Mental Health While in the Closet + Tips for Coming Out
For members of the LGBTQ+ community, the closet is a very familiar place. Often times, LGBTQ+ people are forced to hide their true selves from the world in order to appear straight and/or cisgender. However, this can have detrimental effects to mental health including:
Dissociative Identity Disorder - LGBTQ+ people can find their identities unacceptable, so they separate their sexual and/or gender identity from the rest of their persona.
Chronic Depression - LGBTQ+ people can face chronic stress from being forced to stay in the closet. This can contribute to severe depression, withdrawal form friends and family, and even weaken the immune system
Self-hatred - Many LGBTQ+ people are taught by society that being anything other than straight and cisgender is wrong. This can cause the development of internalized homophobia and/or transphobia which can have detrimental effects on self esteem.
Substance Abuse - LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk for self destructive and risky behaviors. This can lead to serious substance abuse and addiction.
Coming out of the closet can be a very stressful and emotional process in someone’s life that can seem almost impossible to start. If you are ready, here are some tips and resources to help:
Don’t rush - You do not have to tell everyone at once. Only tell someone if you feel truly comfortable.
Tell friends - It can often times be easier to come out to friends before your family.
Tell supportive family members - When coming out to family, tell the people who you know will be supportive first.
Be patient - Some people may need more time to adjust
Have resources ready - For those who may not understand or know much about the LGBTQ+ community, you can have resources ready to help educate them.
Be ready for anything - You can never truly know how someone will react, so be ready for any reaction— even a bad one.
Have a back up plan - If there is a possibility you might be disowned by your family (especially if you are a minor), make sure to have a supportive place you can go after.
The Trevor Project’s Coming Out: A Handbook for LGBTQ Young People
True Colors United: 212-461-4401
Pride Institute: 800-547-7433
DO NOT come out if you feel it will put you in any danger, especially if you are a minor living with homophobic/transphobic family members. Also, if you don’t want to come out and/or you feel comfortable staying in the closet, that is also totally ok! There is nothing wrong with not coming out if that is what’s best for you in your situation. The choice of if and how you come out is no one’s decision but yours, so do whatever keeps you safe and makes you feel the most comfortable and happy.