Campus Photo with Rainbow

Coming Out

Coming Out is the process in which an individual a) accepts and identifies with their gender identity and/or sexual orientation and b) shares their identity willingly with others. 

Coming out and living openly isn’t something you do once- it’s a journey that LGBTQ people make every single day of their lives.  People may be “out” in some spaces and “in” in others.  Every coming out experience is unique and must be navigated in the way most comfortable for the individual.  A decision to disclose is one of safety, comfort, trust, and readiness.  Whether it’s for the first time or the the first time today, coming out can be an arduous journey.  It is a brave decision to live openly and authentically.  The Office of LGBTQ Resources is happy to support you wherever you are own your own journey.

Living Authentically for the First Time

When you are ready to tell that first person about your sexual orientation or gender identity — or even those first few people — give yourself plenty of time to prepare.  Think through your options and make a deliberate plan of who, what, why, and how.  Remember that if you do not choose to come out now, or ever, your identity and experiences are still legitimate and valuable.  You get to decide what is right for you. 

Our national partners at the Human Rights Campaign have developed a number of “Coming Out Guides” to help you navigate your process.  We will have a limited supply of these in print in the Office of LGBTQ Resources  or you access the digital copies below:

Coming Out Guides

Race & Ethnicity
Faith & Religion

If Someone Comes Out to You

People always ask what they should do when someone comes out to them.  When a person is considering coming out they may be feeling close enough to you or that they trust you sufficiently enough to be honest or risk losing you as a friend or loved one.  It can be difficult to know what to say and what to do to be supportive when someone comes out to you.  Below are a few helpful suggestions: 

  1. Thank the person for having the courage to tell you. Choosing to tell you means they have a great deal of respect and trust for you.
  2. Determine the level of expectations around confidentiality.  Do other people know?  Or is this a secret?
  3. Remember that their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression are just a few dimensions of their personhood.
  4. Show interest and curiosity about what they are sharing with you, but don’t pry or ask invasive questions.
  5. Ask them how you can best support them (i.e. sharing resources, making connections)
  6. Check back in on them regularly to see how they are doing.