The ins and outs of coming out: Why it matters

Aisha Henry
Special to Colorado Community Media
Posted 6/12/19

Dear Ask A Therapist, What is “coming out,” and why is it important? Dear Reader, “Coming out” refers to the process in which individuals identifying as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, …

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The ins and outs of coming out: Why it matters

Posted

Dear Ask A Therapist,

What is “coming out,” and why is it important?

Dear Reader,

“Coming out” refers to the process in which individuals identifying as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) discover and accept their sexual orientation or gender identity, and they openly share that identity with others.

As you can imagine, this can often be an uncomfortable and deeply personal process. There is no right way to come out.

The process looks different for everyone.

Typically, the coming out process involves coming out to oneself first and later sharing that identity with others. Often, LGBT individuals come out throughout their lifetime. It is not a single event. For example, LGBT individuals frequently find themselves coming out at a new job, a school or while making new friends.

Unfortunately, many LGBT individuals must think about the possible outcomes concerning coming out. These outcomes can be positive, such as being part of a community, connecting to others, deepening relationships and building self-esteem.

Negative outcomes can transpire as well, such as harassment, discrimination, loss of support and strained relationships. Although “coming out” can present some risks, it can be an important aspect of living authentically.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBT youth who come out to their immediate families are more likely to report being happy than those who are not out.

If you are thinking about “coming out” or would like information regarding how to better support those who are coming out, please visit www.hrc.org for its Resource Guide to Coming Out. Other websites to visit on this topic include www.genderexpansionproject.org, www.genderspectrum.org; and Berkeley Gender Equity Resource Center at https://grad.berkeley.edu/tag/gender-equity/. 

Aisha Henry, MA, LPC, is an outpatient therapist with the Justice Accountability and Recovery Program at Community Reach Center.

Please submit your questions to Ask A Therapist at AskATherapist@CommunityReachCenter.org  This column is for educational purposes only, and opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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