Today is International Coming Out Day. What does that mean? Coming Out Day is intended to encourage people who describe themselves as queer to come out about their sexuality and/or gender identity. The day of action has existed since 1988 and is intended to commemorate a major rally for gay and lesbian rights that took place a year earlier. Since then, Coming Out Day has been celebrated worldwide every year – for example with lectures and discussion events, film festivals and exhibitions.
Coming out initially means realising that you have a sexual orientation other than heterosexuality and/or that you do not (only) feel like the gender you were assigned at birth. This is called an inner coming out. The second step can involve informing those around you (and the public) about this. This is called an external coming out. There are often several years between the inner and outer coming out. Many people are afraid to come out because they are worried about how those around them will react. Many people are afraid of rejection, discrimination or breaking off contact in connection with their coming out. Coming out was/is often difficult, especially for older people. Paragraphs 175 and 175a, which prohibited sexual acts between men, were only repealed throughout Germany in 1994. Due to the prevailing normative role models, it is/was often very taboo for women, especially mothers, to openly live a non-heterosexual identity. Non-binary people are also often not yet accepted in their gender identity in many areas. Coming Out Day is intended to help make it easier for those concerned and to show them that they are not alone.
Even if many people decide to come out, this is not absolutely necessary if you don’t feel comfortable with it or are afraid of it. After all, coming out is an individual matter and the question of “if”, “how”, “when” and “to whom” should be decided by each individual. It can also be a first step to tell a few trusted people and see how you feel about it. No matter what you decide, you are not alone!
Are you in the process of coming out yourself or do you want to support a friend? You can find counselling services and helpful articles here (German versions):
You are also welcome to visit the Rosalinde Leipzig e.V. counselling centre in Leipzig for a free, non-binding consultation on the topic. TIAM e.V. can also help you if you identify as transgender or intersex.