Queer Peer Services (QPS)

Coming Out

For information on homosexuality and coming out in Spanish click here Para informacion sobre la homosexualidad y como salir del closet, toque aqui

¿Cómo sabe uno?

No existe una sola forma en la que las personas se dan cuenta de que se sienten atraídas por el mismo sexo. Algunas siempre lo han sabido. Algunas se dan cuenta durante la pubertad. Algunas lo descubren en la universidad. Algunas sólo se dan cuenta después de que se casan con alguien del sex opuesto. Pero lo que sí sucede cuando estos sentimientos se hacen presentes es que casi todos se preguntan: ¿Cómo sé yo si verdaderamente soy gay, lesbiana o bisexual?

Por otra parte, es muy sencillo saberlo: si tus emociones y atracción sexual son más fuertes hacia las personansa del mismo sexo, eres lesbiana o gay. Si estas emociones y straciones son igualmente fuertes hacia las personas del mismo sexo que con las personas sel sexo opuesto, eres bisexual.

Por otro lado, la orientación sexual es confusa porque la mayoría de nosotros crecimos pensando que eramos heterosexuales. Nuestros padres, maestros y nuestra cultura nos enseñaron que algún día, conoceríamos a alguien del sexo opuesto y nos casaríamos. Nadie nos dijo nunca que pudiéramos enamorarmos de alguien del mismo sexo. Es por ello que nos sorprende enormemente cuando esto sucede.

A menos que hubiese alguien gay en tu familia, nunca habrías considerado la posibilidad que tú mismo fueras gay o lesbiana. Peor aún, probablemente hayas escuchado muchos estereotipos negativos sobre el ser gay o lesbiana – pero la mayoría de éstos se basan en información errónea e inadecuada; lo que necesitas son hechos.


Homosexualidad: Los hechos:

Nadie sabe cuántas personas gays, lesbianas o bisexuales hay. Las mejores estimaciones que tenemos actualmente indican que entre el 3 y 6 por ciento de la población es gay. Sin embargo, aún los estimados más respetables están empañados por el hecho de que muchas personas tienen miedo o no quieren identificarse como gay o lesbiana, aún en encuestas anónimas. Es por eso que el verdadero número es probablemente más alto. Pero cualquiera que sea el número, los hechos son los mismos:

