Support Is Key to 'Coming Out' Process for Gay People:
MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- For gay and lesbian
Americans, the rewards of "coming out" often hinge on the support
of the local community, a new study shows.
Research has shown that gays, lesbians or bisexuals who reveal
their sexual orientation typically boost their self-esteem and
experience less anger and depression. And the new study found that
disclosing one's sexual identity makes people even happier than
However, the benefits of coming out are limited to socially
supportive settings, and may not apply to those exposed to hostile
or judgmental environments.
"In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing," said the study's co-author, Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in a news release. "Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity."
The researchers pointed out however, that by making no
distinction between the different environments in which people came
out, previous studies underestimated just how beneficial revealing
one's sexual orientation can be when done in a supportive
In the same vein, these studies also failed to account for the
detrimental effects of "coming out" among disapproving groups.
After questioning 161 lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals,
ranging in age from 18 to 65, about their experiences with friends,
family, coworkers, school peers, and religious community,
researchers found those who are open about their sexuality amid
accepting groups reap psychological rewards.
Among hostile groups however, the stigma and consequences
associated with identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual negate any
"Environment plays a huge role in determining when coming out actually makes you happier," according to Nicole Legate, a doctoral student at the University of Rochester in a news release. In more judgmental contexts, "those who come out may actually feel no better than those who conceal," said Legate.
The researchers noted participants most often kept their sexual
orientation hidden in environments they described as controlling
and judgmental. In fact, 69 percent of those interviewed still
remained "in the closet" within their religious communities. Half
of those questioned kept their sexual orientation a secret at
school, 45 percent hid it from co-workers and 36 percent did not
reveal their sexual orientation to their families.
"The vast majority of gay people are not out in every setting," said Ryan. "People are reading their environment and determining whether it is safe or not."
Among the most accepting groups for the gays, lesbians and
bisexuals polled: friends. The vast majority, or 87 percent,
reported feeling significantly less anger and greater self-esteem
with friends than with any other group.
The study, published June 20 in
Social Psychology and Personality Science, noted that "coming out" in some settings but not others has no effect on a person's mental health. The findings also stress the importance of creating environments that are accepting of all people, particularly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals, concluded Ryan.
The American Psychological Association offers insight into
coming out and why it's important.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.