I too know what it's like to "come out" in The South"
For me there's no simple answer to that question because I realized I had a serious attraction to men when I was 15. That was 1965. There's no way to relate those times into the context of 2015. My mother found out when I was 16 but kept it silent from my father, a career USAF officer. For that era she was quite understanding and compassionate about it, but not in the manner anyone today would think of understanding and compassion. That was because she was French and didn't have the same view of homosexuality as Americans, but still it was pretty backwards from a 2015 perspective. She told me about how men in Europe married women and kept their private affairs with either men or women or both private and quiet.
I was 20, in Auburn University, married and had a pregnant wife the first time I heard the word "gay" applied to homosexuals. By that time I'd had sex with other guys in the manner most men did - by sneaking around.
The process of coming out for me really didn't start until 1977 when I was outed in South Florida and lost a job over it during the insanity against gays Anita Bryant launched. I was 28, four years into a relationship with a man who, like me, was a single father with custody of a son the same age as mine. In that time an "out" gay man with a child would have been dragged to court and had his son taken away by the courts, so there was no way for us to have ever been completely "out" during that time.
I didn't tell my father until 1984. I was 34. He surprised me. He said he'd suspected since I was a teen and then rambled on for several hours about all the gay men he'd known of in the Air Force, and how he'd always tried to turn a blind eye to it. It was a pretty good experience for us both. He'd met my lover and liked him, but he was concerned for the well being of our sons - as were the majority of the gay people during that time who found out we had children.
The boys thought they had it all figured out by the time they were 13 and pretty much "gave us their permission" to stop being so uptight about it in front of them - as long as we didn't embarrass them in front of their friends. That was a friggin milestone and several tons off our shoulders. It began a slow process of them asking questions as they become comfortable with the answers they might hear. It all started off with "do you guys ever hold hands like married people?" and, over time, expanded to them wanting to go in a gay bar and see what all the fuss was about when the summer they were 18. Steve and I were more nervous about taking them to a bar than they were about going in one. They went to college at the time "gay" was just starting to become "cool." They'd bring home friends who they'd "come out" to as being the sons of gay dads... Another huge milestone. Great times were had by all. It made it easy for Steve and I to ease out to more and more people.
I guess it was a slow process, over decades that we really didn't take notice of too often. By the time Steve and I started (1988?) coming "out" to to straight people, neighbors, employees, business associates they all seemed to already know and be fine with it. We changed as the times changed.