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Support Is Key to 'Coming Out' Process for Gay People: Study
Date:6/20/2011

MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- For gay and lesbian Americans, the rewards of "coming out" often hinge on the support of the local community, a new study shows.

Research has shown that gays, lesbians or bisexuals who reveal their sexual orientation typically boost their self-esteem and experience less anger and depression. And the new study found that disclosing one's sexual identity makes people even happier than previously thought.

However, the benefits of coming out are limited to socially supportive settings, and may not apply to those exposed to hostile or judgmental environments.

"In general, research shows that coming out is a good thing," said the study's co-author, Richard Ryan, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in a news release. "Decades of studies have found that openness allows gay people to develop an authentic sense of themselves and to cultivate a positive minority sexual identity."

The researchers pointed out however, that by making no distinction between the different environments in which people came out, previous studies underestimated just how beneficial revealing one's sexual orientation can be when done in a supportive setting.

In the same vein, these studies also failed to account for the detrimental effects of "coming out" among disapproving groups.

After questioning 161 lesbian, gay, and bisexual individuals, ranging in age from 18 to 65, about their experiences with friends, family, coworkers, school peers, and religious community, researchers found those who are open about their sexuality amid accepting groups reap psychological rewards.

Among hostile groups however, the stigma and consequences associated with identifying as lesbian, gay, or bisexual negate any benefits.

"Environment plays a huge role in determining when coming out actually makes you happier," according to Nicole Legate, a doctoral student at the University of Roche
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