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Coming Out

Coming Out

This guide was created by UCSB RCSGD staff with information adapted from The Trevor Project “Coming Out as You!” resource, the Human Rights Campaign Resource Guide to Coming Out, the Trans Student Educational Resources site, and the UC Davis LGBTQIA Resource Center Coming Out Resources page. We hope that this information is helpful to you, but if you would like to talk one-on-one with someone at the Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity, please email Quinn Solis (they.them), Associate Director, at quinnsolis@ucsb.edu. Quinn is available to meet with you at the RCSGD or another location on campus or in Isla Vista where you would be more comfortable.

Coming Out

Coming out is the process of sharing your sexual orientation, romantic orientation, and/or gender identity with others, and there is no one way to “come out” or be “out.” There may be certain people in our lives with whom we want to share our sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and there may be others with whom we do not feel comfortable or safe sharing. This is more than okay! 

Coming out to yourself or someone else is an incredibly personal decision. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s completely up to you and your relationship with the person or people you might share it with. For those who want to come out, taking stock of who in your life supports you, encourages you, and helps you feel less alone can make a big difference. There are many resources and communities that exist here at UCSB, like the RCSGD, that can help you through this process and can support you regardless of what path you take in your journey. 

Exploring your Identity

One’s sex assigned at birth, gender identity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and romantic orientation are all reasons why someone might feel compelled to come out, and they all exist on a wide spectrum that people may or may not identify themselves on.

If you are still questioning parts of yourself, we encourage you to spend some time doing the following activity to reflect deeper on your identity.

Gender Unicorn Activity

The Gender Unicorn Activity from the Trans Student Educational Resources (TSER) organization is an exercise to help you understand how fluid sexuality and gender actually are and how both can change over time. Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Physical Attraction, and Emotional Attraction are on a spectrum and are represented in this activity by different colored arrows. 

Activity

Put an “X”  anywhere on the arrow spectrums that you feel apply to you. One “X” per arrow. The  
circles represent the number zero and the other end is one hundred or infinity. To help you complete this activity, a more detailed explanation of each spectrum is below. 

TSER Gender Unicorn

Gender Identity Spectrum

Gender Identity is one’s internal sense of being a woman, man, neither of these, both, or another gender(s). Everyone has a gender identity, including you! The “Other” arrow in the Gender Identity Spectrum refers to other genders not within the gender binary or a combination of both! Nobinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, and agender are a few examples of genders outside the gender binary. For trans people, their sex assigned at birth and their own internal sense of gender are not the same. For Agender people, identifying on the very left (open circle) of the Gender Identity Spectrum can indicate no gender identity. 

Gender Expression Spectrum

Gender Expression is the physical manifestation of one’s gender identity through clothing, hairstyle, voice, body shape, etc. The “Other” arrow in the Gender Expression Spectrum refers to gender representations outside the gender binary or a mixture of both. Being androgynous, gender non-conforming, and genderfluid are a few examples of gender expressions outside the gender binary. Most trans people seek to make their gender expression (how they look) match their gender identity (who they are), rather than their sex assigned at birth.

Sex Assigned at Birth

The sex assigned at birth is the assignment and classification of people as male, female, intersex, or another sex based on a combination of anatomy, hormones, and chromosomes. Chromosomes are frequently used to determine sex (although not as often as genitalia). Chromosomes do not determine genitalia, and genitalia does not determine gender identity.

Physical Attraction

Physical Attraction can also be referred to as sexual attraction. For Asexual people, identifying on the very left (open circle) of the Physical Attraction Spectrum can indicate no attraction 

Emotional Attraction

Emotional Orientation or who you are emotionally attracted to means who you can be vulnerable with or have strong and/or feelings for. For Aromantic people, identifying on the very left (open circle) of the Emotional Attraction Spectrum can indicate no romantic or emotional attraction.

Figuring Out If Coming Out is Right for You

Coming out is a big deal! After you’ve made the decision to come out, the next question is figuring out who to tell. As mentioned before, this should be someone who you trust and feel like will support you.

If you’re not sure how someone will respond to you coming out, you could get a sense of that person’s attitudes by asking them about their attitudes towards LGBTQIA+-related topics in the news, about LGBTQIA+ celebrities, or even LGBTQIA+ stories and characters.

Think about why you want to come out to a person and why now. Is this the best time for you and the person you want to tell? What factors could make the process easier or more challenging?

After reading through this guide, you may decide that this is not a good time for you to come out and that’s okay. The RCSGD and other community organizations on campus provide safe, inclusive spaces to explore your identity and connect with a supportive community.

