8 Things to Know Before Coming Out of the Closet

Coming out of the closet – it’s something many gay men eventually decide to do these days and with good reason. When you’re out of the closet, you’re free to live life as the truest version of yourself. You get to share your love life with other people to the same extent heterosexual people have always been able to do and it’s a feeling that’s well worth pursuing.

However, there’s a fine art to making sure something so important goes down the way you want it to. As most out-and-proud gay men will tell you, there are always at least a couple of things they wish they’d known or considered before the cat was out of the bag. The following are a few examples to keep in mind as you prepare to make your own big exit.

1. Your identity as a gay man is only part of who you are.

Lots of closeted gay men worry that once they come out of the closet, they’re going to be defined entirely by their sexuality. They’re afraid everything else that makes them who they are will suddenly cease to matter because all they’re going to be in the eyes of their friends and family is “the gay guy”. And yes, coming out as gay will change the way other people see you in certain ways, but not to the extent you might think.

It’s normal for people to look at your personality, choices, and actions through a new lens in search of early signs they may have missed, especially if they honestly had no idea you were gay. Some may act differently because they aren’t sure how to treat you and don’t know whether things should be different now. It often helps to simply remind loved ones that you’re sharing one new piece of information about yourself that is only a small part of who you are. If you were responsible, hard-working, and compassionate before, you still are all of those things. It’s also fine to remind people of this as needed.

2. You only think you can predict people’s reactions.

If you’re thinking seriously about coming out of the closet soon, then the chances are pretty good you’ve imagined and re-imagined how various people in your life will react to the news many times. In some cases, you may even be right. It’s important to be prepared for anything though, because an astonishing number of people probably won’t react the way you think they will.

Some people will respond to your news with extreme support and the kind of unconditional acceptance every gay man hopes for when he comes out to his friends and family. Others may react negatively or even fail to react at all. Try having a go-to strategy in mind for every possibility, no matter how remote. You can always decide not to stick to the plan there in the moment, but a little preparedness can help you say what you need to with confidence.

3. Your timing totally matters.

As is the case with most of life’s big announcements, timing can be an important consideration when you’re planning to come out of the closet. Although no time is going to be an absolutely perfect time, there are certain factors that will naturally affect how receptive people are to what you have to say, so keep that in mind. Think health problems, mid-life crises, marital troubles, and so forth!

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Man holding fingers to mouth

You also never want to come out in a way that’s negative. For instance, coming out should never be something you use as a weapon against someone else, nor should it be something that happens during an argument. You shouldn’t ever try to use coming out as an excuse to make parents, family, or friends feel guilty either. Remember, coming out is a positive thing. Make sure the circumstances and setting you choose support that.

4. Be patient as people process the information.

If you’re like the great majority of horny gay men, it took you quite a long time to come to terms with your own homosexuality in the first place – maybe even your entire lifetime. It most likely took even longer for you to be ready to share the reality of who you are with others. It will most likely take your friends and relatives time to adjust to your news as well, even if they’re totally supportive.

Do your best to be patient with people. Be responsive to people’s questions in the understanding that many people are still in the process of reevaluating harmful gay stereotypes and myths that have been with them all their lives. If someone does reject you, don’t let it affect your sense of self-worth. Ultimately, no friendship is worth setting aside your dignity, integrity, and self-respect, especially in the long run.

5. Your problems don’t magically disappear the minute you come out.

Make no mistake about it. Coming out of the closet will solve some of the current problems you might have as they relate to being gay. It will certainly feel like a huge weight has been lifted from your shoulders. However, it’s important to realize life as a gay man isn’t suddenly going to become problem free just because you don’t have to hide anymore. In fact, you’ll probably face a whole new host of problems you never had before.

Full-grown adults will have to weigh the many possibilities that come with online gay dating, socializing, and maintaining an active sex life as an out gay man. It’s not uncommon to feel a little overwhelmed and not to be precisely sure where or how to get started. Younger gays that still live at home with their parents may have to get used to new, stricter rules about gay dating and sex. You’ll definitely make mistakes and have your missteps, but you’ll learn too. Just take it slow. You’ll have the hang of things before you know it.

6. You’ll have to start from zero again when it comes to dating.

People talk openly about homosexuality to a much greater extent these days than they did in years past. As a result, more young people are coming out and starting to date around the same time as their heterosexual peers. However, there’s still little to nothing taught about gay sexuality in schools these days. Young gays pretty much still have to play things by ear.

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Man looking an gay porn

Full grown adults have an even harder time dating as someone only recently out of the closet. As a result, they go through a second adolescence as they learn how to date and manage their sexuality all over again. It’s normal to feel like you’re lagging behind, but it’s important to be patient with yourself. You’re still learning what you’re really looking for as far as your out-and-proud love life goes, but you’ll catch up with the rest of the pack more quickly than you think.

7. Coming out is a process, as opposed to a one-time action.

It’s a common misconception that coming out is something a gay man only has to do once. Then it’s over forever and he never has to worry about it again. In reality, there will be people in your life that may need to be reminded that you are who you are, possibly more than once. You’ll also have to come out all over again every single time you start a new job, move to a new neighborhood, or start socializing with a new group of gay friends.

Don’t worry. It doesn’t have to be as big a production as it was the first time you came out. It’s totally acceptable to just let it come up naturally in conversation as you get to know new people. If you have a partner, talk about him when it makes sense just as a heterosexual man would talk about his. Respond with honesty when people ask whether you have an opposite sex partner, as well as explain why the answer’s “no”.

8. Your only real regret will be not doing it a lot sooner.

Man wearing rainbow boxers

It’s not hard to understand why any given gay man might be living his life in the closet, as we’ve all been there. There really are people out there that “hate the gays” like it’s their job and it’s normal to worry that someone you love might secretly turn out to be one of those people. You may even be right in a couple of cases, but mostly you’ll just realize you were worrying over nothing.

Ultimately, you’ll be really glad you came out, even if it’s rough at first. No amount of protection the closet can offer you can trump the newfound freedom you’ll be able to embrace. Even if a few people do walk out of your life, you’ll find that there are plenty more that love and support you no matter what. In fact, the positives so thoroughly outweigh the negatives that you really will wind up wishing you’d come out a long time ago. Try it and see!

Rob West

Rob West

I worked with Matt to build several hookup apps for gay men, including Guyhop.

I've been in the scene for several years now. Eternally single until I find "him".

My background is in marketing and psychology, which gives me a unique perspective on the LGBTQ dating and hookup scene.