What Is “Coming Out?”
“Coming out” or “coming out of the closet” is a process of accepting and being LGB. The first step is coming out to ourselves. This happens as we recognize our orientation and accept it. We may also decide to tell others — sometimes right away, and sometimes later on. This decision is extremely personal, and different for everyone. But it can feel better to be open and honest about your sexual orientation than it does to hide it.
Coming out isn’t a one-time thing. Because many people assume that all people they meet are straight, coming out can be a constant process. Every time LGB people meet a new person, they have to decide if and when to come out. But choosing to come out doesn't mean you have to be out everywhere, all the time — part of the coming out process is choosing how, where, and when it's best for you to be out. And there's no right or wrong way to do it.
The coming-out process can be empowering and bring us closer to those we love, but it can also be stressful or even risky.
If you’re deciding whether or not to come out, there' a lot to think about. Consider all the risks and benefits. If coming out means that you risk losing emotional and financial support from your family, for example, you may want to wait until you can find a way to support yourself. You should also think about whether coming out could put you in any physical danger. But you're in charge of your coming out experience, and you get to choose how, where, when, and with whom you decide to be open about your sexual orientation. It may feel safer to start by being open with other people who are also LGB. This could be online, in community centers, or with a few close friends.
For a step-by-step resource about coming out, check out the HRC's Resource Guide to Coming Out.
Outing is the act of revealing someone else's sexual orientation without their consent. If you share information about someone's sexual orientation against their wishes, it can put them at risk for discrimination and even violence. If someone shares something with you privately, ask them what they feel comfortable with you saying to other people and respect their wishes.