For most members of the LGBTQIA+ community, a significant portion of their lives is spent concealing their sexual identity to avoid victimization and persecution. The phrase, “Coming out of the closet,” describes the experience of an LGBTQIA+ individual who shares their sexual identity with the world. Academic scholars believe that this metaphor actually comes from the combination of two others, “Coming out” (which refers to when an LGBTQIA+ sharing their sexual identity with other members of the queer community) and “Skeletons in the closet” (which refers to a large secret someone hides away from the world; GLBTQ Encyclopedia, n.d.; Waxman, 2017).
It is well researched that keeping secrets from loved ones can contribute to higher levels of anxiety and depression (Davis et al., 2020). In light of this, scientists have sought to study the mental and emotional impacts that concealing one’s identity can have on members of the LGBTQIA+ community. These studies have consistently shown that sexual minorities who conceal their sexual identity experience lower self-confidence and increased depression and anxiety (Schrimshaw et al., 2013). Contrastingly, these individuals experience significantly better mental and physical health outcomes in environments that support their sexual identities (Legate et al., 2017).
Unfortunately, openly embracing one’s sexual identity is often a complicated decision. While there is no doubt that there are negative health associations with concealing one’s identity, there are also negative health outcomes associated with the stigmatization of LGBTQIA+ individuals (CDC, 2022). This is why it is so important to eliminate the stigma surrounding the queer community. Through education and acceptance, we can work to create a healthier, more equitable future for ALL members of society, rather than just those who fit heteronormative standards!