Coming out is the short hand for “Coming out of the closet” which itself is a metaphor for revealing to oneself or to other’s ones gender identity and/or sexuality. It can be a process of understanding and accepting a person’s own identity or it can be allowing others to know this aspect as well. Coming out can be exploring ones own identity and sharing that with others.
Coming out can look very different to different people because it can be a deeply personal experience and it can change over time for individuals. There is no one correct way of defining Coming Out because each individual is allowed to define it for themselves. In this section we hope to provide some helpful information.
Lesbian - A female identified person who is romantically or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
Gay - A male identified person who is romantically or sexually attracted to someone of the same gender.
Bisexual - An individual who can be romantically or physically attracted to more than one gender.
Transgender - An individual whose gender identity differs from the sex assigned to them at birth.
Queer - A term used often as a catch-all for gender and sexual minorities who are either not cisgender, not straight or both.
Questioning - An individual who may be trying to understand or have questions on their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Intersex - An individual born with a combination of male and female biological traits.
Asexual - An individual who has little or no sexual and/or romantic attractions.
+ (Plus) - For the ever expanding definitions around gender and sexual identities.
There are many different forms of abbreviations used within our ever growing and evolving community.
Throughout the community you may see many different forms of abbreviations such as: GLBT, LGBT, LGBTQQ, LGBTQ+, LGBT2S, 2SLGBTQ, LGBTQIA+
While our name is the LGBT National Help Center, our services and support are for the entire LGBTQIA+ community, and you will see that abbreviation throughout this website. We strive to provide support to everyone in our community.
The LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline, a program of the LGBT National Help Center, provides free and confidential support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and those with questions about sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Through our national, toll-free hotline as well as through our Online Peer Support Chat program, which allows private, one-to-one instant messaging (IM) we provide support offered by our trained peer volunteers. We also operate a number of moderated chatrooms for LGBTQIA+ youth. We provide peer support for people who are considering coming out or have come out and need to talk through their concerns. We will never tell someone that they must come out, but will provide them the respect, affirmation, and acceptance they deserve. Additionally we offer local resources for cities and towns across the country that may aid in a caller's coming out journey.
All of our peer support volunteers identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.
We will not contact any authorities or other services or programs on your behalf.
Understanding your sexual orientation is really about understanding your long-term feelings and attractions. It has nothing to do with whether you have acted on those feelings or not. Just about all mainstream mental health organizations now believe that someone’s sexual orientation, regardless of whether they are gay, lesbian, straight, or bisexual, is something that forms in each person either before we are born, or within the very first few years of each person’s life. Way before we are making conscious decisions about anything.
So people don’t choose to be gay, lesbian, or bisexual, just like people don’t choose to be straight. Being gay, lesbian, or bisexual may not be as common as being straight, but it is just as normal. While not everyone falls perfectly under the labels of “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual”, generally someone who is attracted in a physical and/or romantic way to only people of the same-sex might consider themselves to be gay or lesbian. People who are only attracted to people of the opposite-sex might consider themselves to be straight, and someone who has some level of attraction to multiple genders (examples: male, female) or to people who don’t identify as male or female or a mix of more than one gender (example non-binary or gender expansive) might consider themselves to be bisexual or pansexual.
The term transgender (or trans for short) is used for a person who knows that the gender that they feel on the inside of their body does not match the way they appear to be on the outside of their body.
Being transgender is a gender identity, not a sexual identity, like being gay, lesbian, or bisexuality is. A person who is transgender can also happen to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight.
A person’s gender is not defined by the outside appearance of their body. Some people choose to change their appearance and some do not, neither is better or worse or no less valid.
Some people make decisions to make changes to their appearance in different ways. Some people make those changes through the clothing that they wear or how they style their hair, others will work with a knowledgeable doctor for hormone treatment, and a relative few will have some form (or several forms) of gender confirmation surgery. The term “transitioning” can apply to the period of time, when people are making these changes.
Pronouns are words that a person use to identify themselves. An example is he/him/his, she/her/hers, they/them/their.
Pronouns such as he/him/his are often seen as masculine pronouns and she/her/hers are often seen as feminine.