  • Uno no escoge a la homosexualidad; la homosexualidad lo escoge a uno
    Algunas personas dicen que uno escoge la homosexualidad para tratar se quitarte la idea de que te involucres en una relación de gays o lesbianas. Pero piensa en esto un minuto: ¿Escogiste tú el tener atracción por el mismo sexo? ¿Qué razón tendrías? El hecho es: La homosexualidad no se escoge como tampoco se escoge el ser zurdo o tener los ojos azules o el ser heterosexual. Es una orientación, que forma parte de tí. La preferencia está en la libertad de decidir cómo vas a vivir tu vida.
  • Las personas gay son mentalmente sanas
    En los años setenta, la Asociación de Psicólogos y la Asociación de Psiquiatras de los Estados Unidos revisaron sus posiciones con respecto a la homosexualidad. Ambas organizaciones determinaron que la homosexualidad no es una enfermedad mental. Sin embargo, quizás algunas personas puedan tratar de decirte que estás enfermo y que necesitas ayuda profesional para “cambiar”. No hay evidencia científicamente válida de que la gente puede cambiar su orientación sexual, aunque hay personas que la reprime. Y ya que el ser gay no es ninguna enfermedad, no hay ninguna razón por la que quieras tratar de cambiar.Pero sí es correcto el buscar ayuda para poder lidiar con los sentimientos confusos que puedas tener sobre tu orientación sexual. El salir del clóset es una decisión muy importante en la vida y de la misma manera que para lograr cualquier meta personal, quizás necesites buscar ayuda profesional durante el proceso. Recuerda: la ansiedadque estás sintiendo es probablemente el resultado de un prejuicio familiar o social en contra de la homosexualidad, no la causa la propia homosexualidad.
  • El ser gay o lesbiana es algo natural
    Probablemente has escuchado a la gente decir que los hombres han sido “hechos” para las mujeres, y que las mujeres para los hombres, que ser gay o lesbiana va en contra de la naturaleza y la moralidad. Pero si la homosexualidadfuera algo antinatural, ¿por qué entonces ocurre, generación tras generación, a pesar de las fuertes prohibiciones sociales? El hecho es gue el amor entre las personas del mismo sexo haocurrido a todo lo largo de la historia, en cada nación y cultura que hay sobre la tierra. Es una variación natural entre los seres humanos, y si ves bien a tu alrededor, también probablemente descubrirás que ha sucedido en algún momento en la historia de tu propia familia. Cuando la gente dice que la homosexualidad es antinatural, lo que quieren decir es que está en contra de sus ideas preconcebidas de lo que es natural.
  • Ser gay o lesbiana no es un “estilo de vida,” es una VIDA
    A veses se dice que las personas gays y lesbianas viven un “estilo de vidad” gay, palabras escogidas para no darnos la importancia que merecemos y para implicar que todos los gays y lesbianas se suscriben a los mismos valores, características y metas. El hecho es que nosotros no somos todos iguales, de la misma manera que los heterosexuales no lo son. Algunos de nosotros tenemos una relación que dura toda la vida, algunos tenemos muchas. Algunos usan ropa que los distingue, algunos no. Algunos son liberales, algunos son conservadores. Algunos tienen dinero, otros son pobres. La única cosa que todos tenemos en común es que amamos a personas del mismo sexo.
  • Los Gays y las lesbianas también forman familias
    Algunas personas hablan como si hubieran dos opciones en la vida: Te puedes casar con alguien del sexo opuesto y formar una familia o puedes ser gay o lesbiana y estar excluido de la definición de familia. Esto es visiblemente algo que no es cierto y es una posición perpetuada por los extremistas políticos religiosos quienes mantienen una postura de hacer ver a la gente gay como que están fuera de la corriente. El hecho es que las parejas gay (femeninas o masculinas) son tan familia como lo son las parejas heterosexuales.Y si sueñas con tener hijos, los puedes tener si eres gay o lesbiana. Muchas parejas gays tienen hijos a través de adopción, inseminación artificial o relaciones anteriores. Además, las evidencias cientificas hasta la fecha demuestran que los hijos de las parejas gays tienen la lisla probabilidad de crecer felices y bien ajustados como los hijos de las relaciones heterosexuales.
  • Algunas de las personas con mayor talento son o fueron gays o lesbianas
    Si alguien sugiriera alguna vez que tu vida no añadirá nada significativo si ere gay, recuérdales que platón era amante de los mbres. Y también lo fueron miguel Ángel y leonardo da Vinci. Bayard Rustin, líder del movimiento de derechos civiles de los negros, era gay. También lo fueron Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Marcel Proust y james Baldwin. Shakespeare escribió acerca del amor de un hombre hacia otro hombre. La peotisa Emily Dickinson escribió sobre su amor por una mujer.Más recientemente, las musicólogos k.d. lang y Melissa Etheridge, y las actrices ellen DeGeneres y Amanda Bearse has salido del clóset como lesbianas; y los actores Wilson Cruz y Mitchell Anderson, el productor de grabaciones David Geffen, el nadador olímpico Greg Louganis y el patinador olímpico Rudy Galindo, y el congresista de EEUU Barney Frank han salido del clóset como gays.

Coming out: Salir del clóset

Salir del clóset significa el identificarte a tí mismo como gay, lesbiana o bisexual. A la primera persona-y la más difícil-a la que tienes que revelar esto es a tí mismo. Luego puedes lidiar con tus amigos y la familia. El proceso de salir del clóset es muy difícil para mucha gente. Pero la mayoría de la gente sale del clóset porque, tarde o temprano, no pueden soportar más el tener que estar escondiéndose. Una vez que salen del clóset, la mayoría de la gente tiene que admitir: es mucho mejor elser abiertos y honestos que el estar mintiendo y escondiéndose.

