The decision of whether or not to come out as an LGBTQ+ person is a very personal matter. Conversations surrounding gender identity and sexual orientation often centre around the popular notion of coming out.
Coming out is an Ongoing Process
People within and outside of these communities alike are often keen to ask questions such as: “are you out?” or “when did you come out?” It is habitually made to seem as if coming out is the end goal of one’s journey in relation to their gender and sexual identity. It unfortunately also ignores the reality that coming out is not just a one-time process, but very likely something that would need to happen over and over again over the course of one’s lifetime.
For some people, coming out is empowering and gives them the freedom to live life authentically according to whoever they are and whomever they love. Coming out is important for many people as they might consider this to be a milestone in terms of their realisation and acceptance of their own identity. Other reasons why people might wish to come out include: wanting to connect with like-minded people, wanting to introduce one’s partner to other people, or simply wanting to disclose this part of their identity. If coming out feels safe and right for you, then you might wish to consider doing so in whatever way you feel comfortable. However, it is also important to note that coming out should not be expected, and therefore you should not feel obliged to do so if you do not want to.
Current LGBTIQ+ views
Unfortunately, the reality is that being out as an openly queer person is not viewed favourably by everyone, and for some, coming out might not be a possibility at all. There has been significant improvement in many countries when it comes to legislation affecting LGBTIQ+ rights. With this being said, even in largely progressive societies, hate crimes and discrimination against people’s gender identity and sexual orientation continues to be a widespread problem on a daily basis. In other parts of the world and for people coming from more conservative backgrounds or cultures, coming out can mean being prosecuted or even killed.
There are many factors to consider when contemplating your decision of whether or not to come out. Are there people that you would feel safe disclosing your gender identity and/ or sexual orientation to? How do you think that they will respond? Would coming out negatively affect you in terms of your home, school or work life? You might also wish to consider which method you would want to use to come out – e.g. face-to-face conversation, video or voice calls, or social media posts – and the implications of these different methods. Another important consideration would be to allow the other person/ people some space and time to be able to process the information you would have told them. Even the most well-meaning and open-minded people might need some time to come to terms with your coming out.
Coming out is a very important, yet difficult decision to make. The validity of your gender identity and/ or sexual orientation does not depend on whether people know about this or not. The most important person to come out to is yourself, as it can feel liberating to not have to feel like you are hiding behind a secret identity from your own self. Last but not least, there is no right or wrong way of coming out, as it depends entirely on you and your unique situation.
If you think that you can benefit from professional support on this issue you can reach out here.
Pamela Borg is a counsellor who enjoys working therapeutically with adults experiencing various issues. These include general mental health and wellbeing, gender, sexuality, relationship issues.
Akpan, P. (2019). You don’t have to ‘come out’ if you’re LGBTQ+ – here’s why. Retrieved from: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/uk/love-sex/relationships/a28263183/not-coming-out/
Ferguson, S. (2019). 20 Things to Know Before You Come Out and How to Go About It. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-come-out
LGBT Foundation. (2017). Coming Out. Retrieved from: https://lgbt.foundation/comingout