Today is National Coming Out Day, and no, it isn't the day when South Carolina celebrates the end of the deluge with Governor Haley leading the people, two by two, onto the sunlit slopes of Mount Ararat, only to ask, "Who forgot the dinosaurs?"
If the event has crept up on you- and there are so many "days" nowadays, it's understandable if you forgot to note it on the calendar- here are some tips for making next year the best thing since your sister's deb season.
1. Have a plan. Michelangelo Signorile wrote a really good book on the topic. It's called Outing Yourself, and it is still in print after twenty-some years.
A good plan includes recruiting a core of some absolutely reliable friends- even one will do- you can fall back on as you experience bumpy patches re-introducing yourself to the world. Some will not take your news as well as others. Your posse will, rightly, remind you that you are not the one with the Unresolved Personal Issues. Get that core group of reliables in place before the mass emails go out.
2. Time things to your advantage. Don't rush unless events force your hand. Wait, if possible, until you are financially and legally independent of the parental units. If this doesn't work and they launch a pre-emptive strike, see paragraph 1 above. You will need friends who will drop what they are doing, help you gather your stuff from the front lawn, and give you a couch for the night.
3. As time passes, the odds coming out will be a seismic event drop, but don't put it off forever. You may think telling the parents will kill one or both, but it won't. If yours are like mine were, the older they got the more often they got sick, and the longer they stayed sick, and the next thing you know you're trapped in the gay version of the gun control argument where you can't talk about the problem because we all need to heal and grieve, and before we're done, the next mass shooting happens and we have to reset the Heal & Grieve Clock and you're stuck in the loop forever as the dead elephant decomposes in the living room.
And if you think that, it means you know, deep down, they are not going to throw you a parade when you do get around to telling them.You may even think they will want to kill YOU. They won't, though some families will exceed your expectations when it comes to behaving badly. Some will so excel at it they deserve mentioning in future books on coming out. But it won't kill them (Fred Sanford cried, "This is it! I'm comin, Elizabeth!" through 135 episodes and lived to see the show cancelled).
So get it over with. Getting blackballed by your family at forty hurts just as much as at twenty, but in a whole different way, and in the meantime, you've wasted valuable time when you could have been happy around people who like all of you. So heave the brick through the window. It may turn into a good story one day.
4. Check out the It Gets Better videos on YouTube. There's like thousands of them, and they are a good tonic on down days.
5. Register to vote, and do it every time you are given the chance. One of the ways people who know they have lost the argument try to cling to power is to make it harder to vote. Nothing annoys them so much as being told, "Try again." Except hearing, "Sorry, you lost."
6. Contribute to good causes. Volunteer. If you have some cash, give it away.
Causes come in various flavors. If you want to be thought fabulous, HRC is your choice. They do politics. That means salmon dinners in hotels with lots of famous and beautiful people.
If you want results, contribute to groups like Lambda Legal Defense Fund, or local lawyers who are taking LGBT rights cases for free. The lawyers who won the Michigan same sex marriage case worked full-time for four years without getting paid. One sold her house to help fund the case. Good lawyering always prevails. LGBT lawyers believe the law is a tool for advancing equality for everyone. Anti-LGBT lawyers believe it is tool for denying people rights. In the end, successful litigation is not about who can recite the most Bible verses.
If you're not into big-picture activism, helping those less well off never goes out of style.
7. There is no Gay Agenda. The big legal and political battles are fought the same way by everyone. In the LGBT tribe, the ones with money and influence meet and give money and make plans, just like non-LGBT rich and powerful people do. Money eventually opens every door in life.
For everyone else in the tribe, there is another, less complicated, shared agenda: Try to get through life well. Be reasonably happy. Get along with less stuff. If you are lucky, you will get old. Things will sag. The things you say about you tribal elders now, someone else will say about you one day. Elevate the discussion a bit. Spite and gossip and discrimination will always be in demand. Don't drive the price up by competing for supply. Let the people who are into that sort of thing amass it like Croesus and his gold, and then see where that gets them. Better yet, help it go out of fashion. Like smoking.
8. Once you're out, stay there. It's a lot of trouble to go to if you then say, "Well, never mind." There may come times when "how" out is out becomes a strategic question: personally, professionally. Be practical. Read The Prince, or Sun T'zu. Live to fight another day.
9. Go do something fun. It's a big day.