In this video, I talk about ways Gay Dads can come out of the closet and into the world with greater authenticity, compassion and aliveness.
Whether you’re considering coming out to your children, partner or someone else, this process can be both liberating and anxiety provoking. While there’s no one “right way” of coming out for all situations, there are some general ways to do so more thoughtfully.
Coming Out of the Closet about your Sexual Orientation and/or Gender Identity and into greater authenticity and self-compassion has many risks and benefits.
Coming out to ourselves as LGBTQ often involves a process of questioning our sexual orientation and/or gender identity, increased tolerance of what we find, acceptance of ourselves, confidence in this aspect of who we are and hopefully, eventually, living a more authentic and compassionate life.
Others we come out to may also experience some version of this and have their own process of coming to terms with this new information, albeit in a still homophobic and heterosexist world.
We need to be kind to ourselves and to those we come out to.
First, it’s useful to CONSIDER THE CONTEXT:
Are you coming out to your spouse/partner who has a different sexual orientation and/or gender from yours?
Are you coming out to your child or children?
Are you coming out to your family of origin, family of choice, friends or co-workers?
How you come out can be based on the person’s age and maturity level too.
It can also be helpful to determine what potential risks and benefits there are in coming out? Is it safe enough to do so. Do you have an exit-strategy if necessary?
Do you have someone you trust to debrief with afterwards?
General Coming Out Tips to Children:
In general, it’s never too early or too late to come out to your children. Kids understand love. Research shows that many if not most children after-the-fact would have preferred to know as soon as possible, that is as soon as both/all parents are supportive enough to focus on their children’s processing of this information.
Many children are super observant and have a felt sense of what’s going on. Coming out can validate their reality and intuition, even if they need time to figure out what it means for them, like how they might be perceived by their peers.
Most importantly, parents need to prioritize the needs, understanding and feelings of their children over their own needs at this time. Coming out with love, compassion and understanding needs to be the focus.
Also, the way Dads come out to their children needs to be done in developmentally appropriate ways, based on their child’s level of maturity. In general, it’s about sharing that you have loving, affectionate and romantic feelings toward the same-gender. Usually it’s best to have the “birds and the bees” or sex education talk at a different time then when you’re coming out.
If you’re in a mixed-orientation relationship and your spouse/partner is supportive enough, it can be helpful to have them involved in coming out and to reinforce that you both/all will still continue to love your children and be there for them, regardless of whether you decide to stay in your relationship or not.
Come out in a safe and private place where they can feel free to express themselves and ask questions without fear of being overheard or seen.
Allow plenty of time for processing and questions, if they want that time. Know that this isn’t just a single event but can be an ongoing conversation that can occur as your child integrates this information and as things change for the both of you.
Respect their process of coming out as children of a Gay Dad in their own time to their friends and peers.
It can be a good idea to have appropriate reading material and resources available for your child to help them understand what this means for them. A great resource is COLAGE, www.colage.org, originally Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere, which in 1997 also included work with children of bisexual and transgender parents.
Reinforce that you love them no matter what and consistently prove this by being there for them.
Next, are some General Coming Out Tips to a straight partner or spouse, in a “mixed-orientation relationship”:
It can be very complicated telling a straight partner that you’re gay, bisexual, asexual or some other sexual orientation besides heterosexual.
A lot depends on how long you’ve been in relationship with them, how long you’ve known about your sexual orientation, and if you’ve followed through with your monogamous commitment to them, if that’s what your relationship agreement was in the first place.
Be honest with your partner if you’ve had sexual experiences outside the relationship, even if you were careful, so they can better take care of their health and make decisions about how they want to handle things moving forward.
Apologize, not for your sexual orientation, but for not sharing this sooner and recognizing the impact of this news on them and on your relationship with them.
Even though there are plenty of reasons for why you may not have come out to date, focus on taking responsibility for not sharing this information with them and DON’T focus on your partner’s faults as you come out.
Your decision to come out to them has taken some amount of time for you to get more comfortable with, and it makes sense that in a homophobic and heterosexist world, it’s going to take time for them to integrate this information too, especially because they’ve spent time/love/energy in a relationship with you based on a certain understanding of what that was.
As relieving, exciting and hopeful as the coming out process can be for Gay Dads, it’s also important to empathize that this may not always be the case for straight spouses or children first hearing this from you.
Coming out changes family dynamics in ways that are unforeseeable, even if this is eventually for the better. And as we all know, change is stressful…even positive change.
While there may be no perfect time/place to come out, choose a time/place that’s respectful of your partner’s comfort level.
It’s important to be kind, caring and considerate of straight partners when coming out to them.