Following acknowledgment and self-acceptance is the decision to be secretive or open.

Occasionally, a gay man, lesbian, or bisexual individual will find others abruptly open­ing the closet door for him or her. Outing is the term for the public disclosure of some­one’s secret homosexual orientation by someone else. Otherwise, being homosexual usually requires ongoing decisions about whether to be in or out of the closet as new relationships and situations unfold. Passing is a term sometimes used for maintain­ing the false image of heterosexuality. Passing as heterosexual is usually easy because passing

most people assume that everyone is heterosexual. Heterosexual people sometimes do presenting a false image of being not understand disclosure issues, as exemplified by the following comment: heter°sexua|.

I don’t see any reason why they have to tell anyone. They can just lead their lives without making such a big deal out of it. (Authors’ files)

In some daily interactions, sexual orientation is irrelevant, but sexual orienta tion is a strong undercurrent that touches many parts of life. Imagine being a clos eted homosexual person and hearing a friend make a derogatory reference to "fags" or "dykes"; being asked,

"When are you going to settle down and get mar­ried?"; being invited to bring a date to an office party where acceptance is uncertain; or not ever being able to hang out with your significant other with friends, family, or in public at all.

With some exceptions, the more within "the sys­tem" one is or desires to be, the more risk there is in being open about one’s sexual orientation. Jobs, social position, and friendships can all be placed in jeopardy.

The conservativeness of the surrounding community or time in history can further affect one’s decisions about whether to come out and to whom. Urban set­tings often increase the likelihood that individuals will express their gay or lesbian sexual orientation (Chiang,

2009). In the Let’s Talk About It box, "Guidelines for Coming Out to Friends," we offer some suggestions for coming out.

Sexual Orientations

Guidelines for Coming Out to Friends