Coming out can be a difficult process for people and they may be worried that others will treat them differently once they know. Even though it can be scary, most people feel coming out is very important as it means that they can be honest about how they feel and not keep an important part of their life hidden.
Getting to know yourself
One of the very first steps of coming out is acknowledging to yourself what your sexual preferences and/or your gender expression are. This may sound really obvious, but for lots of people admitting to themselves that they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans can be hard for lots of reasons.
It could be because they have been brought up to think that being one of these things is wrong, or because they are worried about being teased or bullied.
If you are not sure if you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual or trans you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
Will it change things?
Hopefully coming out will change things for the better for you, as you will not feel that there is a big part of your life that you have to keep secret. Many people describe feeling relieved that they can be open and honest about who they are.
However, there can be a down side to coming out as you may come across people, including friends and family, who are homophobic (prejudiced against gay, lesbian, or bisexual people). This might make you feel angry, upset or scared. You might experience discrimination.
This is why it can be helpful to tell a small group of trusted people first, as that way you will feel supported and have people to talk to about how things are going.
It can be a scary, however there are people who can support you, they will listen and give guidance on what to do next; Lollipop & LOOK Group.
I felt like it was my dirty little secret, like I had chains around me and I couldn’t say anything and I couldn’t be who I wanted to be.
I felt so alone and trapped in who I was… For people to be so supportive about it, it has been amazing.
Asexual (or ace) – someone who does not experience sexual attraction.
Bisexual / bi – refers to an emotional and/or sexual orientation towards more than one gender.
Cisgender or Cis – someone whose gender identity is the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Non-trans is also used by some people.
Gay – a man who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards men. Also a generic term for lesbian and gay sexuality – some women define themselves as gay rather than lesbian.
Gender – often expressed in terms of masculinity and femininity, gender is largely culturally determined and is assumed from the sex assigned at birth.
Gender dysphoria – when a person experiences discomfort or distress because there is a mismatch between their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity. This is also the clinical diagnosis for someone who doesn’t feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth.
Gender identity – a person’s innate sense of their own gender, whether male, female or something else (see non-binary below), which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned at birth.
Heterosexual / straight – refers to a person who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards people of the opposite gender.
Homosexual – this might be considered a more medical term used to describe someone who has an emotional romantic and/or sexual orientation towards someone of the same gender. The term ‘gay’ is now more generally used.
Intersex – used to describe a person who may have the biological attributes of both sexes or whose biological attributes do not fit with societal assumptions about what constitutes male or female. Intersex people may identify as male, female or non-binary.
LGBT – the acronym for lesbian, gay, bi and trans.
Lesbian – a woman who has an emotional, romantic and/or sexual orientation towards women.
Non-binary – an umbrella term for a person who does not identify as only male or only female, or who may identify as both.
Pansexual – a person whose emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction towards others is not limited by biological sex, gender or gender identity.
Queer – in the past a derogatory term for LGBT individuals. The term has now been reclaimed by LGBT young people in particular who don’t identify with traditional categories around gender identity and sexual orientation but is still viewed to be derogatory by some.
Sex –assigned to a person on the basis of primary sex characteristics (genitalia) and reproductive functions. Sometimes the terms ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ are interchanged to mean ‘male’ or ‘female’.
Sexual orientation – a person’s emotional, romantic and/or sexual attraction to another person.
Trans – an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the sex they were assigned at birth. Trans people may describe themselves using one or more of a wide variety of terms, including (but not limited to) Transgender, Transsexual, Gender-queer (GQ), Gender-fluid, Non-binary, Gender-variant, Crossdresser, Genderless, Agender, Nongender, Third gender, Two-spirit, Bi-gender, Trans man, Trans woman,Trans masculine, Trans feminine and Neutrois.
Transitioning – the steps a trans person may take to live in the gender with which they identify. Each person’s transition will involve different things. For some this involves medical intervention, such as hormone therapy and surgeries, but not all trans people want or are able to have this. Transitioning also might involve things such as telling friends and family, dressing differently and changing official documents.
Transsexual – this was used in the past as a more medical term (similarly to homosexual) to refer to someone who transitioned to live in the ‘opposite’ gender to the one assigned at birth. This term is still used by some although many people prefer the term trans or transgender.
For a more indepth list visit stonewall.org.uk
Lollipop and LOOK Group
Lollipop offers children and young people who are educated, and/or reside in the East Riding, social and emotional support around sexuality and gender identity.
The group offers a place where children and young people can express themselves in a safe environment. Children and young people attend from across the county, this enhances peer support and friendships beyond the group tackling social isolation.
Those who attend have access to one to one, low level CBT approach support whilst at the group.
The group also offers;
- Safe Space to be your self
- Social Events
- One to one support
- Support in coming out to friends, family, work or college.
LOOK Group (Loving Our Out kids)
LOOK group offers parents and carers of children and young people who are educated and/or reside in the East Riding social and emotional support around sexuality and gender identity.
The group is a safe place for parents and carers to express their feelings and with help from staff unpick any barriers they my face around sexuality and gender identity.
Referrals into Lollipop & LOOK
Young people and parents can ring 01482 392200 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Both groups operate under a confidentiality policy unless staff feel there are safeguarding concerns.
My Rights and the Law
If someone is violent or hostile towards you because of your sexual orientation, or gender identity, this could be classed as a hate crime. Homophobic or transphobic hate crimes can include verbal or physical abuse, bullying, online abuse or damage to property. You can be a victim of a homophobic or transphobic hate crime if someone believes you are a LGBT person even though you are not, or because of your association with the LGBT community. If you have suffered a homophobic or transphobic hate crime, you can report it to the police. People charged with homophobic or transphobic hate crimes can be sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act 2003.
The Equality Act 2010 protects lesbian, gay, bi and trans people from direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation. The Equality Act 2010 makes sure LGBT people are entitled to the same legal protections given to other groups of people who might face discrimination. In addition to this, public service providers like schools and hospitals have to show how their service is accessible to and supportive of LGBT people.
For example, schools cannot deny a lesbian, gay, bi or trans student the opportunities and facilities that they would offer to heterosexual or cis (non-trans) students. Schools must respect a student’s gender identity. They should use their preferred pronouns and allow them to use the toilets and single sex facilities appropriate to the gender they identify with.
When looking for accommodation a landlord/housing agent cannot turn away a tenant or refuse to sell or rent their property to someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Councils have a responsibility to act to tackle the homophobic, biphobic or transphobic abuse of a council tenant, just as they would act to tackle racist abuse.