Coming out is the term used to explain the process in which you tell someone or a group of people about your sexuality, your gender or gender identity or explain that you are intersex. Coming out usually occurs more than once, sometimes daily, and it is an unique experience for everyone.
Whether you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, gender diverse, queer, non-binary, or are someone with a variation in sex characteristics, we often make daily decisions to come out or to friends, chosen family, colleagues, school staff, service providers, our parents or family members. We often make decisions where we are faced with feeling unsafe, feeling uncomfortable
Sometimes we are placed in positions where we need to come out before we are ready or regardless of how comfortable we feel. This may often occur in medical situations such as visiting a GP or a sexual health clinic.
People tend to come out differently in different situations. You might start a new job or volunteer position, come out to no one when you start and then slowly choose to come out to your new colleagues once you begin to know more about them and trust them.
Coming out can occur many times throughout your life
Coming out is a personal decision that may take time. You may choose to come out to certain people and not others, or you may choose not to come out at all. Coming out can lead to positive experiences and build stronger connections with friends, family and community. In certain situations, coming out can also have negative consequences, such as physical harm or isolation from family.
It is important to spend time reflecting on who you would feel comfortable to share with. Consider whether you feel safe, whether you can communicate what you’re needing from them, and listen to your instincts. It is important to remember that there is no timeline that you need to adhere to and there is no right or wrong way.
If you or someone you know is thinking about coming out, here are a few things to think about:
- Is it the right time for you?
- Can you talk to someone about it first?
- Do you have someone you trust to talk to?
- How comfortable are you answering questions?
Often when we come out to others, they will have questions, which can be personal. It is important to remember that this is your story and it is your right not to answer questions if you are not ready or if you don’t feel comfortable to talk about it.What will you do if things don’t go well?
Sometimes we choose to come out to others and don’t get the response we deserve. The person you choose to tell may not accept the information or may feel sad, confused or angry. Sometimes there is no reaction. For some of us, coming out may negatively change the relationships we have with partners, children, family or work friends in a way we did not anticipate.
Coming out can be both a positive experience, and a difficult or unsafe experience. Coming out is often a period in which intimate partner or family violence is most likely to occur or escalate. If this happens to you, consider talking to a trusted friend or contacting QLife of Switchboard to seek support.
It can be helpful to plan and role-play scenarios for dealing with potentially charged situations. Consider having a trusted person support you during the conversation and an exit strategy. It is important to know what your support systems are, including who is safe and supportive.
With Respect 11800 542 847) is available for support, advice and referral.
What do I do if someone comes out to me?
That person has chosen you to talk to. This shows they trust you and are comfortable sharing this information with you.
Your initial response is very important and may be meaningful to this person. You may wish to start by thanking them for sharing their story with you and offer to be there to support them if they would like to talk. Respect the person’s wishes if they do not choose to talk further with you or answer questions you may have.
Coming out can be a high-risk period for many people, especially if they face rejection or isolation from friends and family. At times of high risk and where things do not go well, you may need to seek professional support and advice for your friend.
In an emergency contact 000.
Coming out is your decision
If your partner or ex-partner is threatening to out you... that is not ok
If someone you are talking to online threatens to out you… that is not ok
If a work colleague threatens to out you at work... that is not ok
If anyone pressures you to come out before you are ready... that is not ok.
You deserve to feel safe and comfortable and it is your right to make decisions about when you come out and to whom.
Tell someone you trust if anyone is threatening you. We all need to respect the needs of others and recognise that not everyone is out in all the parts of their lives.