A Guide for Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals

The phrase “coming out” refers to making people aware of a person’s sexual orientation. It is a common phrase used by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (LGBT) individuals. Coming out to friends, family, and sometimes coworkers is meant to help improve the understanding, acceptance, and communication of one's sexual orientation by publicly disclosing their sexual orientation, and consequently very personal information. The process of coming out can be very confusing and emotionally draining, as one may not know how other people will react to their sexual orientation and accept their lifestyle. Unfortunately, some cultures even regard LGBT people as outcasts, making the whole process more difficult and nerve-raking for everyone involved in the process. To encourage open communication and understanding the coming out process and the uniqueness surrounding each different scenario, there are numerous online resources and support groups that can assist LGBT people and their loved ones cope with their sexual orientation and making the coming out process an eyeopening and enlightening experience.

Why Am I Gay?

Establishing the reasons behind homosexuality is a daunting task, a task that even the most notable psychologists, doctors, and therapists can not conclusively answer. The point is that no one really knows why some people end up being gay, or straight, or what have you. Justifying homosexuality has consistently been a controversial issue, not only as a the realm of religion, but also more presently as a civil rights issue with the topic of gay marriage becoming more prevalent in the media legislation. Nonetheless, people with homosexual tendencies can be found in most countries around the world. Scientists believe that homosexuality is psychological, or it may have something to do with hormonal balance.

Growing Up Gay

Growing up as a “normal” kid is hard enough, but having to deal with confusion about sexual orientation and feeling insecure about a person's sexuality can feel like torture. Most people discover their sexual orientation during adolescence through interaction with friends, classmates, and peers. Gay teenagers may often find themselves in awkward situations, not feeling comfortable with an intimate situations that their friends might view as “normal”. They might not know how to approach uncomfortable situations and also don't feel comfortable expressing their feelings or letting others know that they are uncomfortable for fear of being ridiculed or harassed. The Adolescent years can be very lonely for young LGBT people, especially in societies that shun open homosexuality.

Coming Out to Yourself

Coming out is a process that involves recognizing and accepting one’s sexual identity. This very personal process can be a very long and mind-boggling journey but can ultimately result in self acceptance and the reconciliation of feelings about one's sexuality, all of which is important for personal growth. Recognizing sexual identity starts with the ability to determine sexual attractions and orientation, ask yourself in the most honest way possible who you find physically attractive. The questions may sound a bit funny, sort of elementary, but it is very important to be honest with yourself. Some people find this to be the most difficult part of coming out because they have been either pretending to be somebody they really aren't or otherwise lying about their feelings for so long that the lies might actually come easier than the truth. Self-acceptance can come a bit easier by focusing on the advantages of coming out and the positive aspects of the LGBT culture, you will be amazed by the weight that can be lifted from a person once they feel comfortable with their own identity, a weight that they might not have even realized was there.

Whom Should I Tell?

Most people prefer to disclose their sexual orientation to their close friends rather than their family members. This is because rejection and backlash tend to be more prevalent in family settings and can discourage people from coming out to other people in their lives. It might be a good idea to tell the person you are most comfortable talking to first. Usually, the person who knows you the best will also be best prepared to accept differences in a loved one and will respect their wishes and understand the amount of commitment and courage it takes to come out. A positive coming out experience can help further a person's self acceptance and encourage them to share their feelings with other friends and family members. It may also help to have the presence of a person who can advocate for you during the stressful process and offer moral support and advice.

How Should I Tell Them?

Before coming out, one should carefully select the most appropriate way to express oneself. This can be done by writing a letter, or having a face-to-face conversation, depending on the individual's comfort level. Always think about what to say and carefully select the words that are going to be used beforehand to help avoid uncomfortable or negative situations, it might seem a little like a script, but that might help the person prepare for their coming out experience and gain the confidence to share their feelings with convictions. In addition, one should always be ready for an initial negative reaction, and time should be given to allow other people to come to terms with the news. Each experience is different, and the only person who can anticipate the reaction of their friends and family is the person who is considering coming out publicly.

  • How to Come Out: Suggestions on how to “come out of the closet” in a fraternity setting can present a new set of challenges, this link provides some advice for gay men looking to come out to their brothers.

  • Coming Out to Family and Friends: Information on how an LGBT should let family and friends know about his or her sexual identity. 

  • LGBT Resource Center: General discussion on coming out, including the different stages of coming out.

When Should I Tell Them?

The timing for coming out is very important. The most suitable time to disclose sexual identity is when one is calm and collected, and has given coming out a great deal of thought, it is not something that is usually taken lightly. Avoid situations where emotions would prevail over reason. It is understandable that everyone is under a bit of stress when we or someone we love comes out, but it is important to remember the importance role that each person plays in our lives, gay or not, this is a person that is loved by their friends and family. In moments of weakness this is easily forgotten, but it is important to remember how each person has impacted the lives of others. Tired discussions and half-hearted conversations are not ideal for coming out.

Support for your Family

Coming out of the closet may be distressing for family and friends. If they never realized signs of homosexual tendencies earlier, they may have many unanswered questions. They should be given time to come to terms with the sexual orientation of their loved one, but it is also important to remember that coming out is an individual choice and can be emotionally draining on everyone. One way to calm their nerves is to invite a close family-friend, who already knows and understands the situation, so that he or she can discuss the matter with them.

Consequences and Reactions

In most cases, family members may initially disapprove an LGBT’s decision to follow his or her sexual orientation, but with time, they will come to accept the reality. This is different for each family unit and their views of homosexuality, there are many families that encourage children to follow their heart, without passing judgment. It is important never to feel guilty about the decision to come out, as it will only cause discouragement. Coming out is very personal, but it is important to remain confident in your decision and stay true to yourself. It is your happiness that will be effected most by coming out.

Coming Out at Work

Coming out at work is the most difficult of all, as it may break a person’s career aspirations. Some employers may be unconsciously homophobic, and are less likely to acknowledge the work of an openly gay personnel. Thanks to equal opportunity laws and regulations, employers can no longer legally pass over an employee for a promotion or job because of their sexual orientation. The military and some educational institutions do not encourage openly gay personnel, however these feelings are very infrequently expressed due to their sensitive nature. Nevertheless, measures are being put in place to allow for better gay rights at the workplace.

Moving On with the Rest of Your Life

The decision to come out depends on the individual. Being gay does not mean that a person is an outcast or abnormal, it means that they simply face a different set of challenges than a heterosexual person might. One can meet other homosexual people and potentially have a healthy romantic relationship that may lead to marriage. The best way for an LGBT to move on with life comfortably is to appreciate his or her own sexuality.


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