Coming out is "the process in which a person first acknowledges, accepts and appreciates his or her sexual orientation or gender identity and begins to share that with others." (http://www.hrc.org/issues/coming_out/coming_out_faqs.asp)
Coming out is a lifelong process and even though an individual may be "out" to a variety of important people in their life, such as family, friends, co-workers, etc, an LGBT person will continually face the prospect of coming out to new people, i.e. medical providers, new friends and co-workers, and a myriad of other instances in day to day life when the individual might otherwise be assumed to be non-LGBT.
Coming out is a constant internal and external process that can sometimes be met with pain, misunderstanding, and hardship. Members of the LGBTQ population "come out" in many different ways to many different groups. In addition the coming out process can look different for each individual and sometimes an individual can come out without even noticing. Not to mention the coming out process is continual, because the LGBTQ population is an "invisible minority," meaning that you cannot recognize LGBTQ individuals by the way they look. Because of they are an "invisible minority" this population may find themselves coming out every time they make a new friend, start a new job, or take a class. In any situation it is important to know the risks and benefits to coming out to others. Below are just a few risks and benefits commonly experienced by the LGBTQ population:
—Safe Zone UNC Charlotte
The previous section of this manual discussed the risks and benefits associated with disclosing one's sexual orientation or gender identity with others or coming out, this section breaks down some further reasons an individual may choose to or not choose to come out.
If an individual chooses to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to you it is important that you take some time to review your own feelings, prejudices, and heterocentric ideals. The coming out process can be difficult for surrounding individuals in a similar way as it is to the actual individual. Below are some things to keep in mind when an individual chooses to come out to you:
—Safe Zone, UNC Charlotte