What is Coming Out?
It’s the process of sharing things about your identity with others and even sometimes yourself. Coming Out usually refers to sharing information about non-heteronormative aspects of your sexuality, gender identity and/or relationships.
How to Come Out
If you’re reading this article, chances are you have some self knowledge that you are ready to share with the world or maybe just a select few. If you are not ready to share and questioning things about your identity check back soon for our How do I know if I’m… article.
I encourage people to think about coming out as an ongoing process instead of a one time event. Even though it may feel like a big deal and likely the first few times are a big deal. You’re going to have to come out again as your life changes.
Coming out and being out is a privilege that not everyone has, this is the flipside of oppressive systems. There are important considerations when coming out like safety, audience, and boundaries. I wish that I could tell you that everyone in your life will be supportive and this isn’t always the case.
Safety means your physical, professional, and emotional wellbeing.
Consider the following questions and maybe write down the answers as you ponder..
Is this the right time in your life to come out? Will you be safe in the moment with person/people you are telling? After you tell them will you lose your job housing or food security?
Make a plan
Think carefully about who you want to tell and when. Then make a backup plan if things don’t go well.
What to say?
Well this depends on what you’re wanting to share and to whom.
You do not have to share everything with everyone. Your sexuality, identity, relationships, and areas covered by bathing suits are not everyone’s business. You do not have to be a spokesperson for the identities that you embody.
Practice in the mirror or with someone else you trust like a counselor or mentor and incorporate feedback as you go
As you are putting together the things you want to say…
- Consider who you are telling and how much information you want or need to share.
- If you’re coming out at work because you need access to the right bathroom and need people to use your name and Pronouns you probably don’t need to talk about other personal information. Same goes for coming out to family and friends.
- If you’re coming out because you need support for a medical procedure you will need to share some aspects of this with the right people at work. For example I would not choose to tell my coworkers about a specific procedure only that I needed medical care and would be out for the prescribed time. I did need my doctor to fill out forms so I could take time off without losing my job. That meant that the HR person at least knew the procedure I was having.
- However if you’re want to date someone and you’re planning to or wanting to be intimate you should share more.
For some reason that I still don’t fully understand, there are people who will ask questions about your personal life, body, and experience that’s really none of their business.
Know your boundaries ahead of time. Sometimes this can be difficult, so here are a few guidelines that I mentioned above.
- Don’t share more than you need to at first. Especially at work or school. Later if and when you develop closer relationships and trust you can share more if it makes sense.
- You are not responsible for educating others unless you want to. Careful this can become a slippery slope, you could end up oversharing.
What to do instead?
Have some resources you can give the person about these topics. Someone might genuinely need more knowledge. You can point them in a general direction. See our resources page.