For many of us, coming out is behind us. But we are still processing our own journeys. Or maybe we are yet to come out or help someone else come out.
The last few years have given a boost to LGBTQ+ visibility, with high profile voices using their platforms to raise awareness bout our community’s needs: Billy Porter, Laverne Cox, Dan Levy, and Billy Po to name a few.
Proud bisexual Black woman, Military Veteran, mother of two, and CEO of Onyx Therapy Group, Dr. LaNail R. Plummer, is all too familiar with the pressures of coming out to friends and family. Being an active advocate for the Black/LGBTQ+ community, Dr. Plummer has always made sure to make herself available to those struggling with their mental health as it pertains to their sexual preferences and identities. She has been featured in Queer Forty highlighting the importance of re-evaluating LGBTQ+ health care in the pandemic, and recently had journalist Bailey Vogt on her LinkedIn Live series Spillin’ the Tea w/ Dr. P, where each took turns discussing their own coming out process and the fears they faced, and how they learned to build their own families with those who were quick to accept them.
With 15+ years of experience in the mental health field, including designing mental health programs for the military, school districts, and government organizations, Dr. Plummer and her team of over 30 all Black/women of color, have been featured in everything from Forbes, Salon.com, TODAY Show, NY Mag, NBC, Washingtonian, and more.
We caught up with Dr. Plummer to ask her about her coming out experience and what she advises others. When did you come out? April 2014. Just a few years ago. I was 33 years old with 2 kids. And I came out via Facebook. My closest family members and friends knew about my interest in women but I had not told “the world.”
How and to whom did you come out?
Dr. Plummer: My closest friends and family knew or suspected that I was attracted to women. I mean, since I was a young girl, I always had a “girl/woman interest” but I dated boys/men in public. For the closest folks, they would find out via conversation, hanging out with me, picking up on certain cues or behaviors… then ask me. For the public showdown I used Facebook. I ripped the bandaid off!
What was the reaction and was it what you expected?
Dr. Plummer: In general, it was fine. But I suspect that’s because of my age, career, and status. I mean, I was 33, a 2x homeowner with 2 degrees, and 2 kids. Nobody could say “You’re ruining your life” or “You’re making a bad ‘decision’,” or “You’re too young to know if you’re really bisexual.” Now, they could comment from a religious perspective but I’ve always been super connected to God and the ancestors and believe God was the one pushing me to come out and be authentic. My life has been wonderfully blessed since I came out.
What or who were the casualties of coming out?
Dr. Plummer: I had a few family members that didn’t like it. I don’t know if they think it’s a sin, a family embarrassment, or just not the image they had for me. My mom was the worst but I didn’t expect her to agree with my decision to live openly and authentically. Some friends needed time to grieve who they thought I was but came around when they realized I’m the same person, just with a different gender partner and a lighter sense of spirit. Nothing major for me. Oh, my daughter was upset but because she thought I held a secret from her and reminded me that we don’t hold secrets from each other. That was sweet of her. Endearing.
What or whom did you gain?
Dr. Plummer: I gained me. Àshe (the power to make things happen). I gained freedom. Authenticity. Deeper spirituality and connection. More friends and community. A new branch on my purpose (counseling and advocating for members of the LGBTQ community). Real love. Partnership. Success through obedience to God in coming out. Clarity. So much. The list goes on. So much. And, I feel soooooo good in life. So good.
Your advice to anyone thinking about coming out or watching a loved one struggle with how to come out. Suggestions, wise words, resources…
Dr. Plummer: Each of our stories are unique. It sucks that we even have to “come out” and make an announcement about who we are. Straights don’t have to go to their parents and say, “I like ____”… but we do. So my advice is:
1. Come out when YOU are ready.
2. Be safe when you come out and let trusted friends know first so they can process the changes before you let everyone else know…because you will need the support from those trusted friends.
3. If you can, try to come out when you have a bit of independence. That way, you don’t have to worry about “getting cut off” or manipulated to present as straight.
4. Seek therapy. There will be some things you need to grieve, some distortions and behaviors you’ll need to process, and some new ways to see and envision yourself.
Best of luck my friends. Àshe.