Coming out is the term used to describe telling people in your life about your sexuality (or gender expression). You may choose to come out at any time in your life. Sharing this important part of yourself with your friends, family, and/or community can be daunting but may also bring deeper connections with those you love. Most importantly, coming out frees you from feeling like you are living in secret and shame.
Checking In With Yourself
An important part of the process is coming to terms with your own sexuality. Many men are raised in communities in which being attracted to other men may go against societal or religious community values. Many of us have to find strength to first admit our sexuality to ourselves and get comfortable at a minimum level before sharing with others. Depending on your situation, this step is not easy. Most men, of any age, in the U.S. live in a world where being attracted to other men does not fit into religious or societal cultures. Some are under 18 and may still be financially dependent on parents who are conservative and/or religious.
Regardless of your situation, we honor the courage it takes for each of you to recognize your sexuality and decide to act on it in a world that does not make that easy.
Who to Tell
When first coming out, you may be more emotionally vulnerable as you open up to yourself. Choose wisely when deciding on the first people to share your wonderful news. Pick people that have proven to be trustworthy and can keep a secret. It may important to you that the people you tell understand that you are only choosing to tell them right now. You are the only person who decides who knows this personal information about you. Sometimes it may be helpful to find someone outside of your regular social circle or it may be your best friend. Only you can determine who feels like the right person. Be patient with people you choose to tell. They may need some time and education to adjust to the new you.
Some guys come out when they are in elementary school and others after a lifetime of marriage to a woman. We are a very diverse group, each of us with a different coming out story. You are the only one who can determine the right moment in your life.
Coming out will likely transform you and many aspects of your life. Be aware that you may be changing at a rapid pace and your friends and family may be adjusting at a different pace. You may also be making new friends or connecting to other MSMs. Be gentle with yourself and compassionate to those who love you as you all get used to the new you.
Again, there is no right way to come out. As part of the coming out process, some men quickly fall in love and others have lots of sex with many men. We encourage all MSMs to be educated on HIV/STD prevention and understand the best ways to protect yourselves and each other as you explore your newfound sexuality.
On the DL
Guys who have discovered their sexuality and who are not open with their family, work and/ or friends may be living "On the Downlow." There are many factors that contribute to guys being on the DL: family, marriage, job, religion, and/or community. As with any group of MSMs, we encourage guys on the DL to make your sexual choices carefully to protect you and any partners' health.
For more information on coming out from the Human Rights Campaign: