Introduction to Coming Out
Coming out of the closet is the process by which a lesbian or gay person recognizes and accepts their homosexuality. For some this process is simple and straight forward; for others it is difficult and trying. For all it is a learning experience. For too long lesbians and gay men have been told that they must hide their homosexuality. They have been asked to live a lie. They have been forced to lead double lives. They have been asked by their homophobic society to deny who they really are and whom they really love. Lesbians and gay men have lived with enormous fear -- fear for their rights; fear for their jobs; fear for the loss of those they care about; at times -- fear for their lives. Some suggest that the "closet" places each gay individual in a situation of "sane schizophrenia" in which their lives are never permitted to be whole or integrated.
Coming out is a step towards greater integration. It is a testing of fears and paranoia about personal rejection. It leads towards fuller and more honest and satisfying relationships. Coming out will not solve all problems, indeed it often creates new ones. But coming out offers many a greater sense of reality about the loves, fears, and relationships in their lives.
Indeed, those who have come out -- in whatever ways and to whatever degrees -- have generally experienced a greater sense of relief and increased self-esteem through sharing the "secret" of their sexual orientation. This fact has been documented by a growing number of personal accounts written by lesbians and gay men and also by studies carried out by psychologists and researchers at the Kensey Institute.