Coming out is a phrase common in the LGBT community that means "to recognise one's sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex identity, and to [become] open about it with oneself and with others." People with nonbinary gender identities have to come out if they are to be recognised as nonbinary. This is because in cultures that recognise only the gender binary, nonbinary people have to proactively identify themselves. There are some particular needs that are unique to the situation of coming out as nonbinary. For example, the average person has an idea of what lesbians are. However, a person may not know what nonbinary people are, nor have context for them existing in real life. Anyone who comes out as nonbinary needs to be prepared to explain what nonbinary gender is, and be prepared for the possibility that others might not accept it as a real gender identity.
Before coming outEdit
Safety comes before comfortEdit
Coming out can be a life-changing decision. This is why it's important to take time to take your decision and to analyse your situation. Make sure that you are safe, so that if something goes wrong you can keep on going with your regular life. Even though coming out feels very liberating, there's a risk of not being accepted. A good way of making sure you live in a safe environment is mentioning transgender people in a conversation with the person you want to come out to and see their reaction.
Analyse your audienceEdit
Depending on who you want to come out to, you will need to take a different approach. A young person is more likely to accept your identity than a grandparent is. However, always keep in mind that the opinions of older people tend to be less open because of their education, not because they don't love you. If you have a common friend or family member who is transgender, it might be easier for them to accept you, or at least it will be easier for you to guess their reaction. Depending on their attitude towards transgender or nonbinary people, preparing some resources for them will come in handy.
Prepare some resourcesEdit
Regardless of their education on nonbinary or LGBTQ+ topics, it's good to have some resources in hand. Remember that the kind of resources they need will be different from the ones that are most useful to you. Make some research on resources specifically directed at allies, adapted to the necessities of the person you want to come out to. A young person might be more familiar with visual content (such as a video), while an older person might prefer a written document.
If you are coming to a family member, look for support groups near you. Depending on their reaction, tell them about the groups you find; they are a good complement to any resources you could provide them.
Coming out through a letter or a text message is a good way to do it, because this method lets you say exactly what you want to say without interruption. But even if you want to do it in a face-to-face conversation, writing it down is a good idea, as it helps to plan and know exactly what you are going to say. It might be useful to think of some basic questions they might ask and prepare the answers.
In case you decide to come out with a letter or a text message, it is recommended to meet in real life afterwards so that you have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation about it.
When coming out as nonbinary to someone in writing, it can help to use template letters to figure out what to say, and how to say it well. See the page template letters - coming out for a collection of these.
During Coming OutEdit
Be sure you've taken care of your daily health needs: water, medication, etc. If possible, have an after-care activity planned, so you have something positive to look forward to.
Think about the positive outcome you'd like to achieve, and center that in your mind throughout the conversation. Remember that you've chosen to disclose an important part of yourself for a reason, and affirm those reasons with your approach. Remember that you may not be the only one surprising them with this information, they may surprise you with their response as well, which can be a good thing! Open by letting them know that even though this is a heavy topic, it is a very positive development in your life, and you want them to share that with you.
Ask questions that give them the opportunity to feel heard; this helps affirm that their perspective matters, and sets a general tone of mutual openness and listening. The topic of the question is less important than the spirit of inclusion, but you could ask deep questions like "What do you value most about our relationship, that you would hope never goes away?" or even simple things like "How are you feeling right now?"
State your expectations in return. Remember that while you may have planned this conversation well in advance, they haven't had time to prepare, and may need some gentle guidance. "I don't expect you to understand everything right away, it took me a while to understand this about myself as well, but I do want your love and support for what makes me happy."
Plan a follow-through activity together. This can be anything from setting a goal for learning new name/pronouns together, or even just a fun activity that has nothing to do with coming out, that will give them a chance to ask any follow-up questions that may come to mind after this conversation ends.
Coming out is rarely a one-and-done situation; it may be a process that one needs to periodically repeat for various reasons throughout their entire life. Try to remember that coming out is a marathon, not a sprint.
It's up to each individual what "out" looks like to them. For some, it can be loud and proud, waving a nonbinary banner everywhere they go. For others, there are no clear lines between "out", "closeted" or "stealth", and each new setting or interaction brings its own dynamics. It's okay to take a completely different approach than the next person!
|See also a blog post about this topic on our Tumblr.|
- Susan's Place Transgender Resource Wiki - A Guide to Coming Out to Family
- Susan's Place Transgender Resource Wiki - A Guide to Coming Out at the Workplace
- Susan's Place Transgender Resource Wiki - Coming out for transsexuals and transvestites
- "Telling Your Parents" by Kay Metsker (1989), Part 1, Part 2.
- Scarleteen - Becoming Out: a totally non-exhaustive, step by step guide to coming out