By Daña Alder, Campus Community Partnerships Team Manager
UW-Madison Health Services
Coming out means coming to terms with your own sexuality and/or deciding to share your sexual orientation with others. It can be a gradual process or one that is as sudden as a lightening bolt. The first step usually involves coming out to yourself, often with a realization that feelings you've had for some time (months, years) make sense if you can define them as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
There are many groups and other resources that can help with the coming out process. A quick Google search turned up over one million internet resources for coming out. Because heterosexuality is still presented overwhelmingly as the norm in U.S. culture, it's important to find the help you need from the resources available to you.
Limited depictions of LGBT people in popular culture lead some to think they have to act or dress a certain way to be a lesbian or gay or bisexual or transgendered, but LGBT people come in all shapes and sizes, in all styles, from all religions and economic classes, with all kinds of dreams and career aspirations. Your most intimate, interior feelings are what determines whether you're LGBorT, not how you dress or talk or walk.
Once you accept that you're l-g-b-or t, you can decide to be out to others or to stay in the closet. If you decide to be out, you'll be faced with many opportunities the rest of your life to be out or not in particular situations or with particular people. Some people are out to their families but in the closet at work; some people are out at school but in the closet with their families.
You are the only person who can decide if a time or place or people are safe for you to come out to, but you might consider this: If you decide to be out, you'll have to deal with those issues. If you decide to be in the closet, you'll have to deal with the concerns that someone else will 'out' you and with the issues involved in being in the closet. Either way, you'll deal with something.
Studies have shown that non-LGBT people are more supportive of LGBT rights if they know that they know someone who's L, G,B and/or T, and that LGBT people who are out have fewer mental health issues than those who are not. Even if it's scary to think about coming out to others, sometimes our greatest growth comes from walking through our fears to the other side.
UWEC Counseling Services expresses it's apprecation to the author, Daqa Alder, who is a Lesbian Feminist Activist