Coming out is a process that looks different for everyone, and happens at different paces with varied reactions. Here are some things to keep in mind if you or someone else is coming "out of the closet."
When someone is coming out, other people tend to react in one of three ways:
These reactions vary according to the person's familiarity with the LGBTQIA community, social identities, upbringing, and more.
Acceptance: They are supportive of the LGBTQIA community, actively support you, seek to learn more about the community, and normalize your identity around you and others who are safe.
Tolerance: They are a passive supporter of the LGBTQIA community, are unable to discuss LGBTQIA identities, are unwilling to learn more about the LGBTQIA community. This may come from people who are in conflict with what they've been taught and their own morals.
Opposition: They oppose the LGBTQIA community, make you feel unsafe and unwelcome, they exclude you because of your identity, and make your identity seem abnormal.
If you are PART of the LGBTQIA Community:
- Listen to how the person talks about the LGBTQIA community or issues that affect the community. Are they supportive? Do they say "it doesn't affect me?" Are they for anti-LGBTQIA legislation?
- Be safe. If you have reason to believe that coming out to this person would be harmful to you, or if you have been outed and feel unsafe, refer to our list of resources here.
- Take your time. You don't have to rush coming out. Do so at your own pace, whenever you've determined that someone is safe to come out to. Don't feel like you have to out yourself to everyone at the same time.
If you are an ALLY to the LGBTQIA Community:
- Be vocal. When there are discussions regarding the LGBTQIA community and their rights, speak up, but don't speak over those in the community. Your voice will help amplify the voices of others.
- Be supportive. Coming out is scary for a lot of people in the LGBTQIA community. If someone does come out to you (i.e. "Hey, I wanted to tell you I'm gay," "Can you use they/them pronouns for me? I'm genderfluid," etc.), thank them for trusting you, reaffirm support, and continue on. Do NOT make a big deal out of them coming out to you. A large reaction from an ally can feel performative. Treat them coming out as a normal, everyday experience.
- Be aware. Someone may have come out to you, but not to other people. If you're uncertain if other people know, ask your friend who knows and who doesn't. You don't want to accidentally out someone! When around people who don't know, act as the person asks you to. For example, if they have come out to you as trans and now use she/her pronouns, but they've asked you to use he/him pronouns when around certain people, use the he/him pronouns. This is for their safety.
Office of LGBTQIA Education & Engagement
AddressDoak Hall 118, Texas Tech University, 2500 Broadway, Lubbock, TX 79409