Coming out is a big decision that should not be taken lightly. If you’re ready to come out to your friends, family members, or even your community, then the most important thing is that you’re comfortable with and accepting of your sexuality before you open up to anyone. Once you do that, the best thing you can do is to prepare what to say and to know what to expect. Though no one said coming out was easy, you should be proud of yourself for accepting who you are and look forward to feeling like you can enjoy being exactly who you were meant to be.
This article is focused on coming out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual. If you’d like to know how to come out as transgender, click here.
Coming Out to a Close Friend
Make sure you’re comfortable with your sexuality first. Before you come out to anyone, you should feel comfortable with who you are and with your sexuality so that you don’t let anyone else tell you who you are. If you’re still not sure about how you really feel and don’t feel comfortable telling anyone, then you should wait until you’ve had time to come to terms with your sexual orientation so you can come out to people without letting it shake your confidence.
It’s likely that you’ve known that you’re gay, lesbian, or bi for quite some time, but being aware of it isn’t the same as accepting it. Give yourself the time you need to process that and don’t rush yourself or give yourself a timeline to stick to.
You may have friends who have come out years before, but that doesn’t mean you should have to follow their timelines, either. What’s right for them isn’t necessarily what’s right for you.
Something else you should accept is that while being gay or bi is an important part of your identity, you can’t let it define you. Just because you’re gay or bi doesn’t mean that’s all you are, just as a straight person isn’t purely defined by his sexual orientation. When you come out to people, you’ll be telling them that being gay or bi is one important aspect of your identity; however, that won’t stop you from also being an amazing soccer player, artist, brother, Chinese-American, or violinist, and so on.
Consider telling a friend you trust before talking to your family. When you’re first thinking of coming out to a friend, you should ask yourself, “Who is the most open-minded and accepting person I know?” That person may not be your very best friend in the world, but another close friend of yours. This is a crucial moment in your life and you should try to set yourself up to get the most positive reaction possible. You are likely to benefit from the support of an open-minded and understanding friend to help you feel loved and gain the courage to move forward.
You’ll never forget the first time you came out to someone. You should put a lot of thought into who the person you tell is.
You should think about what the person might have said about homosexuality before. If he or she has clearly demonstrated support for gay rights, has other gay friends, or has made comments against close-minded people, then you’ll be in good hands. If you’re not really sure, then you can test the waters by casually mentioning a gay person and seeing how your friend reacts.
Many people tend to come out to friends first because they find this more comfortable than coming out to their families. However, if you’d feel more comfortable telling your family first, then you can follow that path.
Find the right place and time to say it. Though everything doesn’t have to be perfect when you come out to your friend, you should try to pick a place where you can have some privacy and a time when your friend isn’t stressed out, distracted, or busy. You want to give your friend some time to process what you have to say, so you don’t want to deliver the news when your friend has a basketball game in ten minutes. Think it over carefully and then plan the place and time to talk to your friend.
Just ask your friend to hang out and say that there’s something you want to tell him or her. You don’t have to make a big deal about it or your friend may get nervous.
Write a letter if that seems less intimidating. Though a lot of people come out in person, if you feel too intimidated at the thought of coming out to your friend face to face, you can consider writing him or her a letter instead. It doesn’t have to be very long; it should just say that you’re coming out and that you wanted the friend to know first because you really trust him or her. Just make sure that the letter gets to your friend directly; in fact, you can even hand the letter to your friend and watch his or her reaction right in front of you, if that feels less scary than saying it in person.
If you’re feeling too shy to say it in person, but really want your friend to know, then this may be your best bet. Just be wary of giving your friend the letter in school or another place where a lot of other people are likely to be around because you don’t want it to get into the wrong hands.
Keep it simple. If you are talking to your friend in person, then you don’t need to come out with a big elaborate speech about how you’ve known you were gay since you were eight years old, and so on; of course, you can go into great detail later, but it may be more effective to simply say, “I wanted to tell you something. I’m gay. I’m telling you because I trust you and know you’ll be there for me.” The longer you wait to say these words, the more nervous you’ll feel, and the more nervous your friend will feel, too.
Make eye contact with your friend and speak slowly and carefully. You don’t want to mumble and end up repeating yourself.
Stress that this is the first time you’re coming out, and that you’ve chosen this person to tell because you trust that he’ll understand and that he’ll be there for you.
Wait for a reaction. Your friend will likely hug you and there will be some tears. However, your friend may need some time to process what you’ve said, so be patient. Give your friend a few minutes to react, to ask you questions, and to give you the love and support you deserve. Once you tell your friend you can take a deep breath and see that it wasn’t as bad as you thought. Of course, your friend may very well speak right away and may even surprise you by saying that he or she knew right away, and that will make things even more comfortable.
