Advocates for Youth - advocatesforyouth.org
Features a link on their website just for LGBT youth
AmbienteJoven - ambientejoven.org
A resource website for LGBT Latino/Latina youth
American Institute of Bisexuality - bisexual.org
Resource website for bisexual men and women
Bisexual Resource Center - biresource.net or 617-424-9595
Provides resources for bisexual men and women
Campus Pride - campuspride.net
Serves student leaders of LGBTQ and Ally campus organizations
Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) – glaad.org or 323-933-2240 or 212-629-3322
Gay and Lesbian Medical Association - glma.org
To find a physician referral
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender National Help Center National Hotline - glnh.org or 888-843-4564
or National Youth Talkline at 800-246-7743 or email questions to info@GLBTNationalHelpCenter.org
Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) - glsen.org or 212-727-0135
Works to combat harassment and discrimination against students and school personnel
Gender.Org - Gender Education & Advocacy - gender.org
Focuses on needs, issues and concerns of transgender people
Human Rights Campaign - hrc.org or 800-777-4723
Provides a voice on LGBT issues
National Association of People with AIDS - napwa.org or 866-846-9366
Advocates on behalf of all people with HIV or AIDS
National Center for Lesbian Rights - nclrights.org or 415-392-6257
Provides legal resources for lesbians and their families
National Consortium of Directors of LGBT Resources in Higher Education - lgbtcampus.org
OUT for Work - outforwork.org or 866-571-5428
Prepares LGBT college students to transition from college to the workforce
Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) - pflag.org or 202-467-8180
Resources for Questioning Youth - datehookup.com/contentresources
Resources for Questioning Youth- Gay, Lesbian, & Bisexual
Shout Out Health Blog - shoutouthealth.com
Blog for LGBT health information
Soulforce - soulforce.org
Brings together spirituality and LGBT activism
Standing Committee for LGBT Awareness (SCLGBTA) - myacpa.org
Part of the American College Personnel Association to eliminate oppression of the LGBT community
Stop The Hate! - campuspride.org/stop-the-hate
Campus Hate Crime Prevention Program
The Trevor Project - thetrevorproject.org or Helpline - 866-488-7386
Promotes acceptance of LGBTQ teenagers and aids in suicide prevention
Transgendered Network International (TGNI) - tgni.net
Provides a safe haven for all transgendered people
TransMan's Information Project - trans-man.org
Provides Female to Male resources
Transsexual Resources - annelawrence.com
Provides resources for transgendered people
Youth Resource - youthresource.com
Supports LGBT youth in their coming out process or you can call 202-419-3420
The Point Foundation: The National LGBT Scholarship Fund - pointfoundation.org
LGBT Scholarship Resources - hrc.org
Financial Aid for LGBT Students - finaid.org
College Scholarships for LGBT Students - collegescholarships.org
For lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, coming out is a process of understanding, accepting, and valuing one’s sexual orientation/identity. Coming out includes both exploring one’s identity and sharing that identity with others. It also involves coping with societal responses and attitudes toward LGBT people. LGBT individuals are forced to come to terms with what it means to be different in a society that tends to assume everyone to be heterosexual and that tends to judge differences from the norm in negative ways. The coming out process is very personal. This process happens in different ways and occurs at different ages for different people. Some people are aware of their sexual identity at an early age; others arrive at this awareness only after many years. Coming out is a continuing, sometimes lifelong, process. While some anxiety related to sexuality is common among college students, the problems facing LGBT people are often more difficult than those facing others. Because positive role models are often difficult to identify, LGBT people may feel alone and unsure of their own sexual identities. Fear of rejection is greater among LGBT people due to the prejudices in society against them.
Coming Out to Oneself
Recognizing your own sexual identity and working toward self-acceptance are the first steps in coming out. First, concerning sexual identity, it helps to think of a sexual orientation continuum that ranges from exclusive same sex attraction to exclusive opposite sex attraction. Exploring your sexual identity may include determining where you presently fit along that continuum.
Concerning self-acceptance, it can be very helpful to focus on the positive aspects of LGBT culture, for example, its music, art, theater, books, events, and groups. It is also very helpful to seek out positive, well adjusted and comfortable role models among LGBT people. Building on the positive does not mean that you pretend that our society is past its discrimination, fears, and negative myths concerning LGBT people, or that these things do not have any effects on LGBT people. However, these negative things are better understood as externally based rather than inherent to your identity or your orientation. Part of developing a positive sense of self is understanding that your own homophobia is also externally based, the product of societal prejudices and anti-LGBT biases that have impinged upon you for much of your life.
