Coming out

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« I came out first to myself, which was after a period of denial and confusion, followed by the joy of self discovery. »
Jay, 19 (Nonbinary)[1]

Coming out is a phrase common in the LGBT community that means "to recognise one's sexual orientation, gender identity, or sex identity, and to [become] open about it with oneself and with others."[2] People with nonbinary gender identities have to come out if they are to be recognised as nonbinary. This is because in cultures that recognise only the gender binary, nonbinary people have only the options of being closeted (not "out" or open about one's gender identity) or stealth (living as one's chosen gender without others knowing that one is trans). There are some particular needs that are unique to the situation of coming out as nonbinary, as opposed to coming out as anything else. For example, the average person has an idea of what lesbians are, and knows that they exist in real life. Whatever other obstacles a lesbian woman might face when she comes out, she likely doesn't have to contend with those particular issues. However, the average person doesn't know what nonbinary people are, and doesn't have context for them existing in real life. Anyone who comes out as nonbinary needs to be prepared to explain what nonbinary gender is, and be prepared for the possibility that others might not accept it as a real gender identity.

Before coming out[edit | edit source]

« I'm always careful at first when raising the topic with new people, if I mention trans* people and they respond badly I stay quiet about my own gender. Safety comes before comfort. »
Ced, 21 (Agender)[1]

Safety comes before comfort[edit | edit source]

Coming out can be a life-changing decision. This is why it's important to take time to take your decision and to analyse your situation. Make sure that you are safe, so that if something goes wrong you can keep on going with your regular life. Even though coming out feels very liberating, there's a risk of not being accepted. A good way of making sure you live in a safe environment is mentioning transgender people in a conversation with the person you want to come out to and see their reaction.

Analyse your audience[edit | edit source]

Depending on who you want to come out, you will need to take a different approach. A young person is more likely to accept your identity than a grandparent is. However, always keep in mind that the opinions of older people tend to be less open because of their education, not because they don't love you. If you have a common friend or family member who is transgender, it might be easier for them to accept you, or at least it will be easier for you to guess their reaction. Depending on their attitude towards transgender or nonbinary people, preparing some resources for them will come in handy.

Prepare some resources[edit | edit source]

Regardless of their education on nonbinary or LGBTQ+ topics, it's good to have some resources in hand. Remember that the kind of resources they need will be different from the ones that are most useful to you. Make some research on resources specifically directed at allies, adapted to the necessities of the person you want to come out to. A young person might be more familiar with visual content (such as a video), while an older person might prefer a written document.

If you are coming to a family member, look for support groups near you. Depending on their reaction, tell them about the groups you find; they are a good complement to any resources you could provide them.

Write it[edit | edit source]

Coming out through a letter or a text message is a good way to do it, because this method lets you say exactly what you want to say without interruption. But even if you want to do it in a face-to-face conversation, writing it down is a good idea, as it helps to plan and know exactly what you are going to say. It might be useful to think of some basic questions they might ask and prepare the answers.

In case you decide to come out with a letter or a text message, it is recommended to meet in real life afterwards so that you have the opportunity to have a face-to-face conversation about it.

Template letters[edit | edit source]

When coming out as nonbinary to someone in writing, it can help to use template letters to figure out what to say, and how to say it well. See the page template letters - coming out for a collection of these.

External links[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 This quote is a snippet from an answer to the survey conducted in the year 2018. Note for editors: the text of the quote, as well as the name, age and gender identity of its author shouldn't be changed.
  2. "LGBT resources: Definition of terms." [1]

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