As people begin to identify themselves as homosexual, they must deal with societal beliefs that this sexual preference is shameful, sinful, or pathological. From fear, often but not always justified, that revelation of homosexuality will lead to ostracism, many homosexuals keep their sexual preference secret from friends and family. Keeping such a secret is often called living in the closet; to proclaim one’s homosexuality is to come out of the closet. In the cultural mainstream generally, history, religion, educational institutions, and cultural values and mores all maintain that people are naturally heterosexual and that homosexuality is a failing. As a result, homosexual women and men have powerful reasons not to acknowledge their sexual preferences. As the individual gay or lesbian begins to accept his or her identity, however, the coming out process becomes more compelling. In this sense, the metaphor of “coming out” is quite accurate, since coming out is a process of taking what is within (unspoken sexual identity) and bringing it out to the attention of others. Coming out can be difficult and dangerous, so many people live in the closet, acting as if they are attracted to members of the opposite sex. The distressing feelings of alienation that result from trying to be someone that one is not can motivate one to come out.