Why Come out? Benefits and Risks
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Coming out allows the person to develop as a whole individual, allows for greater empowerment, and makes it easier for an individual to develop a positive self-image. By coming out, the person is able to share with others who they are and what is important to them, rather than having to hide or lie about their identity. Coming out frees the person of the fear of being “found out” and helps them avoid living a double life, which can be extremely stressful and demoralizing. Finally, coming out makes it easier to connect with people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual, giving a sense of community. Outlining some of the benefits and risks of coming out is not meant to convince anyone to choose to come out or not come out in any given situation. Rather, thinking about some of the possible outcomes of such a choice can clarify an individual’s decision by helping them determine the appropriate time for coming out and preparing them for possible reactions.
Some Benefits of Coming Out
- Ability to live one’s life honestly.
- Building self-esteem by being honest about oneself.
- Developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family.
- Alleviating the stress of hiding one’s identity.
- Connecting with other people who are LGBTQ.
- Being part of a community with others with whom you have something in common.
- Helping to dispel myths and stereotypes by speaking about one’s own experience and educating others.
- Being a role model for others.
Some Risks of Coming Out
- Not everyone will be understanding or accepting.
- Family, friends, or coworkers may be shocked or confused, or even hostile.
- Some relationships may be permanently changed.
- An individual may experience harassment or discrimination.
(It is important to know that discrimination based on sexual orientation is still legal in the vast majority of the United States (not in New York State). In most cases, there is no legal protection for people who are lesbian, gay, or bisexual — they may be fired from their jobs, denied housing, or denied insurance.) Check out the HRC website (hrc.org) for information about laws in your state.
- One may be thrown out of their homes or lose financial support from their parents.