Coming Out Spectrum
What is Coming Out?
Coming out” refers to the process of disclosing one’s sexuality or gender identity to be known both privately and publicly, in part or in full.
Coming Out is a Continuum
Coming out is a life long journey. It is an experience that continues throughout one’s life. A person can never truly be “done” coming out. Everyday that you walk out the door, when you present yourself to someone new, or you’re meeting someone for the first time, you’re coming out all over again. The three main stages in the continuum are:
1. Opening Up To Yourself:
Your journey is beginning. You are asking questions. You have curiosities that are internal. You feel different and that there’s more to what and how you’re feeling.
2. Coming Out:
The act of sharing or telling another person your identity or sexual orientation in all or partial. You’re not required to come out to anyone or you can come out to just online friends or people who you want to know your identity/orientation.
3. Living Openly:
The stage in which you identify with and live out loud as a LGBTQIA+ person. You are able to express yourself in front of trusted people or to the public. You are able to tell people who you are.
Reclaiming Your Narrative
Remember, you are empowered to define who you live openly with and when you tell them! Coming out is a continuum, so you’ll find yourself in different places of your coming out journey at different times. There is no right or wrong.
Some are completely “out” 24/7, while others live out loud at work but remain in the closet at home. Others can be out at home but remain in the closet at school. You determine your comfort level and with whom you want to share these parts of yourself.
Coming Out is Ongoing! It is an ongoing process as you continue to come out to different people, different groups, and at different times in your life. There are different questions that people think about when they come out.
These include asking questions like:
- Is it safe if I come out to my parents/guardian?
- Will they accept me if I’m queer?
- Do I have a safe place to go after I come out?
- What if they don’t accept me?
- What if they kick me out?
- I’m tired of lying to myself and those around me.
Inviting In vs Coming Out
The idea of “inviting in” challenges the concept of “coming out.” “Inviting in” gives LGBTQIA+ individuals the power and choice to choose who they want to share their sexuality or gender identity with. This narrative removes the overwhelming connotations of “coming out” and supports the idea that sexuality and gender identity are yours to share if and when you’d like to.
When Someone Comes Out To You, What Should You Do?
So someone just came out to you, what do you do? Unsure how you feel about it? It takes a lot for someone to trust you enough to disclose a part of who they are. When someone comes out to you, it means you are important enough for them to share this information with. Remember, coming out is not about you.
1. Thank them for trusting you, acknowledge their risk, and compliment their courage.
2. Keep it confidentiality. It is not your story to disclose in private or public spaces. Keep their confidence and respect their privacy.
3. Show your support by being an ally. Acknowledge how you feel but also do not make this moment about you.
4. Avoid saying things like:
- Are you sure?
- How do you know if…
- It’s just a phase.
- You’re just confused.
- What did I do wrong..
5. Check in with them. Text or call them and ask how they’re doing and show them you care. If they’re showing signs of harming themselves, others, or displaying suicidal thoughts, make sure you reach out to a trusted adult right away. You may not need to reveal that they came out to you, but you can share that your friend might harm themselves.