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"Coming out" is the slang used to describe the act of a person who has decided to publicly acknowledge his or her homosexuality.

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Above: A picture of the banner that RiderFLAG painted for National Coming Out Day 2002! It was hung up in the student center. We discussed what we were going to paint, and painted it together at one of our weekly meetings!

Coming out is different for every person.  Remember - there is always someone you can talk to. There are many organizations that can help with your questions and concerns about being gay or coming out.

There are several stages in the process of coming out. It's your life so take your time - do things for you and only when you are ready.

Acknowledging that you are gay can take many years. Some of us probably hoped these feelings were "just a phase". In time, we realize that these feelings are not just a phase and we have to find a way of accepting them and dealing with the fact that we are sexually attracted to members of our own sex.

This realization is the first stage of coming out. There is no hard and fast rule when this point is reached. For some it happens in their teens, for others it may happen much later in life.

The next stage involves going public in some way, of "coming out of the closet". Who you tell next is really up to you. You may decide to tell your best friend or a member of your family.

Remember, once you have told someone about your sexuality it can become known to others within a short period. This is human nature and there is very little you can do to prevent this.

Many gay people describe how important it is to first tell someone outside the family. Make sure it's someone you trust and who you believe to be open minded and supportive

 

There is no rule that says you have to sit down and talk to others about this, there are other ways. You might like to write to them first and give them time to react in their own way. This is probably a better approach if, for example, you live a long way from your family or friends. Remember that you have probably taken a long time to get used to the idea yourself and others might need the same amount of time. Writing a letter allows you to take your time and to compose your thoughts carefully and clearly. It can also give the person you are writing to, space to react and consider the news before discussing it with you. This could be a useful approach if you are expecting a very hostile or negative reaction.

If you decide to talk face to face, remember not to rush it or to do it when one of you is in a hurry or distracted. It probably won't help to memorize a script either - you can guarantee that some people do not respond in a predictable manner. If you are worried about their reaction, tell them of your fears and that you don't want to hurt them but need to be honest with them. Remember to listen to what they have to say - it should be along the lines of a chat, not a speech!

When it comes to coming out, timing is an important consideration. Choose the moment carefully - do it when you (and they) have lots of time - not last thing at night when you are likely to be more tired and emotional.

Think about the way you are feeling, allowing for nerves, which are perfectly natural under the circumstances, don't do it if you are feeling angry or emotionally sensitive - this will affect what you say and how you say it. For obvious reasons don't do it when you are drunk (even if you think you need a drink to steady your nerves).

And remember - only when you are good and ready. A friend once said that he knew he was ready to tell his family only when he realized that, if he had to, he could live without their support. Fortunately for him (and his family) this didn't happen.

National Coming Out Day: October 11
Recommended Readings for more information dealing with coming out

All Families are Different. Sol Gordon, Prometheus Books.
Becoming Visible: A Reader in Gay & Lesbian History for High School & College Students. Kevin Jennings, ed.,
Alyson Publications.
Beyond Acceptance. Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marian J. Wirth and Arthur G. Wirth, St. Martin's Press.
Bi Any Other Name: Bisexual People Speak Out. Loraine Hutchins and Lani Kaahumanu, eds., Alyson Publications.
Bisexual Resource Guide. Robin Ochs, ed., Bisexual Resource Center.
Coming Out: An Act of Love. Rob Eichberg, Plume.
Coming Out to Parents: A Two-Way Survival Guide for Lesbians and Gay Men and Their Parents. Mary V. Borhek, Pilgrim Press.
Does Your Momma Know? An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories. Lisa C. Moore, ed., Redbone Press.
Free Your Mind: The Book for Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies. Ellen Bass and Kate Kaufman, HarperCollins.
The Greatest Taboo: Homosexuality in Black Communities. Delroy Constantine-Simms, ed., Alyson Publications.
Growing Up Gay/Growing Up Lesbian: A Literary Anthology. Bennett L. Singer, ed., New Press.
Lambda Gray: A Practical, Emotional and Spiritual Guide for Gays and Lesbians Who Are Growing Older. Jeanne Adleman, ed., Newcastle Publications.
Mom, Dad, I'm Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out. Ritch Savin-Williams, American Psychological Association.
Now That I'm Out, What Do I Do? Thoughts on Living Deliberately. Brian McNaught, St. Martin's Press.
Now That You Know: What Every Parent Should Know About Homosexuality. Betty Fairchild and Nancy Hayward, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Outing Yourself: How to Come Out As Lesbian or Gay to Your Family, Friends and Coworkers. Michelangelo Signorile, Fireside.
Passages of Pride: True Stories of Lesbian and Gay Teenagers. Kurt Chandler, Alyson Publications.
Trans Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue. Leslie Feinberg,
Beacon Press.
Transsexuals: Candid Answers to Private Questions. Gerald Ramsey, Crossing Press.
True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism: For Families, Friends, Coworkers and Helping Professionals. Mildred L. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley, Routledge Press.
Two Teenagers in Twenty: Writings by Gay and Lesbian Youth. Ann Heron, ed., Alyson Publications.
Understanding Sexual Identity: A Book for Gay and Lesbian Teens and Their Friends. Janice E. Rench, Lerner Publications.
The Uninvited Dilemma: A Question of Gender. Kim Elizabeth Stuart. Metamorphous Press.

 

Hotlines

The Trevor Hotline
1-800-850-8078

National Gay and Lesbian Youth Hotline
1-800-347-TEEN (8336)

Gay and Lesbian National Hotline
1-888-843-GLNH (4564)

National AIDS Hotline
1-800-342-AIDS (2437)
1-800-344-7432 (Spanish)
1-800-243-7889 (TTY)

All you need is love!