WOU: Safe Zone Coming Out

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Coming Out

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The resources on this page are meant to be a starting place for people who are undergoing the coming out process. There is no "right" or "wrong" way to come out to yourself, family, friends or others. Feel free to click on the link for the Resources page on the main page to access additional sources of information, scroll to the bottom for the Human Rights Campaign's Coming Out Website, or contact any Safe Zone Ally.

It is important to know that Coming Out can be an affirming and liberating feeling! The experiences of people associated with Safe Zone have been very positive. It can be one of the greatest moments in a person's life!

Coming Out is a Journey, Not a Destination

Coming out is the process of recognizing one's sexual orientation or gender identity and being open about it. Coming out involves two components: 1) acknowledge one's sexual orientation or gender identity to oneself, or "coming out to yourself" and 2) disclosing one's sexual orientation or gender identity to others or "coming out to others."

Coming out to yourself is the first part of the journey. When a person initially acknowledges that their sexual orientation or gender identity is different than what is consider "normal", it is not unusual to feel afraid, different, sad, or alone. There may be a feeling of a fear of rejection by friends, family, or co-workers. However, coming out to yourself may also result in a feeling of validation of your self-worth.

After coming out to yourself, the next step is often coming out to others. These people may include other members of the GLBTQ community, your family, friends, co-workers, or the general public. Coming out to others isn't necessarily a either-or process and people often have to "come out" to others over the course of their entire lives. You may choose to come out to only a few trusted individuals or be out in absolutely every setting or situation. You may fall somewhere in between.

Coming out may elicit responses ranging from complete and total support and acceptance to rejection, but most fall somewhere in between initially. It may lead to feelings of surprise, anger, and some may need time to understand and comprehend this new information about you. Some GLBTQ people may have to worry about losing jobs or being physically, verbally, or sexually harassed. Some people may find it helpful to "test the waters" before coming out to friends and family. Many individuals feel that coming out is one of the most powerful things that they have ever done. Research and experience shows that there are a number of benefits to coming out, including a sense of relief, increased self-esteem, feeling of pride and increased feeling of authenticity. However, if you do experience any threat to your safety. Do not be afraid to go to authorities, whether that be the police or school officials.

After you come out to yourself and others, you will still find that coming out is a lifelong journey that requires you to make frequent decisions about whether to come out to someone new. Coming out is a continual process.

Questions to Consider Before Coming Out

Are you comfortable with your sexual orientation or gender identity?

If you're wrestling with guilt and periods of depression, you should evaluate whether to disclose these things at this time. Coming out to family or friends may require tremendous energy on your part and will require a reserve of positive self-image. While some people have felt a large "weight lifted" after coming out, that may not be true for you. Know what is right for you.

Do you have support?

In the event that the reaction to your coming out disappoints or hurts you, there should be someone or a group that you can turn to for emotional support and strength. You can also utilize the resources available on campus for support as well.

Are you financially dependent upon your parents or guardians when you come out to them?

If you suspect that your parents (or person you come out to) are capable of withdrawing financial support or forcing you to live elsewhere, you may wish to evaluate whether you can support yourself financially. Be aware that WOU has ways to help, contact the business office in the Admissions building for information on financial assistance. If food is a problem, WOU also has a food bank.

Are you knowledgeable about being a member of the GLBTQ community?

The person(s) you are coming out to might have questions. Many of your family and friends may have questions based upon a lifetime of heterosexual and cisgender assumptions. You may wish to do some reading on the subject to assist people with coming to terms. You can start by looking at our terminology page.

Can you be patient?

Some people may require time to process the information if they haven't considered it prior to your sharing. The process can take very little time or it may take years.

What is your motive for coming out now?

Coming out should be about truth, love, and being genuine. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexuality or gender identity as a weapon. That will only lead to misunderstanding and increases the chance of it becoming a problem.

Is your workplace LGBTQ friendly?

If the person you are coming out to is an employer or co-worker, make sure to know the laws in your area. It is still legal in many states to fire someone purely based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. While illegal in Oregon to directly fire someone due to their gender identity or sexual orientation, many employers may still have prejudices and find more subversive ways to fire you. Or they might create a hostile work environment to try to force you to quit. Fellow employees may also have more conservative views on sexuality and gender. Sometimes, people may just need time to adjust, much like family members. Some employers also have some anti-discrimination policies. Try to understand the dynamic of your workplace before coming out. Find some facts here.

What is your general relationship with the person you are coming out to?

If you've gotten along well and have always known their love and support for this person, the chances are good that they will handle the news in a positive way.

What is the person's moral, societal, or religious view?

If the person tends to see social issues in terms of good/bad or holy/sinful, you may anticipate that they will have serious problems with dealing with your sexuality or gender identity. If you've evidenced a degree of flexibility when dealing with societal matters, you may be able to anticipate a willingness to listen and support for you.

What about my roommate or residence hall community knowing my sexual orientation or gender identity?

On WOU's campus, this depends upon the roommate and the nature of the community on the floor. The decision is individual in nature and you may wish to contact a Safe Zone Ally or other resource on campus prior to disclosure to talk about the situation. Open and honest communication, expectations and concern/care for your roommate and those around you can help with this process, but you can't always predict how or what the reactions will be.

How do I connect with other members of the GLBTQ community and straight allies on WOU's campus?

There are the traditional student groups and campus organizations such as Triangle Alliance (a student group), Safe Zone (a campus organization), and the Stonewall Center (a resource center through ASWOU) but you may also connect through online communities such as Facebook, Twitter, or blogging.

Great Coming Out Resource

The Human Rights Campaign has a good resource website on coming out. You can find it at http://www.hrc.org/resources/category/coming-out

Contact Us

If you need additional resources or have questions about the coming out process, feel free to e-mail the Safe Zone group at safezone@wou.edu or contact any of the Safe Zone allies listed on our Allies page.


Student Leadership and Activities 503-838-8261 | or e-mail: wucofc@wou.edu

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