Coming out is the process in which an individual a) accepts and identifies with their gender identity and/or sexual orientation and b) shares their identity willing with others. Coming out and living openly isn’t something you do once- it’s a journey that LGBTQ+ people make every single day of their lives. People may be "out" in some spaces and "in" in others. Every coming out experience is unique and must be navigated in the way most comfortable for the individual and a decision to disclose is one of safety, comfort, trust, and readiness. Whether it's for the first time ever or the first time today, coming out can be an arduous journey. It is also a brave decision to live openly and authentically.
When you're ready to tell that first person about your sexual or gender identity - or even those first few people- give yourself time to prepare. Think through your options and make a deliberate plan of who, what, why, and how. Remember that if you do not choose to come out now, or ever, your identity and experiences are still legitimate and valuable. You get to decide what is right for you.
Our partners at the Human Rights Campaign have developed numerous "Coming Out Guides" to help you with this process. We have these in print in the Pride Center or you may click the icons below to download a digital copy.
Someone who is coming out feels close enough to you and trusts you sufficiently to be honest and risk losing you as a friend or loved one. It can be difficult to know what to say and what to do to be supportive to someone who has “come out” to you. Below are some suggestions you may wish to follow.
1) Thank the person for having the courage to tell you. Choosing to tell you means they have a great deal of respect and trust for you.
2) Determine the expectations for level of confidentiality- Do other people know? Is this a secret?
3) Remember that their sexuality, gender identity, and expression are just a few dimensions of their person-hood.
4) Show interest and curiosity about what they are sharing with you, but don't pry or ask invasive questions.
5) Ask them how you can best support them (i.e. sharing resources, make connections, etc)
6) Check back in with them regularly to see how they are doing.