Coming Out: Therapy for LGBTQ Persons

A black transgender woman sits in front of a computer while participating in a session of telehealth therapy for LGBTQ persons

“Coming out” can be anxiety-provoking, scary, and hard for many. Therapy can help LGBTQ people accept themselves and navigate the coming out process.

Key takeaways:

  • Coming out as an LGBTQ person can be scary and difficult.

  • The Cass Theory, developed by Vivian Cass, is a six-stage model that describes the identification revelation process for many.

  • Make a conscious and deliberate decision about who you will tell first.

  • Choose a safe, supportive person and environment in which to have the discussion.

  • Be prepared for challenging reactions. Have a plan on how you’ll handle them and what coping skills you can use.

  • Find allies you trust to help support you.

  • Know that you are worthy of being your whole self regardless of who accepts or rejects you.

  • Utilize resources, such as support groups in your area.

  • Consider getting professional help from an LGBTQ-friendly therapist.

The decision to “come out” can be quite difficult. While many LGBTQ people are met with support from their family and friends, there are just as many who are rejected. They may be subjected to ridicule, abuse, or even kicked out of their family homes.

Transphobia and homophobia can drive hostility and discrimination towards LGBTQ people. This discrimination can occur on a personal level or systemically or institutionally. Unfortunately, it occurs too often: 85% of LGBTQ students say they have experienced verbal harassment at school. The discrimination these children face is harmful and can impact their mental health. Studies on LGBTQ youth show that they are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers.

From family disappointment to societal pressure, there are several reasons LGBTQ individuals dread coming out. In the end, though, it’s about accepting yourself and living authentically, reveling in the freeing happiness this brings. We discuss the six stages of coming out, tips for doing it, and how therapy can help.

The six stages of coming out

The Cass Theory, developed by Vivian Cass, is a six-stage model that describes the process of coming out for many individuals. You may see yourself and your challenges represented by one of these stages. They are:

  • Stage 1: Identity confusion – In this stage, people may begin to wonder about their gender or sexuality. They may experience denial or confusion.

  • Stage 2: Identity comparison – Here, a person may feel socially alienated or out of place and may continue denying their sexuality or begin to accept it.

  • Stage 3: Identity tolerance – In this stage, feelings of confusion and distress about their identity begin to dissipate. The person begins moving towards accepting themselves by tolerating their truth. They may seek out community with other LGBTQ persons to remedy the increasing feelings of societal isolation and alienation.

  • Stage 4: Identity acceptance – At this point, the person no longer questions their identity. They accept themselves as they are. They may begin to increase their contact with the LGBTQ community.

  • Stage 5: Identity pride – The person is proud of being part of the LGBTQ community. They may have less contact with the heterosexual community and may even have feelings of anger towards it.

  • Stage 6: Identity synthesis – A person begins to integrate their identity as an LGBTQ person into their overall identity, making it just one part of themself and not the whole lens around which their identity is built. A person begins to feel more comfortable with being their whole authentic self regardless of which group they are around.

It is normal to have questions about your sexuality or gender and to explore these aspects of yourself. Moving through all of these feelings is part of the process. In the next part of the article, we’ll talk about some tips for coming out.

Helpful tips for expressing yourself

The process of identifying as LGBTQ is usually not simple and linear. It is a process and can be easier or harder depending on your thoughts and circumstances. There are ways to make it more comfortable, though, and they include:

  • Choose safe and supportive surroundings

When you first decide to come out, think about the first person you want to tell. Make a deliberate choice and choose someone supportive of you that you feel safe with. Think about an appropriate time and place to have the conversation. Also, choose surroundings that are comfortable and safe.

  • Be prepared for challenging reactions

You’re probably already scared of a negative reaction from someone at some point. Be prepared to receive these challenging reactions and have a plan in place for how you’d like to respond. Rejection hurts, even if we’ve prepared for it. Choose some coping skills you can rely on to help you get through it, like self-love and lowering your expectations.

  • Find allies you can trust

Community is important for everyone, but especially for marginalized people. Having allies you can talk to is healthy. You can confide in them about your experiences and allow them to help support you through the tough times.

  • Know that you are worthy of being your whole, wonderful self

Your sense of self should not be constructed around who accepts or rejects you – or around one aspect of your life, such as your sexuality or gender identity. Know that you are worthy of being your whole, wonderful self. Someone’s rejection of you is in no way reflective of your self-worth.

  • Utilize the resources available to you

Many areas have local resources to support LGBTQ persons. These may be community centers, support groups, or Pride events. There are also many online resources that include social media communities. Allow yourself to be supported by your community and the resources available to you.

If you feel like you need more support, you can always seek therapy. Therapy can help you process your feelings and increase your coping skills. This can be especially helpful if you’re dealing with discrimination or rejection or need help coping with feelings of anxiety and/or depression. Anyone willing to participate and do the work can benefit from therapy.

Get support from a qualified, caring therapist in the South Florida area

Coming out can be a scary process, but having support from the right professionals can make it a lot less difficult to navigate. Choosing a compatible and compassionate professional can make all the difference. An LGBTQ-friendly therapist can create a safe space for you and assist you in working through all the challenges that come with coming out.

The team at Love Discovery is ready to welcome you with open arms. If you’re ready to get started in therapy to help you process your feelings about your gender identity, sexuality, or coming out, make an appointment with any of our therapists today. Feeling hesitant about how we can help? Call 786.571.4636 for a free 20-minute consultation.

We are here to help you improve your mental health and support you through this tough time.

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