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Originally appeared in Chrysanthème,
The Hondas' Guide to Coming Out
Having recently started "coming out" to a small group of friends, we realized very quickly that it isn't an easy task, or one that spares your nails as you gnaw on them while awaiting a reaction. We've also spoken with others who would like to share their secrets, but are unsure of how to go about it.
With this in mind, we'd like to share some of the ideas we've found helpful in expressing ourselves to others.
1. The time and place is, obviously, important. Pick a setting where both parties feel at ease, and you can be assured of your friend's full attention. If you're wary of doing so in person, however, don't underestimate the value of e- mail or instant messaging programs. While they may feel less personal, they have the advantage of giving you time to think of what you want to say, without feeling the weight of another set of eyes.
2. Relax, relax, relax. We can't stress the importance of this enough. Yes, it can be difficult to stay calm, especially at first, but your demeanor will help get the message across. If you present yourself as calm and unruffled, chances are that your friend will feel at ease too. If you are, by contrast, very nervous and jittery, that attitude will make a very different impression. Saying "There's something I'd like to tell you," in your normal tone of voice, should put your friend in an attentive mood without ringing any warning bells.
3. We were guilty of this at first, too. Don't say "multiple personality disorder." In fact, we recommend that you not use any medical terms at all, as that immediately brings "sane/insane" connotations to mind. A neutral question, such as "Do you know what it means to be plural (or multiple)?" can start the conversation, and chances are that your friend will either respond negatively, or ask if you mean "MPD." If your friend replies with a "No," great. You can immediately talk about what your reality is. If, however, he or she immediately jumps to "You mean you have MPD," proceed to step...
4. This is where you try to clear up any misconceptions your friend may have of multiplicity. You may want to stress that you are not a disorder, and don't consider yourself diseased. Tell your friend a bit about what it means to be you, from your perspective. You might use the time-honored approach and explain that multiplicity simply involves the existance of more than one person per body, and is nothing more exotic or strange than that.
5. If, on the other hand, your friend doesn't believe you, things can get very frustrating. Sadly, some people will choose to close their minds, but the following ideas may help. If he or she has unknowingly interacted with different members of your system in the past, point those occurrences out. Do you have any cases of people having different allergies, different handwriting, or different ways of carrying the body? Mention those as well. If you'd like, ask if your friend would like to meet anyone else. This can make you feel like you're performing parlor tricks, we know, but we've run into many a person who changed his tune quickly after being told these things by more than one person in a single sitting.
6. If all goes well, or you've managed to maneuver around misconceptions that your friend had, be prepared to answer questions. Some of them may seem silly to you (be prepared for the ubiquitous "Aren't you afraid someone will go rob a liquor store?"), but try to answer as many as you can. If any of them are too personal, or delve too deeply into private matters, say so. Most importantly, stress that you are still the people he or she has known and loved, but now your friend has the opportunity to make more friends, as he or she gets to know people individually.
7. After you've dropped the bombshell, the nervousness may not fade even if your friend is supportive. That's nothing strange. You might find yourself worried about how to act around him or her in the future, or unsure about whether or not you have done the right thing. Our advice is to, again, try to relax. Treat your friend as you have in the past; let everyone introduce themselves as they feel comfortable and ready.
We understand that coming out can be daunting and scary, especially at first, but we do believe that it gets easier as you do it more often. Some people will take your news the wrong way, but some will also support and accept you for who you are, and that is a wonderful feeling. If you decide to come out, we salute you, and we wish you the best!