By the time we reach college age, our lives have many segments which contribute to the whole of whom we are. These segments may consist of family, friends, community, religion, work, school, ethnicity, and culture, and more often than not, they overlap with each other. The decision to “come out” often involves inspecting each segment in an effort to predict both the negative repercussions and potential positive outcomes to revealing this very personal and important piece of ourselves. If you are considering coming out, here are some thoughts to keep in mind.
Often individuals who decide to come out do so in phases. They might first seek guidance from a school counselor, therapist, or another professional. Then they may test the waters by telling a friend, a sibling, or a colleague. Eventually they may get to the point where it seems that probably everyone knows, which can be a very liberating realization. In both personal and professional realms, calculating how much of yourself to reveal in any given situation is a challenge. This, of course, is not unique to being gay. But the issue of one’s sexuality is not so fraught with potential problems for heterosexuals (although the revelation of a heterosexual’s sexual behaviors might also evoke prejudice and judgment, and have repercussions on a career). First and foremost, you must be comfortable with yourself in order to have clarity in weighing the pros and cons of telling anyone—be it a friend, family member, coworker, or boss—any intimate detail about yourself. Sexuality is too important to one’s sense of well-being for it to be left unresolved. If you have strong self-esteem and self-awareness, you will not make the decision to reveal your sexuality in order to fulfill an inner need that leaves you vulnerable to whatever reaction you get.
You may have grown up surrounded by messages of prejudice and judgment because homosexuality has been a subject that has borne many negative implications in our culture. It is only natural that in recognizing your sexuality, you are struggling to come to terms with the messages you have heard, some of which may subconsciously have become part of your own belief and value system. Gaining an understanding of your inside world will lead to acceptance of yourself, your feelings, and your ideas. This is one of the secrets to being able to function and succeed in an outside world that is sometimes unpredictable, unfair, biased, and competitive in ways that are simply beyond our control.
For performing artists, trying to predict the impact on one’s career can present complex factors to an individual weighing whether or not to come out, or how far to come out. There is no generic list of considerations for performing artists who are deciding when, where, or if to come out. Your comfort level may be dictated by your particular artistic discipline, culture, and community, each of which may present unique challenges of acceptance and prejudice. Some artistic disciplines, communities, and cultures are more accepting of gay men than of gay women, or vice versa. Gay drama students have expressed worry about stereotyping and prejudice in the theater world. An open panel discussion on the subject in the Drama Division a few years ago helped to assuage some students’ concerns. Such discussion is one of the best ways to learn about coming out and being gay in the performing arts world. There are forums here at Juilliard to explore. Additionally, the Juilliard Counseling Service provides free and confidential counseling to Juilliard students, and has helped many students who have struggled with issues of sexual identity, coming out, and relationships. You can make an appointment by calling ext. 282 or stopping in at the Health Services Offices on the 22nd floor of the Meredith Wilson Residence Hall.
The Juilliard Counseling Service provides free and confidential counseling to Juilliard students, and has helped many students who have struggled with issues of sexual identity, coming out, and relationships. You can make an appointment by calling ext. 282 or stopping in at the Health Services Office on the 22nd floor of the Meredith Willson Residence Hall.
|GLBT National Help Center
Provides free and confidential telephone and email peer-counseling and info about local resources.
|Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
Founded in 1972, this organization provides excellent information about coming out.
|The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Community Center of New York
The Center’s Web site has links to GLBT organizations that serve individuals of various ethnicities.
206 West 13th St.
New York, NY 10011
|The Audre Lorde Project (for people of color)
|South Asian Lesbian Gay Association (SALGA)
|Gay Men of African Descent
|New York Bisexual Network