Coming out is the process through which self- identity and self-acceptance of one’s sexuality and gender intersects. The process of coming out can be broken down into six stages; confusion, comparison, tolerance,acceptance, pride and synthesis.
This is the first stage where the individual struggles with who they are as a person. This stage is marked by suspicions and feelings of being different from the normativity practised, accepted and preached by society. It is not uncommon to harbor questions over one’s sexuality or gender at this point. Subsequently, one ends up feeling alienated and detached from society without really knowing why. The identity confusion stage could last a period of up to several years and undoubtedly leads to further self-analysis and self-awareness.
This is the second stage of coming out where one begins to consider and rationalize the idea of same sex attractions. At this point, it is common to develop suspicions of being LGBTQ+ without really being sure of one’s gender or sexuality. At this stage, the individual is looking for any external connection that will validate his/ her feelings and identity. Sometimes they look to media and representation in film and television to learn from.
At this stage, one begins to come to terms with one’s sexuality and can identify as gay or queer with increased confidence. At this juncture, however, one is yet to fully embrace their sexual identity with question marks still lingering over their place in society. Nonetheless, the individual begins to develop links with other members of LGBTQ+ communities as one attempts to find a positive self-identity. Often in this stage, one finds individuals with a similar sexual ideology but is still reluctant to proudly identify as LGBTQ+.
This stage sees the individual get comfortable with who they are, thanks to their LGBTQ+ support system. The individual is now more at ease and embracing of their sexuality aided by a close circle of understanding friends or LGBTQ+ support groups. To the rest of society, however, the individual may still be reserved about exposing their true identity for fear of judgement and backlash.
This stage is a product of the understanding and acceptance of one’s sexuality and gender. At this point, the LGBTQ+ individual is actively involved in causes that fight homophobia and transphobia. The individual carries out extensive research on LGBTQ+ matters to fully comprehend how to navigate an intolerant society. The frustration of being misunderstood and rejected by a heterosexual society fuels the individual to fight more passionately for their rights and that of others. At this stage, the individual is not afraid to be associated with LGBTQ+ or labeled as such by society.
The final stage of coming out is marked by a sense of pride and peace at being LGBTQ+. At this juncture, one really does not care the opinions of others; the individual is simply concerned with living his/ her best life. The individual is unafraid to come out to his/her family, friends and the world at large. Despite the heteronormativity propagated by society, being LGBTQ+ at the synthesis stage can handle discrimination because they have found their voice and identity.
These stages of coming out as LGBTQ+ to the world are not fixed, linear or defined. The aforementioned phases provide a framework for how the coming out process occurs but in reality, this process is unique to each person.
About the Author:
Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.