5 Tips To Make Coming Out Easier

06/21/2016 05:46 pm ET Updated Jun 22, 2017

When I was a little girl, I often wondered why my aunt--"Mama Mona," as I called her--was accompanied by her friend Allie every time she visited us. I thought, "Wow they must be best friends, they go everywhere together!" I was further intrigued by their friendship when I saw them secretly holding hands under the table and sleeping in the same bed. It wasn't until my early teens that I realized my aunt and Allie weren't just gal pals, they were partners. They had been in a committed relationship for as long as I can remember and I, a member of the liberal-minded younger generation, held an abundance of admiration for their undying love. Mama Mona's parents (my grandparents), however, were a different story. Faithful to their old-world, Eastern European Orthodox background, my grandparents just couldn't wrap their minds around the fact that their daughter was, well, a lesbian. They loved her nonetheless, but they couldn't completely keep the frowns off of their faces when Mona and Allie shared a kiss. Despite their best efforts, the underlying tension was resounding. At the same time, I can't blame my grandparents: this mentality was all they knew. They had brewed within a certain belief system for far too long to be capable of adopting a new mindset. With time and repeated remarks from her parents, Mama Mona visited us less and less. My joy dwindled as my favorite family member suddenly disappeared from our traditional gatherings. Now I can only wonder: Would Mama Mona still be with us had her parents shown more acceptance? Today I would give anything to hug her again.

The truth of your being is undeniable to you, and this is key in having your loved ones embrace your lifestyle: help them see what you see, feel what you feel. If you're intending on coming out to your family and friends, keep in mind the following five tips to ensure that the event happens smoothly, effectively, and peacefully:

Prepare your audience. I believe it's much easier to make an announcement of this magnitude to your loved ones if you approach them individually. If needed, write out what you'll say to each person, as you may have to put it in different words for the different people in your life. Or, you can practice your speech in front of the mirror. No one knows your friends and family as well as you do, so you can predict just how each one will react. Plan your words wisely so that your big announcement comes out effortlessly.

Be proud. State your sexuality with conviction. Don't be shy and don't be afraid--your future happiness is at stake here! Nothing matters more than that. Remind your loved ones that just as they each have a right to seek personal joy, so do you. Reiterate that this is something you've felt for a long time and that (if they're against it) nothing they say can change what you feel inside of you. This way, you cut off the "ifs, ands, or buts" before they can even begin.

Explain with examples. The best way to make someone understand what you're feeling is to relate it in terms of a situation they've experienced firsthand. Remind your loved one of a time they did something with which maybe not everyone agreed, but they felt they had to do it for their own wellbeing. Ask them to recall how important it was for them to follow not the advice of others, but their own intuition, emotions, and inner truth.

Keep emotions under control. If you're an emotional mess, no one will take you seriously. Keep the tears at bay when making your announcement. This way your loved ones will know you're being serious and sincere. If it comforts you, hold in the palm of your hand an object that signifies your strength. It can be an empowering letter you've written to yourself, a photo of your partner, or even your wedding band if you're already married. Know that this token is offering you emotional stability as you speak. This is an undoubtedly sentimental time for you but you must take a deep breath and take control of your demeanor.

Give them time. If your friends and family don't accept your lifestyle yet, give them time. Not everyone understands what you're feeling inside. Many people allow close-minded thinking to dominate or downright ruin their relationships with others. In reality, they love the people around them dearly, but they just can't release old opinions of what's "right and wrong." So don't take it personally--they're simply stuck in false beliefs. If they love you surely they will come around. Give them their space and time while still extending unconditional love to them. Contact them often and ask how they're feeling, if they need anything, etc. Reassure them that your sexuality doesn't deviate you one bit from the incredible person you are and always have been. Do your part even if they're temporarily unresponsive.

Life is hard enough without the added fear that our loved ones might not accept us for who we really are. Do everything in your power to maintain positive relationships with your friends and family but above all, maintain your predestined path that brings you incomparable emotional fulfillment.

To Mama Mona,
Alexandra Harra

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