If you live in a large city that offers coming out support groups, I recommend taking advantage of them. If you don’t have an in-person support group, the next best thing is a telephone support group (see resources.) There are things a support group can offer you that a one-on-one session with a therapist cannot, though I recommend doing both if possible.
Peer support groups can be extremely powerful in the following ways:
- It’s important to know you’re not alone on your journey.
- There is enormous acknowledging and validating going on — you’re all in the same boat with similar goals and you each have very similar struggles. When you’re sharing your story, your other peer members are usually nodding their heads saying “That totally makes sense, that happens to me too!” They may even chime in with “This is what worked for me when I was in that situation…”
- The facilitator or peer coach can help show you the “path beyond” when you are stuck. It helps to have someone there that has been through it all before because they know there is an opening on the other side. There is no way out, but through–and they will be the fearless leader walking by your side as you make your journey.
- There is great “peer wisdom” to be shared. Even in the midst of a struggle or emergence, there is a great wisdom that is generated within the group. Often the group will run itself without the need for the facilitator to interject.
- The peer group holds each other accountable to their greatness. They call each other on “playing small” and encourage each other to create a life that will bring them joy.
- Your peers get to know you in many ways your family and friends may not because you’re talking in-depth about a subject that you typically aren’t sharing with many other people. There is a bond or closeness that is created that can be like no other, particularly when in person, but phone is really good too.
- You laugh and you cry in group. It is a great release of all the pent up emotions you have been feeling.
- You can set goals if you want in group, but you will come out (or not) at your own pace with gentle encouragement.
- Homophobia tends to get nipped in the bud when the bond between you and your peers starts to form. You respect and care so much for the other people in the group (who are also coming out) so how can you look down on gay people? Some of the homophobia may have been engrained since childhood, so we work on that over time. But a large part of the self loathing involved in coming out tends to melt away amidst the love of your peers.
- You may make friends for life. Even if they turn out to be shorter term relationships, you are in the process of building a very important support network.
In our support groups we laugh and we cry. But above all we are there for each other week after week, and we accept each other no matter the decision.