‘Coming out’ means to openly identify your sexual orientation or gender identity. For some people this is a simple process and they feel comfortable telling their friends and family. However, for others it may not be that easy for various reasons, and their ‘coming out’ can sometimes be quite complicated.
Usually heterosexual (straight), cisgender people don’t need to ‘come out’ as our society expects or assumes most people fall into these two categories. For people who differ from this, accepting your sexual orientation or gender identity can be a challenging experience, and the thought of ‘coming out’ to your friends and family can be overwhelming – especially if you feel that they might not accept you. However, ‘coming out’ can bring you a great sense of relief and happiness. Being aware of the possible risks you may experience; being prepared for possible reactions from your friends and family; and ensuring you have support around you, can help make your experience a positive one.
It is important to know that you are not alone, and there are many people who have ‘come out’ and have shared their experiences in order to help others on their journey. You can find some of their personal stories at headspace LGBTIQ+
Talking to someone you can trust – and who you know will be supportive – can be the first step to working out if you are ready, and if it is a safe time, to come out to your friends and/or family.
Addressing Homophobia and Transphobia
Some people find it difficult to accept others who are different, and this can sometimes lead to discriminatory behaviour being shown towards them such as exclusion, bullying or even violence. A lack of understanding and/or acceptance that sexual diversity is a part of human experience, and that some people may have different sexual desires and practices, can lead to discriminatory behaviour.
Homophobia is the fear or intolerance of people who identify as (or who someone thinks is) lesbian, gay, bisexual or same-sex-attracted, and is usually linked with hostility, verbal and/or physical abuse, or discrimination towards them.
Transphobia is the fear or intolerance of people who identify as (or who someone thinks is) trans or transgender, or are gender diverse or gender nonconforming, and is usually linked with hostility, verbal and/or physical abuse, or discrimination towards them.
It is important to remember that discrimination of any kind is NOT OKAY and is against the law. Everyone is different, and we each have the right to make decisions about our sexuality and gender to live free of discrimination and harm.
If you experience bullying or discrimination based on your gender or sexuality, it can be helpful to report it to an adult you trust at your school, uni, workplace, or a friend or family member.
It is important for everyone to be respectful of people’s sexuality and gender identity.