Salir de tu propio clóset

El salir de tu propio clóset quiere decir reconocer y aceptar que prinipalmente te sientes atraído hacia personas del mismo sexo. Pero, ¿cómo pasas del mero reconocimiento a la aceptación? Ayuda mucho el hablar con alguien. Pero ¿con quién? ¿Y qué deberías decir?

Revelárselo a los demás

Algunas personas salen del clóset cuando alguien les pregunta si son gays o lesbianas. Otros hacen sus afirmaciones llamando a las personas aparte y les dicen: “Hay algo que tengo que decirte.”

Si escoges la última opción, pregúntate: :” ¿Quién es la persona de mente más abierta y más quierida que yo conozco que también es la que menor probabilidad tiene de horrorizarme, sentirse amenazada o molestarse? Quizás sea un amigo, un pariente o un profesor o maestro. Dile a esa persona que tú tienes dudas acerca de tu orientación sexual o que estás tratando de entender y aceptar tu orientación sexual, y que te gustaría hablar con ella. Dile que has acudido a él/ella porque confiás en esa persona.

Source: the human rights campaign’s national coming out day guide

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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.

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.

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.

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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.

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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:

  1. Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully.
  2. Be aware of what the other person is going through. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else.
  3. Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday.
  4. 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.
  5. Have friends lined up to talk with you later about what happened.
  6. 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 no 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 reevaluate 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.

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Coming Out to Parents

Questions and Responses to Those Considering Coming Out to Their Parents

1. Are you sure about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

Don’t raise the issue unless you’re able to respond with confidence to the question “Are you sure?” Confusion on your part will increase your parents’ confusion and decrease their confidence in your conclusions.

2. Are you comfortable with your sexual orientation and/or gender identity?

If you’re wrestling with guilt and periods of depression, you’ll be better off waiting to tell your parents. Coming out to them may require tremendous energy on your part; it will require a reserve of positive self-image.

3. Do you have support?

In the event that your parents’ reaction devastates you, there should be some one or a group that you can confidently turn to for emotional support and strength. Maintaining your sense of self-worth is critical.

4. Are you knowledgeable about homosexuality and gender issues?

Your parents will probably respond based on a lifetime of information from a homophobic society. If you’ve done some serious reading on the subject, you’ll be able to assist them by sharing reliable information and research.

5. What’s the emotional climate at home?

If you have the choice of when to tell, consider the timing. Choose a time when they’re not dealing with such matters as the death of a close friend, pending surgery, or the loss of a job.

6. Can you be patient?

Your parents will require time to deal with this information if they haven’t considered it prior to your sharing. The process may last from six months to two years.

7. What’s your motive for coming out now?

Hopefully, it is because you love them and are uncomfortable with the distance you feel. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexuality as a weapon.

8. Do you have available resources?

Homosexuality is a subject most non-gay people know little about. Have available at least one of the following: a book addressed to parents, a contact for the local or national Parents and Friends of Lesbian and Gays, the name of a non-gay counselor who can deal fairly with the issue.

9. Are you financially dependent on your parents?

If you suspect they are capable of withdrawing college finances or forcing you out of the house, you may choose to wait until they do not have this weapon to hold over you.

10. What is your general relationship with your parents?

If you’ve gotten along well and have always known their love and shared your love for them in return then chances are they’ll be able to deal with the issue in a positive way.

11. What is their moral societal view?

If they tend to see social issues in clear terms of good/ bad or holy/ sinful, you may anticipate that they will have serious problems dealing with your sexuality. If, however, they’re evidenced a degree of flexibility when dealing with other changing societal matters, you may be able to anticipate a willingness to work this through with you.

