Sexuality in on a continuum and only you get to define it. Coming out is part of a journey of identity formation, self understanding, and self- acceptance. It is a very personal process. It usually happens in stages. Each stage of coming out is very personal, and by no means does everyone come out in the same way, or do they need to complete all the stages.
Stage 1: Coming out to yourself
You begin to question your own identity: you may notice that you are attracted to someone of the same sex. This is usually a very frightening moment, as you begin to face the fact that you may not be accepted by the ones that you love. At some point you begin to accept this and are able to tell yourself the truth. Many people know that they have these feelings from a very young age, as early as 5 years old, however they do not know what they mean. Others may not notice these feelings to much later in life.
Stage 2: Coming out to someone else
Many of us feel like we have to tell someone about this personal realization. It may take hours, days or years before we are able to make this next step. Often, we do not know who to tell first. We may feel that a friend will understand. Some of us may feel comfortable enough to tell a family member; Many of us do not. We may choose to talk to a health professional such as a counselor or therapist. Many boys or men may feel more comfortable telling a girl or a woman, as they may feel they will be more accepted. Hopefully the first person we talk to will be accepting. If not, it may be even more difficult to tell the next person.
Stage 3: Coming out to small groups
At this point you might be ready to tell your family, or maybe a group of your friends. You may start exploring ways to find other groups of gay people that you may feel comfortable with. Depending on how old you are, will determine the type of group you will look for. You will begin to find places that you feel comfortable being yourself. You may feel the freedom that becomes with being more open about yourself.
Stage 4: Coming out in public
This stage takes many forms. You may begin to consider coming out at work, or in an organization that you belong to. If you have a partner, you may find that you are feeling comfortable showing affection in public. Sometimes gay people will go to destinations where there will be a lot of other people of the same or similar sexual orientation. You might find that you are able to come out at your place of worship. At this stage, it takes a lot of discernment where it feels safe to be out and where it is not so safe. At this point, as everywhere in these stages, the choice and risk is personal.
Stage 5: Coming out to the world
Some people may find they feel compelled to be out to the world, They might decide that being out is a social and political issue, and that their own personal integrity moves them to this step.
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