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‘Coming out’ is when someone tells someone else about their LGBT+ identity. Find out about telling someone your gender identity is different to the one you were assigned at birth.
‘Coming out’ is when someone tells someone else about their LGBT+ identity. In relation to sexuality, this means telling someone that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, or any other sexuality which isn’t straight. In relation to gender identity, this means telling someone your gender identity is different to the one you were assigned at birth. This process exists because we live in a society where most people assume everyone is straight and cisgender.
For some people, the gender they were assigned at birth based on their sex is the same as their gender identity. This is called being ‘cisgender’, or ‘cis’. You’ll find people referring to themselves and others as cis men, or cis women.
The word ‘straight’ (or ‘heterosexual’) describes someone who is only romantically or sexually attracted to people of a different gender to them, specifically a man who is only attracted to women or a woman who is only attracted to men.
Coming out is personal and different for everyone. For some people, it isn’t an issue at all. For others, it can be incredibly difficult. Some people decide not to ‘come out’ to anyone, ever. Others decide not to ‘come out’ to their family, and only do so with friends. Coming out is rarely a once-in-a-lifetime event, as many LGBT+ people may want or need to come out to each new person they meet, or may realise different aspects of their LGBT+ identity over time which they might then choose to tell people about.
Some people don’t face any problems when coming out but others do. It can be really difficult if the person you come out to responds negatively and won’t accept who you are.
What is being outed?
Being ‘outed’ by someone is when someone else shares your LGBT+ identity with others, without your consent. This is wrong; it is always up to you whether you share parts of your identity with others.
There are no rules and no normal ‘coming out’ experience; people need to do what is right for them. It is important you do not put pressure on yourself to come out. If you do decide to come out, allow yourself the time to feel comfortable, confident and trusting towards the person you are coming out to.
Coming out isn’t something you have to do alone. Accessing local LGBT+ support groups and being in contact with like-minded people can be really beneficial. This can build people’s confidence and help with talking to loved ones about how they feel.
A part of coming out could involve asking others to refer to you with different pronouns or call you a different name. Sometimes people can take a while to get used to this and it can feel invalidating. This can be another benefit of being in touch with like-minded people who understand.
If you wish to talk to a professional for support with coming out, we have professionals at Brook with expertise in gender identity and sexuality. Find your local Brook service.
Sadly, it’s not uncommon for LGBT+ people to experience prejudice and discrimination. However, many LGBT+ people will tell you that the most important thing is to feel comfortable with your identity and to live your life in the way that feels best to you.
Some helpful strategies for prioritising your safety and happiness include:
These are the people who have your best interests at heart, who support you to be who you want to be and who you can talk to and share problems with.
Any form of discrimination, harassment, bullying or name-calling is a hate crime and is illegal. The police have a duty to deal with this. Discrimination is also illegal so if you experience or witness it – in a shop, pub or even at work – report it.
Read more about your legal rights from Citizens Advice.
You are not the only person going through this and there is always support available. See our page of trusted organisations that you can go to for help, support and information.
Read more about coming out in this helpful guide by Stonewall.
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