What is coming out?
‘Coming out’ means telling someone something about yourself that is not immediately obvious. With regards to sexual orientation and gender identity this means sharing with others that you are lesbian, gay, bi or trans. The process of coming out can be very different for everyone and it can take some time to get to a point where you feel comfortable and confident enough to have those conversations with people.
Why come out?
Mostly, people just want to be honest about who they are, especially with the people they love. Hiding who you are can be a big struggle. It can take your focus and energy away from other important things in your life such as your job, studying or exams.
Just because someone may decide to come out to family or friends, it does not mean they have to come out to everyone. It is quite common for people to be out in certain areas of their lives, but not in others.
It may take you a while to get to a point where you feel ready to come out, which is absolutely fine. The main thing to remember is not to put any pressure on yourself and to only come out when you feel ready.
How to come out
There are many different ways to come out and there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you are thinking about coming out then it is important that you find a way that feels right for you.
HERE ARE SOME THINGS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO CONSIDER:
Who do you want to tell?
It is unlikely that you will be able to gather everyone you know in one room and come out to them all at once and this is probably something you would find pretty daunting anyway! Therefore you will probably need to do it in stages. Think about who you want to tell first; ideally this should be someone who you think will be supportive, such as a friend, family member or maybe a trusted youth worker or teacher. They will then be able to support you when you tell other people.
Is there anyone you DON’T want to know?
Thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, news travels faster than ever these days. If there is someone in your life who you would rather not be out to, think carefully about how you will be able to manage this. It is worth considering that once you tell one person, other people in your life could find out, even if you don’t want them to.
When is the right time to say something?
It is worth acknowledging that coming out could be a bit of a surprise to some people in your life. You have probably had a long time to get used to it, but the person or people you are telling will be hearing it for the first time. Consider telling them at a time when you will be able to talk things through properly. For instance, coming out to a friend on your way in to an exam probably is not the best time! Broaching the subject on the phone to a parent or guardian when you have only got 2% battery also is not ideal.
How will you tell people?
Everyone will have their own preference when it comes to choosing how to come out. The most obvious way is to sit down in person and talk. The benefits of coming out this way are that you will be able to answer any questions they may have and also get some comfort or reassurance if you need it. It may feel daunting, but once you have told one person it really does start to feel easier.
Some people may choose to send an email, text or letter (remember them?!) as this will give the person time to process what you are telling them before they respond. Some people have used social media to come out. Although this method of coming out means you will probably only need to do it once, it also takes away the opportunity to have those personal conversations with those who are close to you. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to come out.
information for parents
As a parent, you may have understandable questions or concerns if you think that your child might be lesbian, gay, bi or trans. We've tried to answer some of the commons ones below;
I think that my child might be lesbian, gay, bi or trans. How can I be sure?
Until your child comes and tells you that they are, or might be lesbian, gay, bi or trans you can’t know. Try not to make assumptions and let them come and tell you in their own time. Create a positive environment where your child feels able to talk to you about their sexual orientation or gender identity, for example, say positive things about LGBT people when they’re on TV and don’t allow people to say negative things under your roof.
But I don’t agree with it.
The truth is, if you’ve got a problem with the idea of your child being lesbian, gay, bi or trans you’re going to have to live with it and accept it. The best thing you can do is to put your feelings to one side and remember that, regardless of your child's sexuality or gender identity, you love them and want them to be happy. As for other family members if they don’t react well initially, put some rules in place and establish what can and can’t be said in front of your child.
Talking about it is a good thing
One thing you can do is give them the information they need to make good decisions. LGBT young people often lack access to information about their rights, where to access support, sex and staying safe so, even if you feel like you can’t talk about it personally, you should at least be able to point them in the direction of the information they need. You can contact Stonewall's Information Service for pointers.
Won’t being LGBT make their life harder for them?
One of the hardest things for LGBT people to face is rejection from their friends and family. New laws have made our country fairer and more equal. Gay, lesbian and bi people can now get married and have children, and there is legislation to protect LGBT people in the workplace. There are more LGBT role models in the arts, politics and sport and those people who have a problem with LGBT people are an increasingly small minority. In modern Britain, LGB young people can grow up, live happy lives and fall in love with people just like anyone else.
Support when you think your child might be lesbian, gay or bisexual
While YouGov polling shows that 81 per cent of people in Britain would be comfortable if their child was LGB, Stonewall's guide 'So you think you child is gay?' answers some of the most frequent questions asked by parents about sexual orientation.
You can find local LGBT youth groups and other useful contacts through Stonewall's online database What's In My Area.
For further information you can fill out our enquiry form, call Stonewall's Information Service on 08000 502020, tweet to @StonewallUKInfo or email firstname.lastname@example.org