The term "Coming Out" is a shortened form of "coming out of the closet", which is a metaphor for revealing one's sexual orientation and/or transgender status.
Coming Out is the process of recognizing, accepting and sharing with others one's sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Coming out is not a single event, but rather a life-long process. In our society, people tend to assume everyone is heterosexual, so LGBT+ people must continually decide in what situations they want to correct that assumption by disclosing their own orientation or identity. In every new situation, with every new person they meet, they must decide whether or not to come out. There are many stages to coming out, and the process is not the same for everyone. Generally, the coming out process begins with coming out to oneself. This can be stressful at first, because LGBT+ people, like most people, have learned negative stereotypes and misrepresented information about what it means to be LGBT+. Later stages involve coming out to others, such as friends, family, co-workers, etc. It can be a long and difficult process because it not only involves confronting the assumption that everyone is "straight", it also involves confronting discrimination and homophobic and transphobic attitudes along the way. Ultimately, coming out is a freeing experience that allows LGBT+ people to live more authentically, and develop more genuine relationships with others (adapted from HRC.org).
Why Come Out?
Coming out allows the person to develop as a whole individual, allows for greater empowerment, and makes it easier for an individual to develop a positive self-image. By coming out, the person is able to share with others who they are and what is important to them, rather than having to hide or lie about their identity. Coming out frees the person of the fear of being "found out" and helps the avoid living a double life, which can be extremely stressful and demoralizing. Finally, coming out makes it easier to connect with other LGBT+ people, giving a sense of community. Outlining the benefits of coming out is not meant to convince anyone to do so in any situation. Rather, thinking about some of the possible outcomes can clarify an individual's decision by helping to determine the appropriate time for coming out and preparing for possible reactions. Some benefits of coming out include: · Ability to live one's life honestly
· Building self-esteem by being honest about oneself.
- Developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family.
- Alleviating the stress of hiding one's identity.
- Connecting with other people who are LGBT+
- Being a part of a community with others with whom you have something in common.
- Helping to dispel myths and stereotypes by speaking about one's own experience and educating others.
- Being a role model for others.
How do I know if I am LGBT+?
Questioning your sexual orientation and/or gender identity can be difficult, often because of other peoples' attitudes and varying levels of support and acceptance. It could also make perfect sense of feelings you have had for a long time. Whether you are straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you should feel confident and proud of who you are. Your sexual orientation and gender identity are very important components of who you are as a person, but they are not all of who you are and should not solely define you as a person. You have hobbies, interests, friends, family, goals, and beliefs, all which make up an amazing and complex person.
"Sexuality" - What is it?
Sexuality is not just about sex, it is about your feelings, emotions, attractions and desires, and how you express these. It includes whether we are attracted to women, men, both, or neither (our sexual orientation) and what we may or may not do sexually. Having sexual thoughts and feelings is a normal, healthy part of human life. This is true whether you are attracted to men, women or both. Some people are not interested in sex at all, and this is normal too.
When will I know for sure, if I am LGBTQ?
When we question or explore our sexual orientation and/or gender identity, it takes time to figure it out, just as it takes time to figure out other areas of our lives. You may have to ask many questions, read a lot, and watch several YouTube videos before you feel comfortable connecting your own experience and inner feelings to a specific term or identity. You may even find that you identify as more than one way on the LGBTQ spectrum, and that is ok! The important thing is to be true to how you feel at the time and to respect yourself and others around you.
People who know me really well ask me if I am LGBTQ, and those who do not know me well assume that I am - am I?
It is true that people who are close to us can sometimes tell us things about ourselves we might not have realized, but you should not be swayed too much by what anyone else says about your sexuality or gender identity. Only you know how you really feel inside, and only you can decide how you want to identify.
If I think I am LGBTQ - should I tell people?
There are many different things you should take into consideration when it comes to coming out, but it is entirely your decision. If you want someone in your corner during your coming out experiences, feel free to reach out to the LGBT+ Resource Center. We are available to support you through these tough questions. The Human Rights Campaign has published some coming out guides as well that you may find helpful. HRC Coming Out Guides