Coming Out - A Process of Choices

"Coming out" refers to the process in which an individual begins accepting and/or sharing that they are identifying themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, intersex (LGBTQ+) or other sexual and gender identities. This is a personal process and is different for everyone. People may come out across the lifespan; however, others may choose to never come out at all. Many people find that coming out is a positive experience. However, both positive and negative effects can occur in many aspects of a person's life when coming to terms with their identity. In many ways, a person who identifies as LGBTQ+ will go through many "coming out" experiences throughout their lifetime.

Coming out can be a difficult time. Identifying yourself as LGBTQ+ is typically not discussed in our society, and there will always be someone out there who does not know how to identify themselves. As an LGBTQ+ person, you will come to a time where you may choose to come out to others, such as family, friends, roommates, classmates, and teammates. Many LGBTQ+ people fear negative reactions, rejection and upsetting people they are close to. In many parts of the world, including the United States, strong cultural attitudes and discriminatory laws make coming out even harder and not safe. Safety, comfort, and how someone will react may affect your choices when coming out to others. Sharing who you are and what you have experienced is often rewarding and quite often brings you closer to with whom you are sharing. Sometimes people react with shock or disappointment. In many of these cases, however, time brings reconciliation and understanding. Regardless of your choice, it is important to remember that coming out is not an absolute process, and you decide whether this fits your needs or situation.

Potential Challenges

Here is a list of potential challenges you may confront as you come out (According to the American College Health Association):

  • Think about how, when, and where you choose to come out to someone. For instance, Thanksgiving dinner or during a heated argument may not be the best time to come out to your family.
  • As you come out to friends and family, people might not all react in the same way. Just as it may have taken you some time to adjust, it may take others time as well.
  • As you decide whether or not to come out to a larger group (spiritual, social, local), think about the climate and cost. Some organizations as well as regions of the nation are more open than others to people who are LGBTQ+.