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How to come out

So, after a lot of soul searching you’ve worked out you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. But how do you tell this to the people you love? Coming out is scary, so TheSite.org is here to hold your hand.

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Am I ready to come out?

Unfortunately, there isn’t some online questionnaire you can fill in that will tell you if you’re ready or not. Everyone’s circumstances are individual and – similar to losing your virginity – usually coming out is a matter of knowing, in yourself, when you’re ‘ready’. This can take months, years, and even decades – and that’s fine. Whenever’s right for you, is what’s right.

“In a lot of cases, people just have an epiphany moment where they think ‘I need to do this now’. If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,’” says Wayne Dhesi, founder of RUComingOut. “But if any part of you doesn’t feel ready, then it suggests you’re not just yet.”

How to come out

So you’re ready… as ready as you can be. But how do you go about actually saying it? Here are some steps to follow.

Think about the best method of telling people

You do not have to sit down with your parents and tell them, face-to-face, that you’re attracted to the same sex, like cross dressing or want to change sex. This works for some people, but if this idea fills you with absolute horror, why not research some other ways, like:

  • Writing it in a letter or email. This gives them time to think about their reaction before they knee-jerk respond.
  • Ask them if they can guess what you’re going to tell them. They may come up with lots of things they find much worse than being gay or trans, like getting someone pregnant, or being arrested. Then, what you tell them may come as a relief. Or they may have known for years and were waiting until you were ready.
  • RUComingOut allows people to share their experiences of coming out – see if anyone else’s method appeals to you.

Make sure you have a support network in place

Wayne suggests telling one person you really trust first. Someone you’re quite sure will support you without judgement. Then, whatever happens with others, you’ve got someone to prop you up.

“It’s much easier once you’ve told one person,” he says. “And it’s probably best not to tell the person you’re worried about first. Build on positive experiences.”

Don’t judge people’s initial reactions

You’ve spent however long ruminating and stressing and pondering what you’re feeling and have had all the time you need to come to terms with it. The people you’re coming out to haven’t. So, don’t judge them on their initial response. Give them time to digest the new information and don’t expect their first reaction to be perfect. They may be shocked, and no one in shock behaves their best. Wait a week or so before you really know how they feel.

Be selfish – only tell who you want

You may feel you should tell your parents first, but, actually, if you’re only comfortable telling your mates right now – that’s fine.

“What’s most important is protecting yourself emotionally through this time,” says Wayne. “This isn’t about your parents getting upset or what people think, it’s about you, it’s for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.”

What if I get a bad reaction?

If your family or friends haven’t responded how you wanted, it will sting. It may even feel like your heart’s been ripped out. If this happens, surround yourself with people who make you feel good and give it time to settle down. There are a number of organisations and helplines you can contact for extra support at the end of this article.

Remember: if people have a problem it’s their problem, not yours. Your sexuality is nothing to be ashamed of. Ever.

What if my parents chuck me out of the house?

This is an absolute worst-case scenario. But if you’re worried your parents are going to throw you out, think carefully before you commit to telling them and weigh up whether it’s worth waiting, just to keep a roof over your head. If you decide to go for it, here’s what to do if you find yourself homeless.

Photo of painted hands from Shutterstock

 

Next Steps

  • LGBT Youth Scotland has lots of great advice articles about LGBT issues, as well as running supportive live chats online.
  • Queer Youth Network gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with other LGBT young people online.
  • London Lesbian & Gay Switchboard offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Visit Madly in Love to discuss mental health and relationships, share stories and get support and advice.
  • Got a worry about relationships? Whatever the question, get free anonymous advice from one of our relationship experts.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Bourne

Updated on 07-Aug-2014

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