Coming out was the best thing I've ever done for myself. I can't think of any other life decision I've made that has impacted my self-esteem and my quality of life so positively. That being said, coming out came with its fair share of struggles that I felt I had to navigate alone. To all the gay men who have just come out or are in the process of coming out, I hope this list helps make your experience a little easier.
1. Acceptance starts with you.
"Acceptance" is a word that takes on a whole new meaning when you come out. You will discover that there will be people, even people you care about, who will never accept you for being gay. On top of that, you may not even find acceptance in the gay community. You may find yourself trying to be more masculine or more feminine just to fit in. But while acceptance from others can feel really good, remember that you can't be so afraid of losing people that you lose yourself. There will always be people who aren't pleased with the way you are, and that can hurt. A lot. But when you accept yourself, you empower yourself, and no one's opinion can take that from you.
2. You're going to feel a lot of pressure to look a certain way.
It feels good to be looked at, especially now that you can look back. But you will quickly realize that the gay community seems to be populated with Calvin Klein models, and you might look at yourself and feel like you don't measure up. There will be body types and molds that you will be told to strive for, and there will be pressure everywhere to conform. Trust me, gay media doesn't help. But you need to remember that you're fine just the way you are, and you should apply that positive attitude to the gay people around you.
3. You're going to want to protect your platonic gay friendships.
All your friends are great and you should cherish them equally. But there will come a time when a boy breaks your heart or someone calls you a slur, and you will need someone who really understands. Platonic gay friends are like unicorns and you should protect them as such. Oh, and definitely don't let some boy come between you. It's never worth it.
4. You're going to want to pick your battles.
You just came out, and suddenly the world seems more bigoted than ever. The fact is it's always been this way. You're just awake to it now. As an out gay person, you have the opportunity to speak out and use your voice to better the world. But it's important to remember that you can't fight every battle, and it's incredibly taxing on your mental health to always be angry. Conserve your energy and use it when it's really needed.
5. You were once closeted too. Don't pressure people.
Sure, it's annoying when that guy you want to date just can't seem to accept the fact that he's gay and come out. But he doesn't owe that to you or anybody else. People come out when they're good and ready, just like you did. Cut them some slack.
6. Look out for your whole community.
Sometimes the G forgets the L and the B and the T. But try to remember, we gay men owe a great deal to lesbian, bisexual, and trans activists both past and present. Community is important, LGBT history is important, and while you may never understand the unique struggles of others you can still support them just as they've supported you.
7. Don't be ashamed that you didn't do it sooner.
When you meet that 18-year-old who has been out of the closet for two years, you're going to be jealous. Why couldn't you come out sooner? Why did you waste so much time? But remember, everyone is on a different path in life. The most important thing is that you take this time, right here, right now, to be the best, fullest you you can be. Who knows? Maybe some young person will see that and decide: Today is the day I come out.