-Mayah Taylor, MA
Coming out is a pivotal and momentous moment for an individual in the LGBTQ community. It is also noted that coming out is not just one single moment or event. It’s actually lifelong and marked by multiple moments of coming out. It is a process that involves understanding, accepting, and valuing your sexual orientation/identity. The decision to come out can be a gradual process or one that is very sudden. The first step usually involves coming out to yourself often with the realization that the feelings you’ve had for some time make sense if you can define them as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer.
Many of our clients at LCC who are part of the LGBTQ community often describe the process of coming out as “scary” and “difficult”. There are so many moving parts that go into the decision to actually come out to others. One of the things that makes it so “scary” or “difficult” is society’s views towards the LGBTQ community. Many of my clients discuss with me issues of discrimination and fear of rejection that they struggle with on a daily basis. It is this discrimination and rejection that prevents them from feeling safe to come out and live openly as LGBTQ. Individuals of the LGBTQ community are constantly forced to confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. The social stigma, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection are all enough factors to turn those in the LGBTQ away from coming out to others and remain closeted with the feelings of shame, guilt, and fear.
LGBTQ teens in particular, struggle in coming out to their family, friends, classmates and teachers, especially those that are not accepting of the LGBTQ community. LGBTQ teens face fear, hatred, and prejudice in their schools, with friends, in the community, and at home daily. My teen LGBTQ clients often say they struggle with “fitting in” due to society’s standards and discrimination of LGBTQ. Our society tends to assume that everyone is heterosexual and that a relationship and/or marriage is defined as strictly between man and woman. This puts LGBTQ individuals in a position where they must continually decide in what situations and with whom they want to disclose their sexual orientation/identity.
Individuals who are thinking of coming out or are struggling with whether to come out or not are often thinking of the outcomes. Is it worth it to be out? How will it affect my life and my relationships if I come out? Will I be safe? These are some of the questions LGBTQ individuals ask themselves when thinking about coming out. Considering the possible results or outcomes of coming out can help clarify an individual’s decision of how, when, and to whom to come out to. Considering the benefits, risks, fears, and possible outcomes also assists in preparing the individual for possible reactions. It’s a complex choice to make but many individuals desire to come out in order to stop hiding and live openly, to feel and be “whole,” to feel safe and secure in who they are, or to make a statement that “gay is ok”. There are many pros and cons to coming out and the coming out process can instill in an individual the feelings of vulnerability, uncertainty, fear, pride, or relief.
Coming out is a unique process for everyone. It requires a lot of consideration and processing to understand and to be certain when is the best time to come out or if it is safe for you to come out or to remain “in the closet.” YOU are the only one who can decide when and how to come out. Maybe you come out to friends at school only and remain “in the closet” to your family. If you or someone you know is thinking of coming out be sure that you have support to help you through the process. Know that you are not alone and you do not have to go through this journey alone. As always there are many LGBTQ supportive communities, groups, and therapists in your communities that are willing to help you process coming out and processing what is best for you.
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