This month, you’ll be hearing more from us as we are introducing a new blog!
Our intern, Gavin Hannegan is an undergraduate student at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo supervised by Dr. Hannah Roberts. He’ll be sharing some weekly blog posts we think you might find helpful regarding queer identities (LGBTQIA+) and queer-affirming therapy, which is a special passion for us here at Thrive SLO. We’re so glad to have you join us for this conversation!
A Brief Guide to Coming Out
“We are not what other people say we are.We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love.That’s okay.”— Laverne Cox
One of many milestones for members of the LGBTQ+ community is coming out. Because we live in a world that assumes everyone is straight and cisgender, disclosing your queer or trans identity to others is an expected component to your identity development. While this process may be intimidating, coming out can also be relieving and empowering. Before anything else, be proud that you have reached a point where you are feeling ready to share your true identity with others.
Even if you’re ready to come out, you may be asking, “How do I come out?” Everyone experiences their identities in different ways, so there may not be a one-size-fits-all approach. However, here are 4 important factors to consider when deciding to come out.
#1: Consider the Context
It may be necessary to consider the who, where, and when of the coming out process. Unfortunately, some individuals may be less receptive to LGBTQ+ identities due to cultural, religious, or other personal reasons (Tamagawa 2017). Some countries even criminalize LGBTQ+ status. Although the U.S. is moving towards a greater acceptance of LGBTQ+ folk, younger cohorts of queer people are just as likely as older cohorts to have their identities invalidated by their parents (van Bergen et al., 2021). Even more concerning, the threat of violence affects how freely trans individuals express their identity (Brumbaugh-Johnson & Hull, 2018). While you deserve to present yourself authentically, recognize that your personal safety is also important. This is especially imperative for queer and trans youth under the age of 18.
#2: There Are Many Different Ways to Come Out
You can choose to sit down with a close friend or family member when you are coming out and come out to them in private. You can also leave a note or send a text if you want to avoid seeing others’ initial reactions. Coming out can be as grand as a PowerPoint presentation or as simple as a matter-of-fact statement. You can even come out indirectly through a meme or a video made by someone else. The “right” way to come out depends on what you are most comfortable with. Additionally, what you disclose is entirely up to you. If you need inspiration, check out the variety of coming out videos posted on YouTube. Many of these videos do a great job of framing coming out not simply as an announcement, but as the culmination of a personal journey towards self-love (Lovelock 2019).
#3: You Will Likely Have to Come Out More Than Once
Coming out is an ongoing process. In addition to friends and family, you might also have to come out to your boss, coworkers, medical care providers, and other people that you encounter regularly. For those who are disclosing their sexuality, the coming out process is much simpler, and can often amount to you referring to the name of your romantic partner, for example. However, there may be additional steps for those who are disclosing their gender identity. This may include asking others to refer to you using your preferred name and pronouns or updating your medical records. Trans individuals may even have to come out twice to the same person if they previously came out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc.
#4: You Are Not Alone
There are millions of LGBTQ+ individuals who have experienced the same concerns, fears, or excitement that coming out brings. There are also millions of straight and cisgender allies who are eager to support you in this process. Ask for help when you need it! Strong social networks, whether in your local community or online, can share advice, congratulate you each time you come out, and connect you to affirming organizations. You can also ask others to be in the room with you as you come out, or you can even ask others to come out for you. People that love you for who you are will allow you to love yourself for who you are. And remember that there is no rush to come out. Take as much time as you need to feel comfortable, safe, and proud.
We hope you enjoyed this blog post! Have more topics you’d like us to blog about? Contact us and we’ll be sure to include your topic in a future post!
Brumbaugh-Johnson, S. M. & Hull, K. E. (2018). Coming out as transgender: Navigating the social implications of a transgender identity. Journal of Homosexuality, 66(8), 1148-1177. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2018.1493253.
Lovelock, M. (2019). “My coming out story”: Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth identities on YouTube. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 22(1), 70-85. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877917720237.
Tamagawa, M. (2017). Coming out to parents in Japan: A sociocultural analysis of lived experiences. Sexuality & Culture, 22, 497-520. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12119-017-9481-3.
van Bergen, D. D., Wilson, B. D. M., Russell, S. T., Gordon, A. G., & Rothblum, E. D. (2021). Parental responses to coming out by lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, pansexual, or two-spirited people across three age cohorts. Journal of Marriage and Family, 83(4), 1116-1133. https://doi.org/10.1111/jomf.12731.