What we want you to know about coming out.
Coming out, which is the act of disclosing your sexual orientation or gender identity, is a common experience among people in the LGBTQ+ community.
Deciding to come out can be difficult and scary because you can’t be sure how someone is going to react. Nobody wants to face discrimination or violence. On the other hand, coming out can also be empowering and exciting because you can talk about your identity more freely and connect with other queer folks more easily.
Only you can decide whether the benefits of coming out outweigh the risks in a specific situation. Here are some things we want you to know as you think about it.
It is not an obligation.
As an LGBTQ+ person, it can feel like you’re expected to come out. We’re here to tell you that you are just as valid and just as queer even if you haven’t told anyone. You don’t have to tell anyone if you don’t want to.
For the most part, we have to come out because people often view others as straight/cisgender by default. Coming out is not required or necessary but can often make us feel more aligned and comfortable with our surroundings and the people you interact with.
Another important factor is considering your safety. While coming out can relieve the feeling of "hiding" a part of ourselves from others, you should consider your relative safety. There is no right or wrong answer, we each live in different circumstances and have to make the best with where we are.
If you are worried about your safety at home, school, or work, we recommend building out a support network. Coming out to close friends first can build your confidence and can also help while you navigate coming out in other situations.
It’s all up to you.
When you come out to someone, you give them the gift of knowing you on a deeper level. You get to decide who is worthy of that gift and when you’re ready to give it.
Just because you come out to one person or group of people in your life does not mean you have to come out to everyone. Your comfort is important and it can vary across situations.
Remember to remind those around you of the process of your coming out. While those we tell should always get our consent first before sharing it with others, people with little experience with other LGBTQ+ people may not be aware.
Other people should always respect the manner in which you share your identity.
It isn’t a single event.
Coming out is often portrayed in the media as a one-time thing, but it’s really something many LGBTQ+ people do more than once. There are a lot less speeches and sudden reveals in real life.
Instead, you'll find that you are coming out to one or just a few people at a time. This can be a couple of friends, your immediate family members, a guidance counselor, etc.
Additionally, our identities exist on a spectrum. Sexual, gender, and emotional identities can change at any point in our lives.
You don't have to worry about being tied to one specific label once you've come out, too. The process of coming out, to many, is the process of getting to know ourselves and finding new ways to share who they are with the world.
Considering one situation at a time can make coming out feel less overwhelming. You might be ready to come out to someone who you know will be supportive even if you’re not sure you would want to tell all the people in your life.
Regardless of how or if you come out, you are still a part of the community.
We want to empower you to make the best decision for you, whether that’s coming out to everyone, telling one trusted person, or waiting it out for a while.
You are worthy of love and respect just as you are right now, and you will still be worthy regardless of how many people know your identities or how they react to that knowledge.
Luckily, you are not alone and there is a vibrant LGBTQ+ community ready to accept you at any stage of this process.
Henry Aceves, writer & theatre artist