The act of coming out has become a celebrated moment across the world. It’s a time when people build the courage to speak their truth. But is that all there is to it? Some willpower and strength to power through the fear of what the world would think of you as a LGBTQAI+ person, and just walk out of that closet?

Coming out is a lot more than just overcoming a fear. The pressure we feel from allies and supportive people in the world to just “be yourself”, and “speak your truth” can also be detrimental to a person’s journey with their sexuality, and add an extra layer of shame for not coming out soon enough.

There’s a lot that went into the timing of my coming out, and here’s a list of those factors: Family, Housing, Friends, Career, Finances.

Family: Will my family accept me for who I am? Once they accept me, is it fair for me to expect them to fight my battles with society alongside me? There are battles that come from being a parent to an openly queer person in India too, and while your identity is never to blame for any of these difficult moments, your personal safety is often impacted by the safety and mental health of your caregivers and the immediate community. It’s worth calculating how you foresee these conversations playing out before you make yourself vulnerable.

Housing: After being openly queer, am I prepared for the battle of finding a home to rent in India, while also proudly saying I am queer? Do I have a temporary housing solution with trusted people, in case it takes me time to have my own space?

Friends: Are my cishet male friends going to treat me the same way? Will we still have the guys trips like before or will I start getting excluded from these social circles now? If I do get excluded, do I have a sense of support and community elsewhere?

Career: Will my career growth be hampered? Being an outspoken queer individual also means continuously having battles of discrimination and objectification in the workspace by cishet people in power. How ready do you feel for the possibility of a hostile or unhealthy work environment? How ready do you feel to consider quitting your current job and looking for another one in case the current space does not support you? 

Financial: Do I have the financial capacity to survive in case one or all these factors take a turn for the worse? No family support, no home to rent, career stagnation, and the loneliness of your friend circle diminishing or disappearing altogether. This isn’t even accounting for the possibilities of physical, psychological, and financial violence or neglect you may encounter. Now, I know how scary this sounds, and maybe it’s too skeptical of me to reduce the joy of coming out to something so cold and calculated. But the truth is, as queer people, we’re often taught over time that our safety takes a backseat. That our performance for cishet eyes matters more than our actual desires and needs.

I come from a very privileged household with regards to my caste, location, and social standing, and yet, these factors still mattered to me. They affected me and I needed to make sure coming out was something I was ready for. Not just emotionally, but ready-for-the-absolute-worst ready.

I was 30 when I came out. I was set in my career; I could survive more than three months without an income. I had looked at all the factors necessary before I even announced to the world that I was a bisexual, polyamorous man who had multiple partners of all genders.

The pressure we seem to be placing on Gen Z to “come out” is immense. Allies and others try to hype them up only emotionally, as though all they lack is the courage to be their truest self. As though smiling through our teeth and hiding our identities in the workplace or at school isn’t an act of courage and self-preservation too. I am yet to hear of stories where allies have offered practical, real-world support to someone who is in the closet. Have they even asked the right questions? Have they offered any other type of support other than chanting “You are brave & beautiful” in our faces? Don’t tell us we’re brave like it’s our job to be resilient, show us that you’ll make the world safer for us. Ask us if we’re good on rent. Pay attention to businesses and  healthcare facilities that are queer- affirming and safe, so you can guide us towards those spaces. Shield us from your friends and families who like to make snide comments about us, excuse them from conversation, and teach them how to act like compassionate human beings. I had found that support in family, friends, and my career. I had this fear of how the MNC PR and advertising company I used to work for would react to seeing the social media of one of their leaders filled with queer content.

Pride parade. A group of people participating in a Pride parade. LGBT community. LGBTQ. Doodle vector illustration

Luckily, for me, not only were they welcoming, but they also supported me. Bosses asked the right questions, and made sure I was comfortable in the office and in the space given. Can you imagine the sheer relief and power I felt? That’s when I actually felt “brave and beautiful” with that kind of support. This is not to deter anyone from coming out, especially during pride month. It’s to make sure that you see how all the marketing around the queer community this month is just that — it’s just “marketing”, so make sure you have the support you need before you step out of that closest. Whenever I see Pride campaigns, I am always reminded of the dark call by villains in children’s stories or horror movies who are looking for their victims “come out, come out, wherever you are”. But this is your journey and yours alone. Come out when you’re where you need to be to actually feel safety, joy, and relief. You aren’t less queer because you’re not out. You are you, inside and out.