Don’t worry if the conversation is a little awkward. That doesn’t mean your friend doesn’t approve — he just may not know what to say. It may be a little uncomfortable at first, but it’ll get better. Don’t let awkwardness discourage you from coming out to others, either.
Gain confidence and support from your friend. If things go as planned and your friend is completely encouraging and supportive, then coming out for the first time should make you feel good about yourself, and proud for taking such a big step. Your friend will make you see that you’re still you, and that being gay is just one aspect of who you are. This will give you the courage to move forward and to feel even more comfortable with your sexuality.
Unfortunately, there may be a chance that your friend doesn’t give you the support you expected. If your friend needs more time to process what you’ve said or is even negative about your news, don’t let this make you think that it means that all of your friends will react this way. You’ve just gotten unlucky and have come face-to-face with ignorance. This will be a hurdle, but you’ll be able to find someone who is supportive very soon.
Consider coming out to other friends before you tell your family members. Many people first come out to one friend and then move on to come out to a close circle of friends. Once they’ve gotten support from this community, they may even come out to an extended circle of friends, or it may even become common knowledge in their school before they come out to their parents. A lot of people feel less pressure when they come out to their friends first and gain the confidence they need to take their news to their family. After you come out to a close friend, you can decide what you do next.
Telling multiple friends, or even many friends, about your sexual orientation can be a great way to feel more confident about your sexuality. However, if you’re nervous about your parents finding out through your social network, you should consider the best time to tell them. If your extended social network knows about your sexuality, they may even assume that your family knows.
Don’t let anyone pressure you into coming out. One of the most important pieces of advice when it comes to coming out, whether you’re telling a close friend or your own mother, is that you should never, ever let anyone pressure you into coming out. Don’t let one of your friends or siblings pressure you into telling your parents, or don’t let one friend pressure you into telling another; the most important thing is that you deliver the news on your own terms.
You may already be feeling like you’re navigating a tricky situation. To feel like you’re in as much as control as you can be in, it’s important to reveal your news on your own terms.
Coming Out to Your Parents
Anticipate how your parents will react. It’s important to be honest with yourself when you consider how your parents will react. Of course, the best case scenario is that they will be completely accepting, that they might have already known, and that this conversation won’t cause a stir in your relationship. However, coming out to your parents may cause conflicts, even in the most accepting of parents. The first thing you have to do is consider whether or not you should even come out to your parents. Here are some things to consider:
If your parents have expressed positive views of homosexuals, have supported other people coming out, have watched TV shows with gay characters without criticism, and are generally open-minded, then they will be more likely to be supportive. Just keep in mind that, while your parents may support other people who are gay, that won’t prevent them from having an emotional reaction when it comes to their own child coming out.
Know when it’s not a good idea to come out to your parents. Unfortunately, there are some cases where you are better off not coming out to your parents. If they have expressed incredibly homophobic views and frequently make negative comments about being gay or even make comments that can be construed as violent against gay people, then you should carefully consider whether or not you should tell them. If you’re financially dependent on them and live at home and think that they will withdraw their finances and may even kick you out of the house, then you should hold off on coming out until you’re independent.
Though you may be tired of feeling like there’s a distance between you and your parents, if you anticipate that they will react very negatively and that you may even be in danger, then you shouldn’t come out to them. It can hurt to realize that your parents won’t be supportive of your sexuality, but realizing this is important to your safety.
Make sure you have a support network. It’s important to have a strong support network before you come out to your parents. Whether they react well or not, it’s important to know that you have friends you can depend on before you have a conversation with them. You don’t want to feel completely alone after you talk to your parents, and it’s important to know that you have somewhere to turn to in the event that things don’t go well. As you’re talking with your parents, remember your friends’ positive reactions can help you gain the strength you need.
If a few of your friends already know about your sexual orientation, then you should tell them when you’re planning to come out to your parents. That way, they’ll be there for you afterwards.
As you get more comfortable with your sexuality, you may become a part of an LGBT organization, which can help you gain even more support for your sexuality.
Pick an appropriate time to tell them. It’s important to pick the right time and place before you come out to your parents. Pick a time when you’ll have an evening to yourselves, and when they are likely to be less stressed, busy, or distracted than usual. Make a point of setting up a time to talk and letting them know what you have to tell them. Though you may feel like you’re dying to break the news to them, it’s important to pick the right time, since it’ll be a moment you all remember for the rest of your lives.
