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coming outa social, psychological and political process which involves both public and private identification with the designation ‘lesbian’ or ‘gay’. Crucially, the process involves internalization of the label ‘homosexual’ and acceptance of a lesbian or gay lifestyle. The term arose out of the reemergence of radical sexual politics in the context of the wider radicalization of political culture in the 1960s. It was, and continues to be, a key concept within gay and lesbian politics because of the challenge it presents to the negative imagery surrounding HOMOSEXUALITY and the sociopolitical processes which render it invisible. Coming out involves a change in self-image for the individual which arises from an affirmation of his or her homosexuality As a political strategy, the process challenges the normative frameworks surrounding institutionalized HETEROSEXUALITY.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000