12. Is this your decision?

Not everyone should come out to their parents. Don’t be pressured into it if you’re not sure you’ll be better off by doing so – no matter what their response.

– Texas A&M University, Gay and Lesbian Student Services Speaker’s Bureau Manual

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Being Told – When a Person Comes Out to You

Try to be aware and remember that the LGBT person is apt to have spent many hours in thoughtful preparation and shares the information with keen awareness of the possible risk.

There is no way for the LGBT person to predict your reaction accurately. You have spent your entire life in a society that teaches you to despise gay people. The LGBT person has no way of knowing in advance how able you will feel to throw off those years of training and respond spontaneously and gratefully to such an intimate offering of self.

It is important to understand that the LGBT person has not changed. You may be shocked by their revelation, but remember this is still the same person as before. Don’t let the shock lead you to view the LGBT person as suddenly different or bad. You now know that this person can love someone of the same gender completely-you have no reason to believe suddenly that this person is morally depraved or emotionally unbalanced.

Don’t ask questions that would have been considered rude within the relationship before this disclosure. This person has the same sensibilities as before. However, you may well need to do some “catching up.” Some common questions are:

  1. How long have you known you were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender?
  2. Is there someone special?
  3. Has it been hard for you carrying this secret?
  4. Is there some way I can help?
  5. Have I ever offended you unknowingly?

Be honest and open about your feelings. It makes the sharing more complete and makes change possible. If you find it hard to believe, say so. If you find you are reacting with emotional repugnance but want to learn more so you can throw off your prejudice, say so. If your feelings are totally negative, you can say that too. It is the possibility that the gay person has certainly considered and risked. But in fairness to yourself admit aloud that negative feelings may change, so the gay person will leave the door open for you to return if you are able to get past your training. We gay people are accustomed to hurt, but with someone close the rejections may hurt too much and we have to get away.

You may well be tempted to break the bond you have with this LGBT person. Though he or she has not changed, the information now confronts you and your homophobic training. A conflict may be inevitable. Just as some people develop specific phobias (heights, snakes, deep water, etc.) many people take in the antigay messages of the culture and develop homophobia. It is a disability like other phobia and you can get help with it through psychotherapy, provided the therapist does not share your phobia. But just as the person who is phobic about deep water may be unaware of anything more than a discomfort with and avoidance of oceans, lakes and rivers, the homophobe may be aware of discomfort in the presence of gay people and the desire to avoid them. If you are prone to homophobia, you will be strongly tempted to rid yourself of this previously valued friendship by quick rupture or (if that includes too much guilt in you) by a slow undermining of the relationship. If you see the symptoms and want help, try to find an LGBT -oriented psychotherapist. Don’t risk unknowingly working with a counselor who shares your homophobia. If you destroy the relationship, chances are the gay person will be hurt, but will survive, having been preparing through life for such a reaction on your part.

If your homophobia is of the very mild variety (like the person who can take the elevator up twenty stories but does not want to visit the tallest building in the city) you can get help from reading and from making social contacts with more LGBT people. Prejudice thrives on the lack of contradictory information. Integration destroys stereotypes. The more LGBT people you meet, the better the chances of ridding yourself of mild homophobia.

If you know or suspect that someone you know is LGBT and have not yet been told, appreciate the fear and anxiety that inhabits the disclosure. All you can do, usually, is to make it openly known that you appreciate and support LGBT people. Actions speak louder than words, however. LGBT friends and LGBT -oriented reading materials in your home do more than announcements of pro- LGBT feelings, which can sound phony.

