Learn the basics of Coming Out
Coming out is when an LGBTQ individual decides to share their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Coming out can be a very difficult process. It can be scary, stressful, and emotional for any LGBTQ person. The good news is, each LGBTQ person has the choice of who, when, and how they come out. There is no correct way to come out. Each individual is different and each person has their own pace.
Being public about being LGBTQ means subjecting yourself to judgment, responses, and attitudes about your identity. You may find yourself feeling isolated, shamed, and even scared. But coming out can be liberating and freeing. Additionally, people's attitudes about LGBTQ individuals have fortunately been shifting over the last decade.
LGBTQ Identity Development
Cass Identity Model is a theory that was developed in 1979 by Vivienne Cass and is meant to explain the process of LGBTQ identity development. Cass divided the process into 6 general stages, with each stage often in subsequential order. It should be noted that an individual does not need to go through these stages nor in these order. LGBTQ individuals may revisit these stages at different times in their lives, they may skip stages altogether. It does not mean their identity is less valid. This model is merely an overview of LGBTQ identity development. You may find yourself at some point in this stage. It may be beneficial to know what's to come. It's important that you know that you are normal, and not alone in your experiences.
This stage begins with a beginning with the initial awareness of LGBTQ thoughts, feelings, and/or attractions. Some individuals choose to accept these feelings, and some individuals will choose to denial, repress, and even reject these feelings, thoughts, and attractions. It is important that everyone understands that these thoughts and feelings are normal. An individual cannot change their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and repression can lead to issues later in life.
This stage begins with the acceptance of the possibility of being LGBTQ. In this stage, individuals examine the wider implications of having an LGBTQ identity. Individuals may face self-isolation, grief, and self-doubt. This stage is marked by an exploration of identities. Moreover, it includes recognizing with societies view on LGBTQ and the definition of their sexuality and gender identity. It is important that individuals understand that what they are going through is normal.
This stage is marked with the acknowledgment that they are likely LGBTQ and likely not alone. Often, this is the stage where LGBTQ people are most likely to start to engage with the LGBTQ culture and more likely to seek support.
This stage is marked by a positive view of their LGBTQ identity. Contact with the LGBTQ community and other LGBTQ individuals increases. This is when an individual is most likely to seek out social support, and it is critical that they be provided with positive social support.
This stage is marked by a sense of pride for an individual's LGBTQ identity. This stage is often when an LGBTQ individual will come out to close friends and family members, followed by an expression of one's LGBTQ identity in public. It should be noted that this does not mean a person needs to come out in this stage. Each LGBTQ person has the choice of who, when, and how they come out.
This stage is the final stage. It is marked with an integration of an individual's LGBTQ identity into one part of their whole sense of self. Individuals feel like they can be their whole selves in both public and private life.
While Cass designed the model focusing on sexuality, the same model is a good outline for how an individual's gender identity is formed. Individuals whose gender identity does not align with their sex assigned at birth go through similar identity development. For transgender individuals, transgender identity development includes the process of balancing an individual's identity with the physical, social, and emotional consequences of transitioning. Transitioning is a difficult, and scary process that is unique to transgender people.
There are a lot of things a person must consider when deciding to come out. Below are some common questions LGBTQ youth have about coming out
Is it safe to come out?
It is an unfortunate and tragic reality that some communities are still intolerant of LGBTQ individuals. Your safety is important and can be a serious consideration for who you come out to. If you ever feel unsafe in your community, reach out to your local LGBTQ support resources. You are not alone.
Who should I come out to first?
That is completely up to you! Some things to consider, choose someone you feel is very supportive and is most likely to be accepting. This can be a close friend or a family member. Also, consider also choosing a time and a place that is most safe for you.
What about negative reactions?
Hopefully, you will never run into a negative reaction about your LGBTQ identity, but unfortunately, it is somewhat commonplace to have at least a few negative people. Don't give up, and make sure to seek out those who support you.
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Last Reviewed: November 2023