overtly aware that this is far from the case for so many people all over the world. I am all for answering any and all questions people have about being gay, both general and regarding my experience, however, being asked the same questions 100 times (sometimes by the same people) can be exhausting. For example, the question “When did you first know you were gay?” is probably the most common question and to that i say when did you know you were straight? When did you sit your parents down and tell them you like the opposite sex? Questions like these mainly occur during the ‘adjustment period’ and it can be exhausting for an LGBTQ+ person to go through. I understand the necessity for asking these questions as the majority of the population are vastly uneducated with regard to the LGBTQ+.
So the question remains should people have to adjust to you? Should you be interrogated upon coming out about your experience? Or should people take it upon themselves to educate themselves, even if they don't have any LGBTQ+ in their lives, and let you volunteer any information about your sexuality when you are ready and when you deem it necessary?
I’m Not a Snowflake!
Another way in which this ‘adjustment period’ becomes apparent, at least in my experience, is when those around you whom have always seen you as heterosexual now see you in a new light. Depending on their temperament they may either treat you exactly the same (which I was fortunate enough to experience for the most part), they turn their back on you and go off on their sad little lives filled with misery (might have some unresolved issues there) or be kind and supportive but also start walking on eggshells around you. It is that final point which I want to discuss (even though I could write a book on homophobes and what they can do). When someone summons up the courage to come out they do not immediately become a delicate little flower that needs to be nurtured and protected, it's the opposite in fact. They have faced the world alone for so long and now feel confident enough to share their experience and their truth.
Friends and family of LGBTQ+ people, you do not adjust your behaviour towards someone if they come out to you (unless you have homophobic tendencies then please adjust accordingly, for instructions please consult RuPaul, Harry Styles and Lady Gaga). You do not need to ask them how they should act around you and what is now considered offensive. It is not their job to educate you. If they find something that you say to be either incorrect, or even offensive, trust that they will tell you. I know that when I came out the absolute last thing that I wanted was for my friends to feel like they couldn't say everything that they wanted to say if they were around me, that feeling is more isolating than any insult or slur was ever said to me. WE ARE NOT SNOWFLAKES, WE ARE ROCKS.
When All Is Said and Done
At the end of the day everyone should do what they feel most comfortable with. I personally am of the opinion that coming out should not be a thing and everyone should take the time to educate themselves on the LGBTQ+ community whether they know someone in the community or not. It will lead to fewer awkward conversations as well as wasting time with people who do not know or accept the real you. I recognise that we as a society have come so far, but there is still so much further to go.