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'Coming out' is an almost universal experience for non-cisgender and non-heterosexual people. While it isn't necessarily part of everyone's personal journey with their gender identity or sexuality, chances are that if you don't have a personal coming out story, you know a friend or relative who does. You might also unfortunately know of an outing story, where someone's sexuality or gender identity was disclosed without their consent. These are all parts of the vast and varied coming out process.
October 11th is National Coming Out Day (or NCOD), and it's meant to spread awareness about the LGBTQ+ coming out experience. Usually framed as part of a journey, 'coming out of the closet' generally involves disclosing your sexual or gender identity to others. It can be a very sensitive, scary and personal experience, but many people in the LGBTQ+ community report feeling much happier within themselves after coming out.
As many countries in the world move towards decriminalising homosexuality, legalising gay marriage and signing in legal protections against the discrimination of LGBTQ+ people, coming out is slowly becoming a less fraught process. In fact, with more young people than ever identifying as not-straight and not-cisgender, coming out is actually becoming less common than it used to be. This doesn't indicate that more people are becoming LGBTQ+ or that coming out is no longer necessary, but rather that it's becoming safer for people to identify as LGBTQ+ without fear or persecution.
Coming out has no age limit: whether you're 14 or 45, it's never too late to confirm your gender identity or sexuality for yourself. We've rounded up advice on things to consider before you come out, and some tips on how to do it in style, once you're ready.