Make sure the emotional climate at home is pretty stable. If your parents are always fighting or on the brink of divorce, you may have to wait for the waters to settle a bit.
Don’t come out during a fight. The most important thing is that you do not come out in the middle of an argument. You may feel tempted to reveal your sexuality in the middle of an argument with your parents, especially if it’s relevant to the argument — like them not letting you spend the night at the house of a friend who is the opposite gender — but this is not the right way to go about it. You should not use your sexuality as a weapon against your parents, or you’ll be making it more difficult for them to have a positive reaction because they’ll see it as an affront.
Come out. Before you come out to your parents, you should let them know that you love them and that you’re telling them this because you want to have an honest and open relationship with them and are tired of feeling like you’re hiding something from them. Let them know that you want them to be a part of your life and that their love and support means so much to you. You don’t have to spend hours leading up to telling the news, especially since you’ll probably be nervous. Once you’ve convinced them of your love, just say it: “I want you to know that I’m gay/bi/a lesbian.”
Look them in the eyes and deliver your news. Take a deep breath before you say it and then make it short and sweet.
Though you may have seen clever photos on Buzzfeed about people coming out to their parents in cute letters or on a birthday cake, don’t feel the pressure to do anything but tell them the news as directly as possible.
Anticipate a variety of reactions. You need to understand that, even to the most open-minded of parents, this news may come as a complete shock. They may even see the news as an irrevocable change in the life of the child they’ve always loved and known; you need to see that they have probably thought about you getting married and having children, and that, while these things are still possible, they’ll need some time to accept these things. If they need some time to process what you’ve told them, don’t take it personally and understand that you’ve just changed their lives forever.
Some parents may be inclined to blame themselves. Single parents may even blame themselves more than others, thinking that they did not model positive heterosexual relationships for you. Assure them that there’s nothing they could have done to influence your sexuality.
Sometimes, one parent may be slower to accept the news than the other. Prepare for that, too.
If they don’t react well, they may tell you that you’re confused or that you even need therapy. You can explain that you’re not confused about being gay any more than they’re confused about being straight and that no amount of soul-searching will change that.
Give it time. Though you may want to deliver your news and then resume family movie night, your parents may need a bit of time to process what you’ve told them. There’s no magic amount of time that will lead them to accept what you’ve told them, and for some parents, it can take weeks, months, or even years — and some, unfortunately, won’t be able to accept it. In the meantime, you’ll have to be patient with them and be prepared to answer any questions they may have and to be a source of support for them. While you wait for them to process your news, make sure you feel safe. The environment may feel a little tense and uncomfortable, but as long as you’re safe, you can remain at home.
Though you may feel like you’re the one who needs all the love and support he can get, be prepared of a reversal of the child and parent roles. Your parents may actually need you to support them and answer their questions as they process this news.
While you give your parents time to process this information, lean on your friends. Spend more time with your friend support network than ever before and you’ll feel less alone.
Be prepared to educate them. Though your parents may not want to be educated, you should try to convince them to use all the resources they can get to get a better understanding of your sexual orientation. Helping them do some research will make them feel like they aren’t alone and that they aren’t clueless, either. They may be reluctant to associate themselves with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender movement at first, and it may be up to you to bring them books or pamphlets or to send them links to web sites. You should try to convince them to contact Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), a support group for parents of gays, lesbians, bisexual, and transgender persons. You can use their website, http://www.pflag.org, to find a variety of helpful resources, as well as information about meetings held at local chapters.
They can also check out the resources at Our True Colors, which provides a list of memoirs, articles, and books about the coming out process and the relationship between LGBT children and heterosexual parents.
Consider coming out to your extended family. Coming out to your mom and dad may be the hardest thing you ever have to do. The good news is, once you do that, telling your Aunt Norma won’t seem nearly as intimidating. Of course, your relatives may not all react the same way as your parents do, for better or worse, and you should take that into account. You can tell some of your other relatives the news face to face, or even trust your parents to tell your relatives whom you see less frequently if that’s what you’d prefer. However, it’s up to you if you want everyone in your family to know, and you are by no means obligated to tell them.
If you have siblings, then it may be common for you to have told them before you told your parents, though you can also tell them afterward if that feels more natural.
Coming Out to Your Community
Decide whether or not it’s a good idea to come out in your community. Remember that some communities are much more accepting than others, and your news will be taken differently if you’re living in the heart of San Francisco or in the heart of Mississippi. Of course, it won’t make you feel comfortable if you feel like you really can’t come out in your own community, but it’s important to keep an objective perspective and to focus on your safety first.
