Coming Out Gay or Trans
Coming out is a process that begins when a person starts questioning their assigned gender or assumed (heterosexual) orientation. Because there is so much stigma associated with being Transgender or gay, the initial psychological reaction is typically denial: no one wants to be different than most other people including his or her own family.
The continuing lack of acceptance of those with non-conforming gender or sexual identities perpetuates hate crimes, as well as self- hatred expressed through substance abuse and suicide. Acceptance of a trans or gay identity can be especially difficult for those in sub-groups where there is an absence of visibility of diversity: members of certain rural communities; religious groups; some racial and ethnic minorities; and minors to name a few.
This denial of a trans or gay identity is often coupled with efforts to 'prove' one's assigned gender or heterosexuality to self and others. Some trans and gay men and women will even marry and have children while continuing to deny their true gender or sexual orientation. As one's denial begins to break down there are usually feelings of anger. This anger can be expressed via a hatred of other trans and gay individuals or anger at God.
In addition to anger there are usually feelings of guilt. Overwhelming guilt may lead to suicidal thoughts. Some may turn to drug abuse as a means of self-medicating these strong emotions of anger and guilt.
For those who eventually come to accept their gender or sexual orientation there is usually some time of bargaining acceptance of a trans or gay identity. A 'closeted' lifestyle, though intended as a way to prevent losing relationships with others, often backfires: the hiding and secrets create lies and emotional distance, feelings of shame and stress.
Each individual must finally come to some acceptance of their true gender identity or sexual orientation based on their circumstances. When a person accepts their gender identity (cisgender or transgender) or orientation (heterosexual or homosexual), they do not wish to change that aspect of who they are. In considering the pros and cons of coming out to others, a trans or gay person can spend many excruciating hours evaluating what would be the best outcome, the worst outcome and the likely outcome. The decision to come out to others ideally only occurs when the person is finally ready to accept whatever outcome may occur.
In assessing whether or not to come out and to whom, most trans and gays consider that predicting outcome is easier if they know how that person feels about others who are different in some way. Many individuals will not come out if there is a fear that to do so might put them in physical or financial danger. Many individuals will not come out if they fear losing the love and support of family and friends.
Many come out last to those closest to them because even if the risk of being rejected is low, the potential impact of the loss is huge. Most come out first to someone who will likely be accepting and supportive; this may be a stranger or it may be a best friend. Many first come out to another trans or gay person and find that once they have an ally it is easier to come out to another person.
In addition to asking "why come out to this person?" planning to come out also includes asking who, what, when, where, and how questions: "Who else will be present?"; "Is there someone for me to talk to after I come out?"; "Is there anyone, or any resource, available for the other person?"; "What do I want to say and what do I not want to say?"; "When is the timing right?"; "How much time might we need for this discussion?"; "Will it be in private or in a public setting?"; "Will it be face to face, email, or phone?"; "Will the other person be surprised and what might they say or ask, and how will I respond?"
Transgenders and gays need to be patient with the people to whom they come out: they too will need time to experience stages of denial, anger, guilt, and bargaining before coming to accept transgender identity or homosexuality. Those to whom trans and gays come out need to be appreciative of the risk and the honor involved in the person's disclosure. Those in either group who need support should consider seeing a therapist and/or finding a local support group such as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).