Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

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 or Ally

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. Mental Health​ counselors are available at SHS to discuss issues related to sex, sexual orientation, sexuality, and gender identity. Call 314-935-6666, option 2 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.  

    LGBTQIA Campus Resources

  • 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 Wash U community about LGBTQIA issues, and to build a supportive social network for LGBTQIA students. Email them at, or visit their office in the Women’s Building Suite 300.
  • Safe Zones is an organization dedicated to the education of the Wash U 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 at
  • 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 Hal, 10p.m. - 1a.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.