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Information for Students on Campus
Coming out is the term used to describe the process of and the extent to which one identifies oneself as lesbian, gay or bisexual. There are two parts to this process: coming out to oneself and coming out to others. Coming out to oneself is perhaps the first step toward a positive understanding of one’s orientation. It includes the realization that one is homosexual or bisexual and accepting that fact and deciding what to do about it.Coming out to others is an experience unique to gay, and lesbian and bisexual students. The decision to come out to another person involves disclosing one’s sexual side, which is for the most part viewed as being a private matter. Some are afraid of being rejected but others worry that their sexual identity will be the overriding focus in future interactions with the other person.

However, coming out does not always result in negative consequences. It can develop a sense of relief and a sense of closeness. Other issues are the extent of the revelation (should everyone know or should disclosure be selective?), timing and anticipation consequences. Included in this web page is a list of questions someone who is deciding to come out should reflect upon.

From the Western Michigan University’s Safe On Campus Resource Manual

Coming Out – Suggestions for Students Who Decide to Come Out

  • Be clear about your own feelings. If you feel comfortable with your identity, others will be aided in their acceptance.
  • Timing is important.
  • Never use coming out as a weapon. Coming out is a gift to another person which communicates that you care enough to share a significant part of your life with them.
  • Talk about your love/caring for that person so they can see that coming out is for positive reasons.
  • Be prepared for negative reactions, such as surprise, anger, or hurt. Try not to be defensive. If you accept a person’s feelings, you communicate that you truly care about them. Try to remember your own negative reactions when you first realized your sexual orientation.
  • Be well informed about your sexual orientation. You are the teacher.
  • If you receive negative reactions, keep the door open for further communication. Realize that people have very little information about LGBT individuals and that the information they have may be negative.
  • Introduce your friends and family to your LGBT friends; this lets them know that they are okay, too.
  • Remember that your self-worth is not dependent on acceptance from others.
  • Remember that it is your decision to come out. You don’t have to come out to everyone.
  • Coming out is a risk – you do not know who the person will tell. You have the right to ask the person not to share your disclosure with others.
  • You may want to role play and practice before making the announcement. Although coming out gets a little easier the more you do it, it’s important that your words and thoughts be well chosen.

-from “Lesbians, Gay, and Bisexuals in the Residence Halls: A Resource Guide for House Fellows,”
University of Wisconsin – Madison.

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Preparing Yourself
  1. Have a serious talk with yourself. Clarify specifically what you hope will happen as a result of disclosure, what you expect will really happen. Without a clear purpose, your presentation of self may be a scary and risky experience without an attainable objective.
  2. Select the particular person or persons to whom you wish to disclose. Tell the person(s) that you want to share something important, that you want to have a serious personal conversation. Although you cannot make someone ready to hear what you have to say, you can create a situation in which the other person feels ready for a serious personal conversation.
  3. Select a time and a place. Avoid situations that may result in a lack of time or privacy. Neither you nor the other person can interact honestly and fully if he/she does not feel there is enough situational privacy. Coming out is a continuing process, not a hit and run bombing mission or something done well in a crowded public place.
  4. Keep your disclosure clean. That is, don’t clutter it up with attempts to punish, cause guilt or gain sympathy. Talk about yourself, your feelings and your experiences. Stay with “I” statements. Being gay is no one’s fault. What you as a person decide to do with your gayness is your responsibility.
  5. Allow time for surprise reactions. It is doubtful that you came into self-acceptance overnight. Asking that another accept and appreciate you faster than you have learned to appreciate yourself is self-defeating.
  6. Be ready to clearly identify learning resources that are available to the person. For example, books, films, magazine articles, journals, counselors etc. As your learning has taken time and energy, the “significant other” will need time to digest your disclosure and ingest a new understanding.
  7. An important step, certainly not the last priority, is the setting up of a gay support system. Participating in a gay, lesbian, bisexual support group can help prepare you for disclosure to significant others in your life. It can also provide you with support and understanding during and after the disclosure. If this type of group is not available to you, having supportive friends, teachers, relatives, etc. is also a good source of support for the coming out process.

REMEMBER: Coming out in our society is an endless process and being proud of being LGBT requires constant affirmation of self.