What Is “Coming Out?”
“Coming out” or “coming out of the closet” is a process of accepting and being open about being lesbian, gay, or bisexual. The first step is coming out to ourselves. This happens as we recognize our sexual orientation and accept it. We may also tell family, friends and people in our community — sometimes right away, and sometimes later on. We might decide to be open with some people in our lives, but not with others. Coming out 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 everyone they meet is straight, coming out can be a constant process. Every time LGB people meet someone new, 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 freeing, empowering, and bring us closer to those we love, but it can also be stressful or even risky.
If you’re wondering whether or not to come out, there's 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. It's up to you to choose how, where, when and with whom 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, at an LGB club or group, 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 or permission. If you share information about someone's sexual orientation against their wishes, it can make them feel embarrassed, vulnerable and put them at risk for discrimination and even violence. If someone shares their orientation with you, ask them what they feel comfortable with you saying to other people and respect their wishes.