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The Coming Out Process

Coming out means identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The first person you have to reveal this to is yourself. After that, you can deal with friends and family. For many people, the coming out process is difficult. But most people come out because, sooner or later, they can’t stand hiding who they are anymore. Once they’ve come out, most people acknowledge that it feels better to be open and honest than to conceal such an integral part of themselves.

Why might a GLBT person want to come out to friends/relatives?
  • End the “hiding game.”
  • Feel closer to those people.
  • Be able to be “whole” around them.
  • Stop wasting energy by hiding all the time.
  • Feel like they have integrity.
  • Make a statement that “gay is ok.”
How might a GLBT person feel about their coming out to someone?
  • Scared
  • Vulnerable
  • Relieved
  • Wondering how the person will react
  • Proud
What might a GLBT person be afraid of?
  • Rejection – loss of relationships
  • Gossip
  • Harassment/abuse
  • Being disowned by family
  • Being thrown out of house
  • Being, or having their lover, arrested
  • Loss of financial support
  • Losing their job
  • Physical violence
How might a person feel after someone who is GLBT comes out to them?
  • Scared
  • Shocked
  • Disbelieving
  • Uncomfortable
  • Not sure what to say
  • Not sure what to do next
  • Wondering why the person “came out”
  • Supportive
  • Flattered
  • Honored
  • Angry
  • Disgusted
What do you think a GLBT person wants from someone they come out to?
  • Acceptance
  • Support
  • Understanding
  • Comfort
  • Closer friendship
  • That knowing won’t negatively affect their friendship
  • Hug and a smile
  • An acknowledgment of their feelings

Excerpts taken from the National Human Rights Campaign website on Coming Out. For more information please go to their website at: http://www.hrc.org

Coming out as a Transgender Person

Just as many gay, lesbian, and bisexual people come out about their sexual orientations, some people examine, redefine, and acknowledge their gender identities, or how they understand their gender as a man, woman, or somewhere in between.

Some people say they have felt trapped in the wrong body for as long as they can remember and, at an early age, redefine their gender. Others don’t come out until middle age and still others don’t realize or aren’t able to be honest with themselves until they are seniors. Whenever or however a person comes out, it is important to remember that gender varies and many people don’t fit neatly into one narrow definition.

There are many different ways that transgender people identify themselves, including as a transsexual or simply as transgender. Transgender is an umbrella term that describes anyone expressing characteristics that don’t correspond with those traditionally ascribed to the person’s sex or presumed sex, as well as transsexual people and cross-dressers. It is not a sexual orientation. Unlike sex, which is biological and based on characteristics such as reproductive organs and chromosomes, gender is a social construct and can be displayed by appearance and behavior, including clothing, hairstyles, even the way a person walks. Society creates masculine and feminine gender roles that people are expected to follow. These roles are fairly set and most people notice when they are crossed.

Transsexuals were born male or female but identify psychologically as the other gender. Transsexuals go through a process called transitioning, where they change their appearance to match their gender identity, and typically they call themselves male-to-female (MTF) or female-to-male (FTM) to acknowledge this change. When transitioning, transsexuals often seek to change their sex both medically, through surgery and hormones, and legally, by changing their name and the sex on their birth certificate, driver’s license and other identity documents. All transgender people should be referred to using the pronouns with which they feel most comfortable.

Issues that face a transgender person:
  • Employment discrimination
  • Legal protection
  • Housing and public accommodations
  • Hate violence
  • Health care
  • Identity documents
  • Marriage
  • Parenting and schools

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