A person who identifies as male, either cisgender or transgender might use the pronouns he/him/his.
A person who identifies as female, either cisgender or transgender might use the pronouns she/her/hers.
There is also a common gender neutral pronouns that can be used when a person’s gender identity is not known, they/them/theirs.
Example: “Someone lost their wallet, they left it on their chair."
They/them/their can also be used by a person who is nonbinary, gender nonconforming or doesn’t identify with one gender.
There are also other gender neutral pronouns (sometimes called Neopronouns) when referring to a particular person. Besides they/them/their there are also many others, some of the. most common are, xe. ze, fae, and ey. There are more, but these are just a few of the most common. Below is a table of some of the most common pronouns.
xe/xem/xyr - pronounced “zee/zem/zeer”
an example sentence would be, "xe is over there reading xyr book."
ze/hir/hirs - pronounced “zee/heer/heers”
an example sentence would be, "ze is over there reading hir book."
fae/faer/faers - pronounced “fay/fair/fairs”
an example sentence would be, "fae is over there reading faer book."
ey/em/eir - pronounced “ay/em/heir”
an example sentence would be, "ey are over there reading eir book."
Here are a few short videos on examples on how to use pronouns such as they/them and ze/zir.
It’s also important to remember that many people may be coming from a background unfamiliar to pronouns beyond he and she. It can take time for a person to understand or integrate other pronouns into their vocabulary. If you make a mistake on someone's pronoun, recognize it, apologize if needed, and try to move forward.
If someone uses the wrong pronoun for you, you have the right to let them know they’re using the wrong pronoun if you feel safe to do so. It’s also important to remember if a person uses the wrong pronoun when referring to you, their incorrect action does not reflect on who you are or your identity. It can hurt and you can acknowledge that, but ultimately no one else can define you or your identity but you.
No. You should never “have” to do something regarding coming out or not. It is an extremely personal choice. Some people find that they want to be able to come out to those people in their life who have earned the right to know that. Other people feel there are other people who it might not be safe to come out to, either now or ever. We are here for you to discuss this big issue, and help you start to become comfortable with your decision, whatever it might be.
Some of the positive things about coming out are not feeling like you are keeping secrets and living your life in an open and honest way. For many people, that can feel like a huge weight has been lifted off of their shoulders.
But for other people, coming out can become a question of safety. And safety can mean either emotional or physical safety. Often times, if someone is living in an environment where people are not supportive of LGBTQ people, then they can think about coming out as two decisions.
The first is do you want to? And the second is, When? Often times, someone may choose that they do want to come out, but they would rather wait until they have more independence and can better deal with any negative consequences, if there are any.
Timing can be important in coming out. It is also important to remember that coming out doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing decision. You can choose who you want to come out to and when.
Often times, people think about everyone they know, and start off by choosing the one person who is most likely to give them the support that they deserve. That might be a friend or relative.
Keep in mind that the people you come out should have earned the right to know that about you. If instead, they have always made negative comments about our community, you may feel that haven’t earned that right, and you might choose not to share that information with them. These decisions are totally up to you, and there is no ”right” or “wrong” decision.
et’s start with this part first: You are never too old to come out. Sometimes we think because of the way the media portrays things, that everyone is crystal clear about their sexuality or gender identity/expression by the time they are in their teens. That is not the case for everyone. It can take until a different time in someone’s life until they have put the pieces of the puzzle together, and decide they want to come out to some people in their lives.
And it’s never too early to have an understanding of who you are. If you are wondering about yourself, it is okay to take some time to think about it, and become comfortable with your feelings and attractions.
Please see the question above (When should I come out? for more information about this.)
Absolutely nothing. Not everyone comes out at the same time. In fact, if you feel that all of your friends have come out, it can be helpful that you only know of the ones who have come out. But you may also have friends who haven’t come out, so you don’t know about those. You are the one who gets to choose if you want to come out, and when.
No, you are not lying. Nobody automatically has the right to know about your sexuality and/or gender identity.
Sometimes people don’t come out at a particular moment because it simply isn’t safe for them. Or because people in their lives haven’t earned the right to know that about them.
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to coming out, because each person's experience is going to be different.
