Jo, a member of the Student Wellbeing Team, talks about National Coming Out Day on 11th October…
From birth, most of us are raised to think of ourselves as fitting into a certain mould. Our culture and our families teach us that we are ‘supposed to’ be attracted to people of a different sex, and that boys and girls are supposed to look, act and feel certain ways.
Few of us were told we might be attracted to or fall in love with someone of the same sex, or that we might have a gender identity that differs from the body into which we were born.
That’s why for so many people, it can be extremely scary, worrying or confusing when facing these kinds of things.
Opening up to the possibility that you may be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or simply questioning means opening up to the idea that you’re on a path that’s your own. It’s also why coming out and living more openly can, for many people, be a profoundly liberating experience.
‘Coming out’ means telling someone something about yourself that isn’t immediately obvious. In relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, this means sharing with others that you are lesbian, gay, bi or trans.
National coming out day
National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an annual LGBT+ Awareness Day observed on 11th October, which encourages people to live openly, because homophobia, biphobia and transphobia thrive in atmospheres of silence and ignorance.
Coming out is, for many people, an extremely positive and liberating experience. To be able to reveal to the world a person’s true self can often feel as if a great weight has been lifted from their shoulders. They may feel happy and relieved that other people can now see and know them as their authentic selves.
In the process of sharing who they are, they may also help to break down common stereotypes about what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans or another identity.
Coming out is different for everyone
There is no one way to come out, and no right or wrong way. Coming out it is a different process for everyone, and it’s important to feel able to make your own decisions in your own way, in your own time.
Whilst there are benefits, there may also be risks and consequences involved and it’s important to weigh both risks and rewards before making a choice to tell others.
Also, choosing to come out or to be open does not mean you have to be out at all times or in all places — you decide how, where and when, based on what’s right for you.
Coming out as trans
The process of ‘coming out’ as lesbian, gay or bisexual, and the process of ‘coming out’ as trans can be seen as very different things.
Coming out to other people as lesbian, gay, or bisexual is commonly seen as revealing a truth that allows others to know your authentic self, and it is common to place great importance and value on the idea of being ‘out’ in order to be happy and whole.
Some trans people will choose to come out and will openly identity as trans. However, for others, they may simply want to be seen as their gender-affirmed selves. If they have transitioned and are now living as their authentic gender – that is their truth. The world now sees them as their true selves.
Support with coming out as lesbian, gay or bi
Some people come out with no problems at all but for others there may be obstacles and setbacks. Sometimes those close to you may need some time to get used to the news. It can be difficult if the people you care about have a hard time accepting who you are.
Coming Out! is Stonewall’s guide for young people. It provides answers to some of the most common questions people might have if they are thinking about coming out, or think they might be lesbian, gay or bi. Written and designed in conjunction with young people themselves, the guide offers advice, guidance and suggestions for further support.
Support with coming out as trans
A Guide for Young Trans People in the UK was produced by young trans people, and gathers stories, sources, facts and tips that might be useful to anyone questioning their gender.
This project was funded by the Department of Health’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Advisory Group in 2007.
You’re in charge
When you weigh the benefits and risks of being open about who you are, it’s important to remember that the person in charge of your coming out journey is you.
You decide who to confide in, when to do it and how. You also decide when coming out just may not feel right or necessary for you.
How to support a friend who comes out to you
Thank them for opening up to you
It might have been very difficult and scary for your friend to decide to come out. But they did decide to come out, and they came out to you, which shows that you are important to them and that they trust you. Give them a hug, thank them for their trust and reassure them of your continued friendship and support. This is important as they may have been afraid that you might have rejected them or that they would lose you as a friend.
Have an open dialogue
You might have lots of questions for your friend, and they might have some questions for you, too! Talk it out and be real with each other. You may be curious, but remember to be sensitive when asking questions and avoid questions that would have been considered rude or inappropriate within the friendship before your friend came out. Your friend may really need someone to listen to their thoughts or any fears they might have. Just let them know that if they ever need someone to talk to, you’re there for them.
If a friend comes out to you, remember that the person has not changed. They are still the same person you knew before; you just have more information about them than you did before. They are still the same friend they have always been. Remain the friend you have always been.
Offer to support your friend, for example support them in coming out to other friends or to their families. Alternatively, your friend my not want you to do anything; they may just need someone to listen and be supportive.
Never share this information without permission
Coming out is a process and should be driven out of a personal decision by the person to reveal more about themselves, and should never be forced (sometimes called ‘outing’). This is highly personal information and it is up to your friend and nobody else to share it. Respect your friend’s privacy – it is up to them to decide if, when and how they tell other people. Ask if they would like this to remain between the two of you. However, if they give you permission to help by telling other friends, go ahead!
Please don’t hesitate to seek support from the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service if you are struggling with any issue relating to coming out, your sexual orientation or your gender identity.
The Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Service offer booked appointments via an online self-referral questionnaire, in which friendly, approachable staff can offer you non-judgmental support in a safe and confidential space.
They also offer a daily Wellbeing Walk-In Service (3pm-3.45pm: Monday–Friday and Wednesday mornings: 9.30am-10.15am at the Student Support Centre at 50 Park Place)
Also available are monthly bookable appointments on Tuesday evenings with Rainbow Bridge – a free, confidential support service for LGBT+ victims of domestic abuse – and South Wales Victim Focus – who work to support anybody who has been the victim of a Hate Crime.
Visit the ‘My Appointments’ page on the Student Intranet for further details or to book an appointment with the Counselling, Health and Wellbeing team, Rainbow Bridge or South Wales Victim Focus.
Your feedback and help please
Have you found this blog post useful? Please help us by commenting in the comments bar below, and if there is anything further you’d like to know ask your questions there too.
We’d also be grateful if you can share this information by re-tweeting or sharing with your fellow students who may find this useful – you can do this by using the share buttons or via twitter and Facebook.
Jo, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing Team.
Your Student Life, Supported.
The Student Support Centre has a range of services dedicated to helping students make the most of their time at University, including: Advice and Money, Careers and Employability, Counselling, Health and Wellbeing, Disability and Dyslexia and International Student Support. The Student Support Centres are located at 50 Park Place, Cathays Campus and Cardigan House, Heath Park Campus.
For further details of services, events, opening times and more find us on the University Intranet.