Coming Out

LGBTQIA people are of all ages, ethnic, socio-economic, and educational backgrounds. They do not look or act in any specific way. Just by looking, you could not be certain of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual orientation refers to the physical or romantic attractions people have to others while gender identity refers to the way that an individual feels about their gender. This may or may not align with what society would expect of them based on their sex, a set of biological characteristics determined at birth.

What does LGBTQIA stand for?

  • L = Lesbian
  • G = Gay
  • B = Bisexual
  • T = Transgender
  • Q = Queer or Questioning
  • I = Intersex
  • A = Asexual

The “coming out” process

According to the Human Rights Campaign, “coming out” occurs when LGBTQIA individuals acknowledge their sexual orientation or gender identity to themselves or others. “Coming out” is not a single event, but a lifelong process that will repeat itself throughout life when people take a new job, meet new people or start a new stage in their lives. Counseling and Psychological Services​ are available at Habif Center to discuss issues related to sex, sexual orientation, sexuality and gender identity. Learn how to make an appointment.

What does coming out look like?

The process of coming out is not the same for every person. Each individual should make their decision based on what works for them without following any specific agenda. Here are some common examples of things that may happen as part of the coming out process:

  • Individuals “come out” to themselves
  • They explore their friends’ and family’s opinions about LGBTQIA issues
  • They tell a few close friends
  • They tell a few other friends
  • They tell close family members
  • They tell other family members
  • They “come out” to larger groups (e.g., spiritual, social, local)
How can you help a friend during the coming out process?

You can start with supporting your friend by providing a listening ear. Don’t pressure your friend to come out to other individuals or organizations. Read LGBTQIA-friendly information about health, sexuality, relationships, family and politics; join organizations that are LGBTQIA-friendly. Confront oppressive behavior, language and institutional policies that negatively affect the LGBTQIA community.



  • LGBTQIA Campus Life​. The coordinator for LGBT student involvement and leadership works with students, faculty and staff to create a welcoming and supportive environment for all members of the campus community. Through social programming, student group advising, individual mentoring, leadership development and campus trainings, the coordinator supports the vibrant LGBT community on campus.
  • WU Pride Alliance​ is a multi-focus LGBTQIA (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, ally, asexual) organization open to all Washington University in St. Louis students regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression. Its goals are to advocate LGBTQIA-friendly public policies through activism and greater awareness, to educate the WashU community about LGBTQIA issues, and to build a supportive social network for LGBTQIA students. Email them, or visit their office in the Women’s Building Suite 300.
  • Safe Zones is an organization dedicated to the education of the WashU campus community in gay, genderqueer, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, questioning, queer, intersex, asexual and ally (GLBTQIA) issues. They dedicate themselves to forming a network of allies who will be knowledgeable in these issues and show support for the GLBTQIA community. Email them.
  • Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling and Resource Center has a 24-hour hotline at 314-935-5099. If you wish to speak with someone in person, their office is in the basement of Gregg Hall, 10 p.m.-1 a.m. nightly.
  • Human Rights Campaign is a civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.
  • Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays (PFLAG) has training materials, educational programs, and local chapters that support gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender political and personal issues.
  • The Unabridged Student Counseling Virtual Pamphlet Collection hosts pamphlets on sexual orientation published by universities around the country.

Healthy Bodies, Safer Sex​​ (PDF)

A comprehensive guide to safer sex, relationships and reproductive health for trans or nonbinary people and their partners​