Coming out as LGBTQ+ can oftentimes trigger an onset of emotions. For many, opening up about one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity can bring feelings of relief, freedom and celebration. It may feel as if coming out means you can fully be who you are without having to hide a part of yourself.
However, in other cases, coming out may be quite traumatic. Family members, friends or peers may not be accepting of one’s sexuality and/or gender identity, and coming out may lead to physical and/or emotional abuse. In fact, a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center showed that 40 percent of LGBT adults experienced rejection from a family member or close friend.
As a result, coming out may be a scary and sometimes hurtful experience. In extreme cases, it may even cause post-traumatic stress symptoms. A study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health in 2010 revealed that the risk for onset PTSD was higher in lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexuals with any same-sex partners than their heterosexual peers.
Common Symptoms of Trauma in LGBTQ People
If a queer and/or transgender person has a negative experience when they come out, they may develop common trauma symptoms, such as flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty concentrating, irritability and more, that bring them back to that moment of coming out.
Experiencing rejection from a family member or close friend may also lead to intimacy issues. Coming out can be a vulnerable and nerve-wracking moment that takes a lot of courage. If an LGBTQ+ person chooses to open up about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity to someone they trust and they’re rejected, it can make opening up about their emotions, trusting others and forming future relationships difficult.
Another common symptom of trauma in the queer community is internalized homophobia and/or transphobia, or when a queer person has negative feelings towards themselves and their sexual orientation. Growing up in an environment that promotes anti-gay ideas can negatively impact a queer individual, and as a result, they may carry feelings of extreme shame and self-hatred. A negative coming out experience can heighten those symptoms.
How You Can Find Support After Coming Out
Whether you have a positive or negative coming out experience, it’s important to live in a safe space, where you can feel comfortable, understood and celebrated for who you are.
One way to find support after coming out is to get involved with pride organizations, like the Pride Foundation and GLAAD. Oftentimes, these organizations host events, support groups, counseling and other resources that can be useful for connecting with other LGBTQ+ people. Making queer friends outside of one’s romantic relationship can give you a sense of belonging and understanding.
If you’re kicked out of your home and cut off from your family after coming out, pride organizations can also be helpful in finding a safe living space, healthcare and job development assistance.
Most importantly, find a supportive therapist who specializes in the traumas the LGBTQ+ community faces. As you open up about your experiences and emotions, it’s validating to have a professional who understands what you’re going through and how to heal.
Ultimately, the decision to officially come out as LGBTQ+ or not is entirely up to the person themselves. While many in the queer community do choose to come out to their family members and friends, there are many who do not officially come out and/or label their sexuality.
Whether you choose to come out or not, your sexual orientation and/or gender is valid.
If you had a traumatic experience that has led to PTSD symptoms, such as flashbacks and dissociation, the Mira app may be useful to you. With helpful tools like trigger tracking and grounding exercises, Mira is here to help you find relief. For more resources on PTSD and trauma, check out our blog!