Although there is a difference of opinion about the stages of coming out, it usually goes through the following. As with everything else, academic scholars of gay studies disagree on some of the finer points, but overall the stages I mention here are nearly universal. I have seen theories with 5, 6, 12 and even up to 18 output stages. Some theories try to give each stage a new academic-sounding name, but in my 8 stages each word relates to a well-known and acceptable phase of human development.
- The realization stage
The first stage is when you realize that something in you is different. You may know that you have a homosexual tendency, but you still deny it. Rationalizing is a big part of this stage. You can tell yourself that this is just a phase, that it will pass, that you are only slightly in love with one person, that it is normal to love anyone, but that this feeling inside you does not mean that you are totally gay. . You might consider the idea that you are bisexual and that you can still have a heterosexual relationship.
The Recognition Stage
The second stage is where you recognize a pattern within yourself. You realize that you are attracted to members of the same gender and not the opposite. You understand that this attraction is not going to go away and that it is not directed at just one individual. You recognize aspects of your personality and preferences that make perfect sense in terms of your sexual orientation. Suddenly you understand things about yourself that you didn’t understand before.
The stage of individual sharing
Until this point, everything only happened inside your mind, but in the third stage you feel the need to share it with someone else. It could be your mom, a good friend, or a therapist, but you know it’s time to share it with someone. Within you you still have some doubts and that is why it is time to review your thoughts. If the person you share it with is surprised, it may take you back to stage one. That is why it is important that you choose the right person to share it with.
The public exchange scenario
If you’ve successfully completed the third stage, you’ll want to share it with more people, perhaps your family, most of your friends, or someone else you trust. Remember that the closet is always right behind you and there will be some people with whom you will never share it. This is not a problem; no one says you should publish it in the local newspaper. This stage can continue for the rest of your life because there will always be new people to share it with.
The socialization stage
The fifth stage is when you start socializing with other gay people. Some gay people take years to reach this stage because they struggle to meet other gay people and/or are too afraid to go to gay socials, prides, or clubs. Like the proverbial flower on the wall waiting for someone to invite them over, you can sit in your corner waiting for the gay community to come to you. This could be a very lonely time in the life of any gay person and my advice would be to get through this stage as quickly as possible. Do not be afraid, there will always be someone gay with whom you can identify.
The stage of the relationship
After you started meeting other gay people, you could end up in a relationship. The same advice any therapist will give a teen in her first relationship goes with you, too. Nobody’s first relationship is the last. If the relationship goes wrong, it is part of life. It’s best not to walk away from other gay people and move on without regrets. Whatever your age, your first gay relationship means you’re still a teenager in the gay world. Yes, there are people who met a couple and it became a lifelong relationship, but they are the exception.
The stage of self-realization
Self-actualization is the stage where you make peace with who you are. Some people never get to this stage and it’s a shame. Knowing yourself, accepting yourself and loving yourself is a crucial stage in everyone’s life, whether they are gay or straight. It’s not something that happens in your twenties, so don’t fear if you’re not there yet. Self-actualization is something that takes years to achieve in the lives of gay and straight people. If your parents don’t accept you for being gay, it might even take longer, because an important element in anyone’s self-fulfillment is that your parents accept you.
The normalization stage
Self-actualization is the stage where you fully accept yourself. To a certain extent, life begins after self-realization. The seven stages above are all about accepting the fact that you are gay, but normalization is the point where you realize that you are gay, but that being gay is not all there is to life. It is the moment when you integrate into society as a whole. Being gay is no longer a problem, the problem is that you are human, you have a role to play and you can become part of the whole world without thinking, advertising or mentioning your sexual orientation. If someone asks you if you are gay, you admit it and whether or not they accept it is no longer a problem. After all, you are much more than a sexual being.