The term “coming out” refers to the life-long process in developing a positive identity as a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person. It is not something that just happens one day; it is an ongoing process of several steps. First, the person must accept him/herself, and be somewhat comfortable with the fact he/she is gay. Next, the person usually tells his/her closest friend or group of friends to “test” how comfortable hey might be with disclosure. Another step is when the person might find a partner or start dating someone. Then come the most difficult step, in many cases, when the person decides to tell his/her parents, other family members, or employer.
This process is very long and difficult struggle for many people since they have to confront many opposing ideas and homophobic attitudes. Many people first need to struggle with misinformation and stereotypes that are taught them while growing up. Before someone can feel good about who he/she is, the person will need to challenge his/her own attitudes and move from wherever the person is on the homophobic continuum, which might include feelings of repulsion, pity, and/or tolerance, to feelings of appreciation and admiration. After many years of painful work to develop a positive identity and attitude, many will then decided whom to tell that they are gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender.