Gay Therapy: 6 Essential Tips and Tools When Coming Out As A Gay Man
Your whole life, you felt different. You knew you didn’t quite fit other people’s mold. Or maybe you didn’t even realize what was different until recently. Gay therapy (defined here as ‘therapy by a gay therapist about coming out as gay’) can make a huge difference in your ability to accept and love yourself (your whole life long).
But, now, you do understand what was different, you’re coming out to yourself as gay, which as scary as it can be, is an awesome thing. Why? Because by coming out you are giving yourself the chance to live a life full of authenticity.
But knowing the truth about who you are and accepting it is one thing. And it can be (even in 2022) difficult to know how to navigate one’s journey to being out and happy as a gay man. This is where gay therapy can provide some necessary safety, structure and support to learn how to be kind to all of you, including and especially the gay part of you.
There’s no point in pretending that this process is without stress. Even if you have a wonderful support system behind you, making this important announcement can feel unnerving to anyone and this is absolutely normal.
Maybe you don’t know where to begin or how to ease the anxiety when taking this giant leap. Below, are five tips and strategies to help you come out as a gay man.
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 1. Don’t Feel Pressured to Rush
Once you decide to come out, please don’t feel like you need to rush it. It is perfectly acceptable to come out on your terms. If you don’t feel quite ready, then that is okay.
Coming out is about you–and no one else. Coming out as a gay man happens in stages: 1. Coming out to yourself (also called coming in). 2. Learning to live with and start to embrace the idea of being gay and what this means for your life. 3. Letting other people know about your truth by coming out to other people.
But the timing in which you do this is important. If you come out as a gay man too slowly, you will likely feel like you are missing out on life and may come to regret the amount of time you were in the closet, and the missed opportunities that go with this.
On the other hand, coming out as a gay man too quickly to too many people, this will likely be overwhelming as you would simultaneously be dealing with your own emotions and thoughts about sharing this special part of you with others AND trying to understand the thoughts and emotions / reactions others have towards you (and at a minimum, checking that ‘everything is still okay in the relationship’
It is best to find the sweet spot, that is your timing that gives you the maximum chances of getting right with minimum fuss and minimum pain (and maximum celebration of the bravery and the authentic life ahead. Gay therapy with an openly gay therapist who specializes in coming out is worth considering.
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 2. It is Not a Contest Between Your Faith and Your Sexuality
This is such a tricky part of coming out. It can often feel as if it needs to be an either-or; you continue to honor your religion or denounce it if you are gay. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Gay therapy with a gay therapist focused on your coming out story (and ultimate success) can help you save valuable time by learning to integrate your faith and sexuality in a way that feels authentic and safe.
Many religions have groups for those in their following who are gay. You can even try out a non-denominational church if need be. There are many places of worship that actively celebrate gay people. Please remember here that your coming out means you get to be all of you, fully you as you see fit.
It is helpful to not buy into the false narrative by some outdated and homophobic folks that one can’t be gay and have faith. If your faith matters to you, it is a very healthy and good idea to continue your practice. In short, you don’t have to choose between your sexuality and your faith.
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 3. Start With One Person You Really Trust
You don’t have to make a huge announcement on social media or at a gathering (unless you want to!). You can start small. Pick one person you trust the most when you are ready to come out. Whether that is a friend or family member, it doesn’t matter. If you are receiving gay therapy (be a gay therapist focused on your coming out journey) you can even practice coming out with your therapist in therapy sessions.
Coming out is not a race, and you don’t need to tell absolutely everyone all at once. If you feel more comfortable confiding your truth to just one person at a time, then that is perfectly fine. The key here is you doing what feels right and safe for you. Your coming out journey is yours. It is your story to own and share in your time and in your way.
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 4. You Are Not a Stereotype
Always remember you are not a stereotype. You are not a mold that needs to conform to society’s vision of who you should be or how you should act. This is true whether we are talking about gender, sexuality, race, age, disability or any other part of what makes you beautifully you. You are not defined by the ‘straight’ world, nor are you defined by the ‘gay community’. You get to decide who you are, and how you express that, no one else!
