Reducing Sexual Prejudice: The Role of Coming Out
Psychological research, especially the work of social psychologist Greg Herek, has concluded that active sharing by LGBT people of what their lives are like with people they know — whether in their families, communities or workplaces and schools — is very likely to reduce others' prejudice against LGBT people and increase their support for social and political equality.
National Coming Out Day and Tell 3 are grassroots efforts to encourage and facilitate the sort of intergroup contact between LGBT people and non-LGBT people that will reduce the latter's prejudice and promote their active opposition to discrimination.
However, the disclosure of sexual orientation and gender identity is stressful for a number of reasons. One, people "coming out" do not know how others will react. Two, helping others to overcome their lack of knowledge, reduce their discomfort and increase their empathy is not easy and may stir up negative feelings in the person who is coming out because of earlier prejudice or discrimination they have experienced.
The Know Us Project (KUP) uses mental health providers to support LGBT people by facilitating engagement in the kind of intergroup contact that reduces prejudice. In the KUP workshops, participants learn to evaluate whether they are ready to act in this way, how to identify people to speak with and how to reduce the listener's anxiety in a personal conversation about LGBT issues, and use words and body language that will make a conversation more effective. They also learn to address negative feelings they may experience during and after their intergroup contact and learn to cope with those feelings through self-care, stress management and professional help, if needed.