U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

Helpful Things to Consider When Coming Out

  • You are in charge: When you weigh the benefits and risks of being open about who you are, it’s important to remember that the person in charge of your coming out is you. Choosing to come out or to be open does not mean you have to be out at all times or in all places — you decide how, where, and when based on what’s right for you.
  • Know your audience: You can get a sense of how accepting people will be by the things they say — or don’t say — when LGBT-related issues come up. Try to bring them up yourself by talking about a LGBT-themed movie, TV character or news event. If a person’s reactions are positive, chances are he or she will be more accepting of what you have to tell them.
  • Be informed about LGBT issues: If you’ve done some reading on the subject, you’ll be prepared to answer questions and concerns with reliable and accurate information.
  • Prepare what you want to say: You may want to try writing out what you want to say, to help organize and express your thoughts clearly.
  • Find support: You don’t have to come out alone. Other LGBT people, LGBT hotlines, school counselors, social worker, therapist, or clergy member.
  • Timing is important: Be aware of the mood, priorities, stresses, and problems of those to whom you would like to come out. Be aware that if they’re dealing with their own major life concerns, they may not be able to respond constructively to yours.
  • Be patient: Some people will need time to deal with this new information. Be prepared to give them the time they need to adjust to what you’ve said.

That person in your life who opened up to you made a conscious choice to let you into their life — that is an act of trust.

Feeling uncertain doesn’t make you a bad person. It doesn’t mean you are homophobic or transphobic. It means you should take the time to work through your feelings so that you can support your friend, loved one or acquaintance without reservation. Asking questions you need to ask, learning the facts and making the effort to understand the realities of being a LGBT individual will help you to be truly informed and supportive.

  • Create social settings that bring together your straight and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender) friends and family.
  • Talk openly and honestly with your LGBT loved ones about their lives.
  • Find opportunities to talk openly with your straight friends about your LGBT friends and family and the issues that they face.
  • Make sure that you include the same-sex partner of your LGBT loved one in events and activities just as you would any other friend’s spouse or significant other.
  • Don’t allow anti-LGBT jokes or statements expressed in your presence to go unchallenged.
  • Quietly demonstrate your open support by displaying a  Human Rights Campaign (HRC) or  Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) bumper sticker, mug, pin, or poster, or similar items from other local or national organizations.

From birth, most of us are raised to think of ourselves as fitting into a certain mold. Our culture and our families teach us that we are “supposed” to be attracted to people of the opposite sex, and that boys and girls are supposed to look, act and feel certain ways. Few of us were told we might be attracted to someone of the same sex. That’s why so many of us are scared, worried or confused with facing truths about lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) issues. “Coming out” is the process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates his or her sexual orientation and begins to share that with others.

Admittedly, the transition to college can be difficult, and it can be even more complicated when facing issues concerning sexual orientation. However, the more comfortable you feel while at college, the more successful you will be and the more you will enjoy your college years. Fortunately, the University of Michigan Spectrum Center  has many resources in place to help support LGBT individuals that may be “coming out.”

“Coming Out”: What to Expect

Coming Out can be a scary, yet affirming and freeing experience. People come out at all different stages in their lives and for a multitude of reasons. They want their relationships to be stronger, richer, more fulfilling and authentic. Once they do come out, most find that it feels far better to be open and honest than to keep such an integral part of themselves secret.

Throughout the coming out process, it’s normal to feel:

  • scared
  • vulnerable
  • exhilarated
  • proud
  • brave
  • confused
  • empowered
  • relieved
  • uncertain
  • affirmed

Benefits of Coming Out:

  • Living an open and whole life.
  • Developing closer, more genuine relationships.
  • Building self-esteem
  • Reducing the stress of hiding one’s identity.
  • Connecting with others who are LGBT, and being part of a strong community.
  • Helping to dispel myths and stereotypes about who LGBT people are
  • Becoming a role model for others, and making it easier for other LGBT people.

But wait, there’s more! LGBT Issues and Other Cultures

Different cultures and religions deal with the issues of sexual orientation in different ways and may introduce additional stress on an individual whose ethnic or religious identity is of great importance to them.

Risks of Coming Out

  • Not everyone will be understanding or accepting.
  • Family, friends, or co-workers may be shocked, confused or even hostile.
  • Some relationships may permanently change.
  • We may experience harassment or discrimination.
  • Many people fear losing support from their families.

For more information regarding LGBT issues in other cultures, please click on the following links:

When to Get Help

If you or someone you know is dealing with sexual orientation issues, talking with a someone you can trust — a friend, a family member, a doctor, nurse, psychologist, social worker, or religious leader — can be quite helpful. As a University of Michigan student, you have free counseling services available to you at CAPS. Asking for help can be difficult and takes courage, but it can make all the difference.

You are not alone, we are here to help!

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