Let’s be honest here – Many negative and mean stereotypes of gay men exist. Just because the media and some people in society depict gay men a certain way does not mean all gay men will act and look the same way.
Express yourself in whatever way feels most authentic to you. It’s important to remember you are not a stereotype or label that needs to act or look a certain way. So when you are coming out, don’t try to compare yourself or try to be someone you aren’t–because otherwise, you may feel too nervous and without realizing it, put yourself in a new closet.
If you find yourself getting stuck in your coming out process (and you will know this if you are feeling excessive shame or hiding your true self), gay therapy with a gay therapist who understands what it means to be gay can help untangle stereotypes and help you identify who you decide you are!
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 5. Read Other People’s Coming Out Stories And Resources For Coming Out
Thank goodness for the internet; you can find everything online. And one of the best resources for coming out is the internet. If you don’t know anyone who is openly gay, you may not be sure how to come out or how it could go. While preparing yourself to feel ready, research how other people came out. It can help ease some of your anxiety or feel a commonality with other folks who likely felt the same way.
Here are some additional resources about coming out:
1. Human Rights Campaign: https://www.hrc.org/resources/coming-out
2. GLSEN: https://www.glsen.org/activity/coming-out-resource-lgbtq-students
3. Planned Parenthood: https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexual-orientation/sexual-orientation/whats-coming-out
4. About Coming Out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_out
5. Stonewall: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/young-futures/lgbtq-support/coming-out
6. Coming Out In Therapy: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/your-stories/coming-out-to-my-therapist/
Coming Out Gay Therapy: Tip 6. Coming Out Is An Event And A Life Long Process
Coming out as previously mentioned is a 3 step process, coming out to oneself (also called coming in), learning to work though any feelings and beliefs you have about being gay, and ultimately sharing your truth with who you choose to come out to.
We often associate coming out as a specific event that happens once and then we are done. While that is somewhat true, coming out is also a life long process. Each one of us is constantly in relationship with ourselves.
We all have an inner monologue or commentary that we ‘hear’ our entire lives long. So our relationship with ourselves continues whether we are aware of it or not. This is where coming out to oneself dramatically impact on the relationship you have with yourself and then the relationship you have with other people.
Growing up in a society where there is even a need to come out at all shows that being gay is still, even in 2022, can be a stigmatizing experience. As such learning how to be good with you being gay will often take some work, your whole life long. For this reason I think of coming out as a life long process of learning to love and live with oneself well, gay parts and all parts.
In my own experience as an openly gay therapist (and person) who works with many gay people, I believe that as gay men we come out at each life stage. Each new decade is an invitation to learn how to come out to oneself and others as the fully beautiful human being you are.
I am a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the USA and an Accredited CBT Therapist in the UK with over 16 years of experience. I specialize in helping gay men and lgbtq + people learn how to come out as gay, and show up fully in their lives, using the tools of self compassion using cognitive behavior therapy and compassion focused therapy. I have received advanced specialist training in Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Compassion Focused Therapy and specialize in working with gay men and lgbtq + people. Click to learn more about counseling for lgbtq + people and Therapy For Gay Men.
If you are ready to come out as gay or have recently, or are wanting to explore what being a gay person throughout your life span means, I’d be honored to help you. Please reach out to my Honolulu or London office to set up a Gay Therapy Test Drive session or to ask any questions.
BTW: I’m not just ‘Gay Friendly’ or ‘Gay Affirming’ – although of course I am! I am a gay man and I know personally how hard it can be to be gay in a homophobic society and how hard it can be as a gay man to feel safe in society and therapy. I also know as a therapist who uses these same techniques in my own life (as well as helping my clients to learn them for their lives) that gay therapy really does help us do the work we need to do to live the lives we fully deserve to live and celebrate. Happy Coming Out!