• Sarah M. Neal

Coming Out to Family and Friends

There are consequences and benefits to coming out and there are consequences and benefits to staying in the closet. We, as individuals, have to decide which ones are the ones we need and can handle in our own lives.

This Spring, I had the opportunity to attend two awesome conferences: RelateCon in Boise, Idaho and Atlanta Poly Weekend in Atlanta, Ga. I was honored to present at both these cons, leading a group coaching session on “Coming Out to Family and Friends” as well as a “Spirituality and Polyamory” workshop.

What I love about group discussions is creating a setting where people can feel comfortable with everyone there. Unfortunately, there are always those who are hesitant to talk in front of others or share things about themselves with people they do not know.

Ensuring that everyone who attended my sessions can take thoughts and ideas back with them is important. As well as providing questions to that could be tailored to everyone’s situation. This was especially important for the “Coming Out” session.

Part of why I wanted to have a group coaching session on “Coming Out” instead of a presentation is because everyone’s situation is different. I didn’t want to just recant my coming out stories (see Ready or Not! I'm Comin Out!) and then to tell people how they should come out.

That particular technique can be harmful. There is no one way to come out. What may be a wonderful, supportive, enlightening experience for some can end up being a harmful, painful, and traumatic experience for others. All situations are different.

The session was designed so those who wanted to verbally participate could do so, while presenting journal prompt-like questions for anyone who didn’t want to verbally participate.

I wanted to share the questions with those of you who are struggling with the coming out process. While this session was specifically designed for polyamory, the questions can easily be adjusted for other “coming out” topics (sexuality, gender identification, spirituality/religion, etc.).

I encourage you to journal your answers to the following questions. You may find that your answers grow and change as you grow and change. Journaling can also be helpful when it comes to brainstorming; it allows you to get all your thoughts out into the open. I want to remind you that you aren’t answering these questions for anyone but yourself. So, it doesn’t matter if your answers look like emotional vomit all over the page; or if they don’t make sense to anyone but you. It is you who is the most important as you work through this process.

You only have to answer the questions that apply to you and your situation.

What are some of the reasons you have chosen to come out to family and friends?

Why have you chosen to not come out to family and friends yet?

What are your biggest fears about coming out?

What would your life look like if you came out to your family and friends?

How would that feel for you?

Who are some of the most supportive members inn your Circle who do not know you are poly (insert the word you need here)?

What would it look like for you to reach out to them?

What would your relationship with them look like if they were not supportive of you being poly?

o How would that affect your life?

What would it look like if they were supportive?

Who are some of the most supportive members in your Circle who do know you are poly?

How can they support you in this process?

In an ideal situation, where you could have a scheduled conversation to come out to family and friends, what would you say?

o Would you do it in a large group (family dinner/reunion/etc)

§ Why? Why not?

§ If not, what groups/individuals would you separate them into?


o Would you have your partner (s) with you?

o Why? Why not?

o Which ones would you have with you?

o Why?

Some of us get incredibly nervous when it comes to having serious, intentional conversations with our loved ones. These types of conversations may give you feelings of anxiety.

Gather your support group around you. Acquire a fidget or a worry stone. Go for a walk. Get some endorphins going with some exercise. Do whatever self-care you need prior to the conversation and after the conversation.

It may also help to take notes with you. Sometimes when we get anxious about the serious conversations, we lose our words. We forget to say everything we need to say. Maybe you need to anticipate certain questions from your loved ones and have your points written on an index card. Maybe you want to be sure you get everything you need to say out before you make space for your loved one(s) to speak. Take notes.

You may find you don’t need the notes you made. You may feel that you don’t need any notes. Whatever you need, is what you should do.

In this whole process, no matter the outcome, make sure you take care of yourself – whatever that looks like.

Whether you choose to come out to family and friends, or not, you should never feel judged and know that those that truly love you will still love and support you.

There are consequences and benefits to coming out and there are consequences and benefits to staying in the closet. We, as individuals, have to decide which ones are the ones we need and can handle in our own lives.


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