Coming Out

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The "Coming Out" Process

Someday, we’ll all be able to love who we love, bring them home to meet our family, and nobody will think twice. We’ll all be able to live as our true gender, and nobody will bat an eye. Until that time, being part of the Rainbow community often involves conversations with friends and family about who you’re attracted to and about your gender. Our society is ‘cisnormative’ and ‘heteronormative’. Simply said, most people assume others are cisgender and straight unless told otherwise. Sharing who you are outside of these boxes is often called “coming out.”

“Coming out” is different for everyone. Some people are eager to share their true selves with their friends and family. Others fear how people may react, especially in conservative or religious settings. Still others feel that they should not be required to make a formal announcement, since people who are straight or cisgender aren’t expected to sit down with folks and explain what their gender or sexuality means to them. All of these feelings are valid. 


How do I know if I should come out?

Coming out is completely up to you. You should never feel pressured to come out – from others, or even from yourself. You’re not fake or untruthful if you choose to keep parts of your life private. You also shouldn’t feel pressured to keep your sexuality or gender to yourself if you want people to know. You can feel free to share with as many people as you like. You may also feel you need more time to really understand yourself before talking about it with other people.

There are many reasons you may choose to come out:

  • You want to live publicly as your authentic self.
  • You’re looking for a relationship.
  • You’re in a relationship and want to introduce your partner to friends and family.
  • You want to meet other people who have similar sexual orientation or gender.

There are also reasons people choose to wait, or to limit the people they come out to:

  • You fear rejection from friends, family, or community.
  • You’re concerned for your physical safety if you tell people.
  • You’re afraid you’ll be rejected by your church, or that your church will say you need to change or suppress your true self.
  • You wonder whether your sexual orientation or gender identity is sinful.

*If any of the above reasons apply to you and are causing you depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts, please seek help by calling Reason To Live – Manitoba Suicide Prevention & Support Line at 1-877-435-7170.*


Who should I come out to?

Who you share your sexual orientation or gender identity with is up to you, but here are a few things you can think about:

  • Start with someone you know will be safe and supportive. This may be someone close to you, or it may be a professional like a counselor, doctor, or teacher. It may also be someone who is part of the Rainbow community, or someone from an organization like Pembina Valley Pride, Rainbow Resource Center, or Sexuality Education Resource Center (SERC).
  • You can tell as few or as many people as you want. You can tell one person, and leave it at that. Or you can tell a few people without telling everyone. You don’t owe the information to anyone, and you should not feel guilty if you didn’t include certain people.
  • Consider confidentiality. If you choose to share it with some people but not others, it is perfectly okay to ask them to keep it confidential. If this is the case, make sure the people you tell are trustworthy.
  • Coming out at work. Remember that there are laws protecting you from any type of discrimination. Being openly 2SLGBTQIANB+ should not impact your job in any way – you should not be treated differently, and opportunities and promotions should not be withheld from you on the basis of your gender or sexual orientation. That being said, sometimes unaccepting workplaces happen, and can cause harm to you even if there are legal consequences for the workplace. If you are concerned that your workplace is being discriminatory, be sure to document every occurrence and seek legal help.

When should I come out?

  • You control the timeline. Your sexuality or gender identity may be something you have always known, or it might be something you have discovered and solidified over time. Where in that journey you choose to tell people is completely up to you.
  • You will likely come out more than once. As you change jobs, move to a new place, or meet new people, you may need to come out again. The timeline is up to you in each of these situations. This can be exhausting, so remember to take care of yourself.
  • Consider your mental health. If you are part of a community or social circle that is non-affirming, you may want to wait until you have a few allies first. If you feel you will be unsafe, set up a place you can go or emergency numbers to call ahead of time.
  • Private or public location. Consider a private location if you don’t want others to overhear. Consider a public location if you’re afraid of verbal or physical violence towards you.
  • Consider the time. If you think the person will not be supportive, avoid coming out when you will have to spend a lot of time together. Also avoid texting someone when you know they will be at work or otherwise occupied and won’t be able to give your announcement the attention it deserves.

How should I come out?

  • Get support. If you can, ask a supportive friend to come with you to come out to people who may be less supportive. This may help put you at ease. This person might also help you explain things if you are feeling too anxious or upset.
  • Know your boundaries. You might get asked personal questions you’re not comfortable answering. You don’t have to. Everyone has boundaries around what they share with others about their romantic or intimate relationships and about their bodies. You have a right to those same boundaries. For example, if you’re lesbian, gay, or bisexual, people may ask about your romantic or intimate relationships. There are valid reasons why you may not want to talk about these things. If you’re non-binary or transgender, you might get asked if you’re on hormones or have had surgery. Information about your body, medications, or medical procedures is your own business, and you can choose who you share it with. Taking time to decide ahead of time what you want to share, and with whom, may save you from being put on the spot.
  • Give people time to process. Even if people are supportive, sometimes the information can come as a surprise, and like any new information, people may not know the right thing to say. If you can, try to be patient and give them a chance to think about what they want to say. Needing some time does not mean they are not supportive
  • Begin by talking about someone else. You can start the conversation by referring to someone else you know who is part of the Rainbow community, either personally or a celebrity. This may be a good way to normalize your own experience, as well as to gauge what someone’s response might be.
  • Come out in any way you are comfortable. – email, text, phone call or in person. You don’t need to have a formal face-to-face conversation about it if you don’t want to. Texting or calling can sometimes be beneficial because you can leave the conversation if it becomes harmful.
  • Be clear about the support you need. Let people know that you’re only interested in respectful conversations, and tell them that they can show support by listening and trying to understand. Tell them the things you want to hear – maybe that you are loved, valued and accepted just as you are. If there are specific ways you can be supported, like using correct pronouns, or accepting a partner, let people know.
  • Educate only if you have the energy. If you want to, you can have educational material prepared to share with people. You can also encourage people to google terms, or provide links to article that are relatable to you. But ultimately it is not up to you to educate others.
  • Your understanding of yourself is valid. Some people may not believe you or demand to know how you know. Some people may brush it off as a phase. Others may try to give you a different label than what feels right for you. Collect quotes, articles, pictures, role models and friends that encourage you, and turn to them often when you need a boost. Your understanding of yourself is valid, no matter what others believe.