Coming Out: benefits and risks


Coming out plays a major role in LGBT people’s lives. It is the process when someone understands, accepts and values their sexual orientation or gender identity both for themselves and in public. In other words, coming out is a way for LGBT people to explore their own identity and then to share it with others.

However, coming out is a challenging process for LGBT people. As there are enforced codes of behavior regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in our society, most people receive the message that they must be heterosexual and act following society’s definition of their gender. Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people may feel different from others and think they do not fit into the roles expected of their family, friends, workplace, etc. Consequently, coming out implies coping with societal responses and attitudes toward LGBT people.

It is also essential to note that coming out is a continuing and sometimes lifelong process. Some people are aware of their sexual orientation and gender identity at an early age; others happen to arrive at this awareness only after many years. However, coming out is a core element of LGBT people’s lives; therefore, it is necessary to take that step to develop as a whole individual. Coming out makes it easier for an individual to create a positive self-image and allows them to be free of the fear of being ‘’found out’’, helping them avoid living a stressful double life.

The concept of coming out being a means for personal fulfillment is reflected in the following quote by American politician and hero of the LGBT rights movement, Harvey Milk: ‘’Every gay person must come out. As difficult as it is, you must tell your immediate family. You must tell your relatives. You must tell your friends if indeed they are your friends. You must tell the people you work with. You must tell the people in the stores you shop in. Once they realize that we are indeed their children, that we are indeed everywhere, every myth, every lie, every innuendo will be destroyed once and all. And once you do, you will feel so much better.”

Coming out has its benefits and risks. However, outlining the benefits and risks of coming out is not meant to convince anyone to choose to come out or not in a particular situation. Instead, thinking about some of the probable outcomes of such a choice can clarify an individual’s decision by helping them determine the appropriate time for coming out and preparing them for possible reactions. Some benefits and risks of coming out are represented below.

Benefits of coming out

  • Ability to live one’s life honestly, without having to hide or lie about their identity.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety, thus improving mental and physical health.
  • Building self-esteem and fulfilling personal growth.
  • Developing closer, more genuine relationships with friends and family.
  • Connecting with other LGBT individuals and feeling supported and inspired by them.
  • Being part of a community you have something in common with.
  • Helping to dispel myths and stereotypes by speaking about one’s own experience and educating others.

Risks of coming out

  • Experiencing fear of rejection or fear of harm from closest people, as a result of which some relationships may be permanently changed.
  • Fear of facing discrimination in society, e.g. school, university, workplace, etc.
  • Fear of becoming a victim of harassment or sexual abuse.
  • Having constant state of distress, which impacts mental health of the individual.
  • One may be thrown out of their homes or lose financial support from their parents and other family members.

It is always recommended to consider the risks coming out may bring. However, as difficult as it may be to take that step, it will improve LGBT people’s life quality and impact their personal growth. As the saying goes, there is always a rainbow after the rain.