Perhaps you’ve heard of coming out before – you come out when you first make something public that is new, unusual or sometimes even controversial. However, when it comes to sexual orientation, coming out has a special meaning – here it means a process in which one becomes aware of one’s own sexual orientation and also towards other people, for example in the family, towards parents or represents in the circle of friends.
Coming out – what is it about?
Coming out is an important process in the lives of many gays, lesbians and bisexuals. It usually consists of two sections: the inner awareness of one’s own sexual orientation and its communication to the outside world, towards other people, for example parents or friends.
When coming out internally, a person deals very strongly with his or her sexual orientation. At the end of this process, the person is aware of the gender or genders they are attracted to – emotionally, in partnership and / or sexually. With young people this usually happens between the ages of 14 and 17, but often the awareness of one’s own sexual orientation has already started years before.
When coming out externally, other people are informed about their sexual orientation. Some do not come out externally at all, others only come out in certain groups, for example with friends or in the family, and still others are very open about their sexual orientation. But that’s always a very personal decision! Other people can be a valuable support here, but they should not demand a coming out or even out someone against their will.
Come out as straight?
Everyone deals with their sexual orientation. At some point you feel who you find attractive and whether you are attracted to a certain gender. Discovering one’s own sexual feelings, becoming aware of one’s sexual orientation and finding one’s identity – this also applies to heterosexual people. And that too may not always be easy! Nevertheless, heterosexuals generally do not have a coming-out in the true sense of the word.
What will help me when I come out?
Coming out can take months or even years. And often this time is not easy. Probably every person who has lived through this remembers self-doubts and worries, hours of brooding about themselves and their own sexuality. But even these times are over!
When you’re coming out, it can help to learn from other young people who have gone through similar things. You will quickly see: You are not the only person who (also) feels attracted to your own gender! In addition, there is bound to be a counseling center in your area or perhaps even a youth group for gay, lesbian and bisexual young people. You will surely find support here.
Tips for coming out
Every coming-out is different. Still, there are a few tips that might help you come out yourself:
- Good experiences strengthen you. It’s best to first come out to someone who is sure to respond positively.
- Do you know how the other person thinks about gays, lesbians and bisexuals in general? Try to find out to better gauge his or her reaction to coming out.
- It may take a while for other people to understand and accept your coming out. Give them some time!
- Do you want to be in control of who finds out about your homosexual or bisexuality? Then only come out to people who are sure not to pass on your news.
- When coming out to the family, there should be enough time to talk. So choose the place and time consciously – ideally so that everyone involved can withdraw and think about everything in peace.
Unfortunately, sometimes you come across prejudices when you come out. Here it helps to be prepared and to know what is really true about such prejudices.
Why can coming out be so difficult?
It can be quite unsettling when you realize that you are (also) attracted to your own gender. From “father-mother-child” games in kindergarten to sex education – almost everything seems to be geared towards being heterosexual. The fact that someone (also) feels attracted to their own gender is unfortunately sometimes not even taken into account. And then unfortunately there are also a lot of prejudices and clichés around sexual orientations that persist. In addition, it is not always possible to estimate how other people will react to coming out. Often you then imagine the worst things in your fantasy – even if that doesn’t happen in reality.
But coming out isn’t just a difficult time! Dealing with yourself and your sexuality also has its exciting, liberating and pleasurable sides. Discovering them, accepting them for yourself and sharing them with other people can be a good experience and also give courage for the future. And even if you have doubts during this phase and are looking for support – try to be optimistic! Enjoy learning new things about yourself and other people! Looking back, you might even be very happy about this time!
In the period of time in which you come out, completely different things often take place – the first flirtations, the first great love and the famous first time often happen at the same time. And even if you may be worried about coming out – you shouldn’t push everything else into the background, neither the protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) nor the tension and the nice thing about gaining new experiences and gets to know his own sexual desires. No matter if you are outed or not – enjoy your love life! If you are at peace with yourself and can also be optimistic, it may even make your coming out easier for you.
Coming out from the parents’ point of view
When you confide in your parents or other loved ones, a process begins for them that is not so dissimilar to your own coming out. They too now need time to deal with the changed situation. And you can help them do this by showing them that you are willing to talk openly about your sexual orientation. But the same applies here: Your sexual orientation and your coming-out are first and foremost important to you! Only you determine what you want to do and how far you open yourself to others in this process. So don’t put yourself under unnecessary pressure!