Coming Out: Frequently Asked Questions
Coming out is the very personal process of making your identity, as a member of a sexual minority, visible in the world, to one degree or another. The coming out process is different for every person, occurring at different ages, life stages, and in different ways and settings (see also 10 Anti-Gay Myths Debunked). Some frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Coming Out GLBT/Gay include:
I have same-sex attraction. Am I Gay or queer?
Sexuality in on a continuum and only you get to define it. Coming out is part of a journey of identity formation, self understanding, and self-acceptance. The coming out process begins with coming out to oneself about who you are as a sexual being. This may be a frightening process, especially if your sexual orientation is socially condemned, or it may be an epiphany, liberation, or an affirmation of what has been apparent for a long time, or all of the above.
My friends are pressuring me to come out as Gay/GLBT. Do I have to come out?
No one should force or pressure you to come out until you are ready. Coming out means you are ready to cope with the social consequences of visibility and homophobia, such as possible rejection, loss of employment or housing, or even violence. You are the one who determines when, where, and to whom you should disclose your identity, and, foremost, only you get to define your sexuality and safety.
I am questioning my sexual orientation within a heterosexual marriage. What should I do?
Coming out in a marriage is difficult and frightening for both parties. It is important to proceed at your own pace, taking time to discover who you really are. It is also important to be honest with yourself , and, when you are ready, with your partner. Both you and your spouse may feel alone and insecure. There is grief and loss on both sides. Seek out positive role models, social support, and professional counseling to assist you and your partner in the process.
How do I come out to parents, at work, at church, or other social settings?
Queer-identified persons learn very early to compartmentalize their lives into separate zones of safety: being out in some arenas and closeted in others. We often choose to come out when the risks to our dignity and integrity outweigh the risks of disclosure. Be prepared for initial negative reactions from some people. Remember, it took time for you to come to terms with your sexuality, and its important to give others the time they need to deal with this revelation. Build confidence for yourself by first coming out to trusted individuals, and have a support system in place for you to debrief your coming out experiences. In many cases the coming out process is positive, with people saying that they knew all along and were waiting for you to disclose. If the reaction is negative, remind the other person that you are the same individual you’ve always been, and provide them with resources, such as PFLAG or books on the subject, to support them on their journey of acceptance and understanding. Remember, disapproval or rejection is no evidence of your lack of worth or value.
When is the best time to come out Gay or Lesbian to a child(ren)?
If you are a gay parent or family member, it is generally best to come out to a child sooner than later, when the child is still young. This is because younger children have not been as exposed to the negative cultural messages about sexuality and sexual orientation, and are more open and accepting of sexual variance than teens or young adults, for whom homophobia is a constant interpersonal dynamic at school and peer groups. When you are ready to come out to a child, teen, or young adult, be sure to do it in person, get support from other relatives, and give age appropriate information. Answer their questions honestly, without getting involved in discussing sexual behavior. If they have difficulty with this information, give them time and understanding. Tell them you will always be available to answer their questions and anxieties.
Many adolescent boys will be concerned about how their peers will respond if they found out, fearing ostracism or bullying, and/or that your coming out somehow defines their own sexual identity. Assure them that they will determine both the management of this new information and their sexuality and attractions.
Why am I still challenged about coming out after being out for so long?
Coming out is a lifelong, continuous process. As more security is established, we come out to more and more people and in more aspects of our lives. This integration process allows us to become less reliant on others for our positive self-concept and increasingly to have more positive relationships with ourselves and others. It does not however take away from the reality that homosexuality is still seen as transgressive in many areas of society, and a judicious awareness of our safety continues to be important for our self-protection.
I’m afraid of being “outed” by someone who knows I’m Gay or Lesbian. What do I do?
Coming out is risky as long as it continues to have negative consequences in your life. You can’t always control the information of your sexuality once others know. Its not your fault that others can’t accept who you are. Be careful not to let your self-esteem depend on the approval of others. In more extreme situations, others may even threaten to “out” you as a form of coercion or control. If that happens, seek support from trusted others. You may want to re-evaluate such wounding relationships and their importance in your life. Remember, you have the right to be who you are and honest about all of your identity, including your sexual orientation.
Why should I risk coming out? What are the positive outcomes?
There are many important things to consider when coming out, including some of the positive outcomes:
enhanced self-esteem and confidence
greater honesty and integrity about who you are
reduction of anxiety and fear
greater freedom of self-expression and creativity
positive self -concept and dignity
healthy and honest relationships
being open to a supportive community
integrating sexuality with other aspects of identity
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