If you’re in a more gay-friendly community, then you can prepare for more positive reactions, and if you’re in a more conservative community, you should prepare accordingly and make sure that you’re safe.
You may feel like no one in your community gets it. Though you don’t have to leave town because of your sexual orientation, you should know that there are plenty of welcoming, gay-friendly places out there for you.
Tell people little by little, but prepare for word to spread quickly. Once you’ve told your close friends and family members, you may eventually feel ready to tell the community at large. You can either just start telling people you know less closely, or you can just wait for them to figure it out. If you just go about living your life as gay, bi, or lesbian, then you’re not obligated to tell anyone, and some of them will be able to figure it out if they see you openly dating, making comments on social media, or just living your life.
However, if you do start telling more people, then prepare for the word to spread quickly. Make sure that you’re comfortable with everyone in the community knowing.
Consider coming out on social media. Some people like to come out on Facebook and find it an easy way to let everyone know their social orientation at once. You can do this by posting a comment about it or by simply changing your status on Facebook. However, some LGBT members prefer just to live their lives on Facebook and let people figure it out so they don’t have to go through the trouble of telling each and every person they know. If you do choose to come out on social media, then just make sure that all of the people close to you already know about your sexual orientation, so they don’t feel hurt that you told the world at large and didn’t tell them.
Deal with the negative reactions. Even if you were born and raised in the Castro district, it’s inevitable that you will have to deal with some hate throughout your life. There are plenty of ignorant and biased people out there, and while you can avoid them as much as you can, you’ll have to deal with them at one time or another, so it’s important to know how to cope so you don’t let them break you down or tell you are. Here are some tips for dealing with negative reactions:
Don’t engage. If people say bigoted or ridiculous things to you, then they’ll never understand and you shouldn’t waste your time or energy fighting back to them. However, if they’re genuinely misinformed and have your best interests at heart, then you can take the time to educate them.
Don’t let them change your self-esteem. You’re the only person who can affect your own confidence, at the end of the day, and it’s important not to let other ignorant people make you feel like less of a person just because you were brave enough to be open about your sexual orientation.
In times when you feel down, remind yourself how much better your life is since you were able to be open with your friends and family, and how glad you are that you had the courage to come out.
Spend time with LGBT or LGBT friendly people and remind yourself of all of the support you have out there instead of focusing on the ignorant people who are trying to bring you down.
Educate people. While you don’t have to waste your time interacting one-on-one with ignorant and hate-filled people, you can start a blog, post interesting links on your social media, write informative articles for local papers, or just do your part in helping the world become more open-minded.
Find other like-minded people. Though you don’t need to suddenly drop all of your straight friends as soon as you come out, you should try to find other LGBT friendly people to help yourself feel more involved in a community of people who face the same challenges. You can join a local organization, an online organization, or even start an organization of your own. This can help you gain confidence, as well as insight into how to deal with negative reactions and other challenges.
This can happen little by little. Many people find an LGBT community once they enter college. If you’re still in high school and will be applying to colleges, you should check out rankings of most and least gay-friendly colleges so you can find yourself in an open-minded community.
Be proud of yourself. Coming out is no easy feat, and you should be incredibly proud of coming out, whether you’ve told one close friend or everybody and their mother. It means coming to terms with who you are and being proud enough of yourself to share that person with the world. It must have taken a lot of thought, courage, and planning, and it no doubt has led to some negative reactions along the way. In the end, the most important thing is that you’re proud of yourself for having so much strength and courage!
Tell yourself that some people go through their whole lives without being honest or open about their sexual orientation. Though everyone has his right to do what he wants, you’d taken a big step in deciding to be open with the people you care about.
Now that you’ve come out, you can gain strength by helping other people who need support to do the same.
Be confident in who you are, no matter what your sexuality. If you respect your decision, others will too.
Make it very clear to the person you are telling that you want to tell other people yourself. Relieve them of their duty to gossip.
Remember, you don’t have to come out if you don’t want to, but remember “To thine own self be true”.
No matter what you say or do, some people may judge you. Be aware of that. There really is nothing you can do to change their minds. Unfortunately, you’ll just have to deal with it and ignore it.
Some people-really, ignorant, stupid people-might make mean comments or harass you. But don’t let that keep you from coming out to anyone else. Tell someone if somebody is making derogatory remarks about your sexual orientation, there are sexual harassment laws protecting you.
How to Accept That You Are Gay
How to Come Out As a Gay or Lesbian Teen
How to Drop Hints That You Are a Lesbian
How to Tell Someone You Are Bisexual
Sources and Citations
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