Making a Coming Out Plan

When coming out, there are a lot of factors one should plan for if possible. Below are a few things to consider. 

Gauge Response and Attitudes

Finding out how the person or group of people feel about LGBTQIA+ people and topics can clue you into how they may react, which can help you prepare for possible reactions that may be positive or negative.

Environment

There may not be a perfect time to come out, and the best time may differ from person to person. Think about when it might be best to have this conversation. In the morning, evening, during dinner, after work, etc. Is this a stressful time for you or the other person, like holidays, family events, etc.?

Location can be important in making everyone feel more comfortable and open and willing to talk. Consider the pros and cons of having this conversation in a public setting versus in a private setting. What location might hold significance to you and the person or people you’re coming out to?

Support and Self Care

Consider coming out first to people you feel would be most likely to support you. It may also help to have someone who makes you feel comfortable and safe with you as a support person when you are telling someone new. 

Following coming out, it’s normal to be processing a lot of thoughts and feelings, so having a plan of self care afterwards may be helpful to work through these emotions. Spaces like the RCSGD provide a safe and comfortable space with people and community that can help and support you during this and any point in the coming out process. 

Safety

Unfortunately, coming out doesn’t always go according to our hopes and plans. If people don’t react the way we wish, it does not reflect on the validity of our identities, and it is not our fault. You deserve to be accepted with open arms, care, and love. In situations where things are feeling unsafe or you expect that they might be, consider preparing a back-up plan for housing, food, school, and/or transportation, just in case. Your safety and well-being are of the utmost priority.

Moving Forward

Remember that you’re not alone in this process! The RCSGD is here to support you in your journey.

Realize that, for many people, coming out is a lifelong process. After coming out to close friends and family, for example, you may find yourself coming out to your work colleagues, new friends, extended family, and others throughout your life. People often have assumptions that others are straight and cisgender and LGBTQIA+ people find themselves in the position to challenge these assumptions. The process of telling others your LGBTQIA+ identity usually gets easier over time and with practice. By coming out ourselves, we can help make it easier for future generations to be themselves, but you should not feel pressured to come out for this or any other reason.

The important thing about coming out is that you’re doing this for you. It may never feel like the perfect time to do it, but as long as it feels like the right time for you personally. 

The process of coming out is different for everyone. Whether you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, or asexual, coming out can involve a unique set of issues based on your circumstances – including your age, location, familial status, class, ethnicity, gender identity, dis/ability, sexual orientation, and countless other factors.

Resources for Families and Friends

Pacific Pride Foundation 

Pacific Pride Foundation is an advocacy and education organization for HIV/AIDS and queer communities in Santa Barbara County.
Services: LGBTQ+ programs for youth and elders, Community Center: counseling, clinical therapy groups, community groups, health & prevention, free testing, and more.
Website: https://pacificpridefoundation.org/

Santa Barbara Trans Advocacy Network (SBTAN)

Santa Barbara Trans Advocacy Network is a collection of trans advocates in the Santa Barbara area. They educate individuals and organizations on best practices for trans clients, as well as provide support groups for trans youth and adults.
Website: https://www.sbtan.org/

Lisa’s Place

A meetup place for trans, nonbinary, and gender-nonconforming folks in the Santa Barbara Area
Monday’s, Thursday’s and Saturday’s, 4-8PM in Santa Barbara First Congregational Church (FCC) at 2101 State Street (enter off Padre Street)
Website: https://www.sbtan.org/lisa-s-place-at-sbtan

PFLAG

PFLAG Santa Barbara is a chapter of PFLAG, comprised of the families and friends of queer folks in the SB area. They perform advocacy and education for the community as well as support for families of queer folks
Meets second Monday of every month, 7PM at First United Methodist Church, 305 E Anapamu St. at Garden St.

Nuestras hijas y nuestros hijos

PFLAG has created a booklet that is helpful for parents of individuals who identify as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. It is specifically catered to Latinx parents and is in Spanish. It explores many common questions and concerns that Latinx and Spanish speaking parents may have when their child comes out.

The National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA)

Has worked with parents of LGBTQIA people to develop a series of one-page, translated leaflets. The multilingual leaflets answer basic questions about being LGBT and dispel common misconceptions. They are available in the following languages:

English Chinese: Simplified script, Traditional script
Korean Japanese
Indonesian Vietnamese
Thai Khmer
Hmong Lao
Hindi Bengali
Gujarati Punjabi
Urdu Tagalog
Ilocano Arabic