The term “coming out” represents public and personal acknowledgement of the attraction to same sex individuals, and integrating it into their vocational, social, and personal lives. It is often a difficult and long time processing their identity of being gay, lesbian, or bisexual. Not being just one event, there are a few stages to this process of coming out; to self, to others, exploration, integration, and relationships.
Once becoming aware of an attraction to people of the same sex, there are feelings of isolation and fear to overcome, often setting up defenses of repression and denial before understanding their romantic feelings are strong and can not be changed. This involves acknowledging to themselves “lesbian, bisexual, or gay” describes what they feel and want. Just knowing doesn’t mean they accept they are gay, some struggle with fear of rejection, guilt, shame, and keep their knowledge hidden. Once acceptance is made of being bisexual, gay, or lesbian, disclosure usually is made to a trusted family member or friend.
After acknowledging, accepting, and disclosing their sexuality, their next stage is in exploring how they fit into their new world. This often brings on confusion, intensity, awkwardness, and is extremely sexual and might be construed as promiscuous. During this time of discovering sexual partners, gay identity and self esteem could be enhanced, but also might become not only compulsive but addictive as well. Establishing and negotiating a relationship with just one person will meet both of their emotional and sexual needs. Some relationships might last forever, but if not, there are things one can learn from every relationship. After becoming comfortable with whom they are most initial anger, grief, self-hatred, fear, and panic is replaced and resolved. They have a peaceful feeling about who they are as a bisexual, gay, or lesbian person. They don’t feel they have to broadcast or hide their gay awareness because it really doesn’t matter who knows or what they think.