But if you're looking for steps, the first step is always coming out to yourself. And giving yourself time to get comfortable with that understanding about yourself. You can call us to talk about it, as that’s a really big topic.
Once someone is comfortable with themselves, they can think about everyone they know, and start off by choosing the one person who is most likely to give you the support that you deserve. That might be a friend or relative. You can see how that goes. And then you can decide if there is anyone else you want to talk to. It isn’t an all-or-nothing approach. Take it one step at a time, and one person at a time.
We don’t have the power to control other people. While we deserve to have other people be respectful and supportive, we can’t make that happen. They are ultimately responsible for stepping-up, and doing the right thing. But that may not happen right away, or maybe at all.
So the most important thing is to think about what is within your control, and that’s YOU. Knowing that your feelings are normal and there is nothing wrong with them is a way to help you deal with people who don’t come thru for you. And of course, we can start to add new people into our lives who are supportive. We can help you find ways to do that too.
First off, good for you that your child feels safe and comfortable enough with you that they chose to share this important information with you! We also realize that it can be surprising news for a parent sometimes. The most important thing to do is keep those lines of communication open. Letting your child know that you are proud of them for wanting to talk, and that you are there for them is incredibly important.
We know that just about all mainstream experts in human sexuality know that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is something that develops either before someone is born, or within the very first few years of a person’s life. So someone doesn’t choose to be gay, for instance, just like someone doesn’t choose to be straight. You just are what you are, and both are normal. It may take until a different age for each child to put the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves to come to an understanding about themselves and decide to share that with you. But it doesn’t mean they suddenly became LGBTQIA+, it just means that they are ready to share it with someone they love.
We know that LGBTQIA+ kids have the best outcome when they have a “safe place” they can talk. And if you are going to be the person to provide that, then that’s wonderful. When kids don’t feel safe at school or at home, it can be very tough.
So here’s a couple of pointers. Instead of saying “so when did you decide to be bisexual (for example)”, you might ask, “so when did you come to understand that you are bisexual”. It’s an important distinction, because again, nobody chooses their sexuality.
Also, instead of thinking that your teenager might be going through a “phase”, keep in mind that if they have had these feelings for a number of years, that isn’t a phase, that’s just what is real for them. And you can ask them how long they’ve known this about themselves.
And finally, remember that just because someone hasn’t acted physically on their attractions, it doesn’t mean their sexuality isn’t real. For instance, nobody would say to a 100% straight 16 year-old boy who hasn’t had sex yet, that maybe he really aren’t straight because he hasn't been with a girl yet. People would accept that he is straight, he just haven’t had sex. And the same is true with any other sexuality or gender identity.
Ask them. It’s okay that you aren’t an expert on this. And labels change a lot. So simply asking them what they mean by that term, can help you understand. By allowing them to define the terms they use for themselves can give them the space educate you on what the term means for them personally.
No. Nobody has the power to “change” someone’s sexuality or gender identity. We know that just about all mainstream experts in human sexuality know that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity/expression is something that develops either before someone is born, or within the very first few years of a person’s life. So someone doesn’t choose to be gay, for instance, just like someone doesn’t choose to be straight. You just are what you are, and both are normal. It may take until a different age for each child to put the pieces of the puzzle together for themselves to come to an understanding about themselves and decide to share that with you. But it doesn’t mean they suddenly became LGBTQIA+, it just means that they are ready to share it with someone they love.
So if something bad happened in your child’s life, that didn’t turn them into something other than straight. They would have been who they are regardless. It’s not that everyone starts out straight, and something bad has to happen to change that.
No. All you can do by trying that is to stop your child from trusting you as a safe person to talk with. Regardless of your own personal feelings about the LGBTQIA+ community, your child is who they are.
You can decide to support them, and have an open and loving relationship with them, or you can choose to reject who they are, and not be the safe person that your child needs.
Having someone come out to you, tells you that you are someone your friend trusts. That’s a big deal. And what they really need is simply your friendship, love and support. And that goes a huge way! Letting your friend know that you are a safe person they can share their feelings with is incredibly important, because they might not be able to find that anywhere else. So keep being a good friend, that’s why they told you in the first place.