There are many things to think about when considering coming out. Some of the positive outcomes may be increased self-esteem, greater honesty in one’s life, and a sense of greater personal integrity. In addition, there is often a sense of relief and a reduction of tension when one stops trying to deny or hide such an important part of his/her life. Coming out can lead to greater freedom of self-expression, positive sense of self and more healthy and honest relationships.
One safe means of beginning to come out to yourself is through reading about how others have dealt with similar issues. There are many books and periodicals available on all facets of LGBT life, from clinical studies on LGBT people to collections of coming out stories.
Coming Out to Other Lesbians and Gay Men
Often, after spending some time getting in touch with one’s own feelings, the next step is to come out to others. It is usually advisable to come out first to those who are most likely to be supportive. LGBT people are a potential natural support system because they have all experienced at least some of the steps in the process of coming out. Sharing experiences about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender can help you decrease feelings of isolation and shame. Furthermore, coming out to other LGBT people can help you build a community of people who can then support and assist you in coming out to others in your life. Many LGBT communities offer a number of helpful resources, including local coming out groups, switchboards, social outlets, and political and cultural activities and organizations.
Coming out to other LGBT people does not need to happen quickly. Also, choosing to do so does not mean that you must conform to real or presumed expectations of the LGBT community. What is most important is that you seek your own path through the coming out process and that you attend to your unique, personal timetable. You should not allow yourself to be pressured into anything you are not ready for or don’t want to do. It is important to proceed at your own pace, being honest with yourself and taking time to discover who you really are.
Coming Out to Heterosexuals
Perhaps your most difficult step in coming out will be to reveal yourself to heterosexuals. It is at this step that you may feel most likely to encounter negative consequences. Thus it is particularly important to go into this part of the coming out process with open eyes. For example, it will help to understand that some heterosexuals will be shocked or confused initially, and that they may need some time to get used to the idea that you are LGBT. Also, it is possible that some heterosexual family members or friends may reject you initially. However, do not consider them as hopeless; many people come around in their own time.
Loss of employment or housing are also possibilities that some LGBT people face. In some places it is still legal to discriminate against LGBT individuals for housing, employment and other issues. You should take this into consideration when deciding to whom and where you “come out”.
Coming out to others is likely to be a more positive experience when you are more secure with your sexuality and less reliant on others for your positive self-concept. The necessary clarification of feelings is a process that usually takes place over time. It may be a good idea to work through that process before you take the actual steps. Usually it is not a good idea to come out on the spur of the moment. Make coming out an action, not a reaction.
In coming out to others, consider the following:
- Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully.
- Be aware of what the other person is going through. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else.
- Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday.
- Be prepared for an initially negative reaction from some people. Do not forget that it took time for you to come to terms with your sexuality, and that it is important to give others the time they need.
- Have friends lined up to talk with you later about what happened.
- Don’t give up hope if you don’t initially get the reaction you wanted. Due to inculcated societal prejudices mentioned earlier, some people need more time than others to come to terms with what they have heard.
Above all, be careful not to let your self-esteem depend entirely on the approval of others. If a person rejects you and refuses to try to work on acceptance, that’s not your fault. Keep in mind that this initial refusal may get reversed once the individual gets used to the idea that you are LGBT. If time does not seem to change the individual’s attitude toward you, then you may want to re-evaluate your relationship and its importance to you. Remember that you have the right to be who you are, you have the right to be out and open about all important aspects of your identity including your sexual orientation, and in no case is another person’s rejection evidence of your lack of worth or value.
The decision to come out is always personal. Whether to come out and, if so, when, where, how, and to whom are all questions you must answer for yourself. Taking control of this process includes being aware in advance of potential ramifications so that you can act positively rather than defensively. Coming out may be one of the most difficult tasks you confront in your life, but it can also be one of the most rewarding. Coming out is one way of affirming your dignity and the dignity of other LGBT people. Remember that you are not alone; there is a viable LGBT community waiting to be explored, and more heterosexual “allies” are willing to offer their support than you might have first imagined.
Need Additional Help?
Some suggested readings to help you throughout this process are:
- Now That You Know. Betty Fairchild & Robert Leighton. New York, NY. Harcourt Brace and Jovanovich, 1989.
- Beyond Acceptance. Carolyn Welch Griffin, Marina J. Wirth & Arthur G. Wirth. New York, NY. St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
- Straight Parents/Gay Children. Robert A. Bernstein. New York, NY. Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1995.
Information above obtained from the University of Illinois Counseling Center.