How to Come Out
About This Event
Coming out is a deeply personal process, and it’s important to remember that you’re in charge of your journey. Come out to your friends, family, and community on your own terms and when you feel it’s safe to do so. Even if someone is open and supportive, coming out to them can still be daunting. Try to relax, and know that being nervous is completely normal. Hang in there! Above all, love and respect yourself, regardless of how others react to your news.
Coming Out on Your Terms
1. Work on coming to terms with your sexuality or gender identity. If you’re comfortable with who you are, you might have an easier time telling your friends and family. It’s normal to feel confused, so don’t feel like you need to have all of the answers. Just try to accept that your sexuality or gender identity is part of who you are, and know that you have no reason to feel ashamed.
- Coming out to yourself can be tough, but it’s an important first step. Tell yourself, “I’m gay,” “I’m bisexual,” “I’m transgender,” or “I’m questioning right now, and that’s okay. I have no reason to feel guilty or ashamed.”
- Reminding yourself that you’re not alone can help. Try reading books or online articles about other people’s coming out journeys. You can find coming out stories and lots of other resources at http://www.hrc.org/explore/topic/coming-out.
2. Remember that you’re in charge of your coming out process. Never let anyone pressure you into coming out. Don’t let a friend or siblings pressure you into telling your parents, or allow a loved one to pressure you into coming out at work or school. You are in control of whom you tell and when, so take each step of your journey at your own pace.
- You may have friends who came out years ago, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow their timelines. What’s right for them isn’t necessarily what’s right for you.
- Coming out can lift a heavy weight off of your shoulders, and it can help you feel closer to supportive loved ones. However, it can be risky. You shouldn't feel like coming out is your only choice, especially if you don’t feel safe doing so.
3. Don’t let others label your sexuality or gender identity. Adopt a label, such as “gay” or “bisexual” once you’re comfortable with it. If you’re unsure or aren’t ready to put a label on your orientation or identity, don’t let someone else define it for you. Keep in mind you might feel pressure to adopt a label from both straight and LGBTQ+ friends.
- For example, suppose you tell your friend that you think you’re bisexual, and they say, “Well I’m sure you’re really gay, but you’re more comfortable saying ‘bi’ for now.” No one knows you better than you and, even if your friend is right, no one can force you to adopt one label or another.
- An LGBTQ+ friend might tell you that you need to tell everyone in your life your specific orientation or gender label in order to be your authentic self. No one, whether they’re homophobic or LGBTQ+, has the right to dictate another person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Being gay, bi, or queer is only part of your identity, just as a straight person isn’t purely defined by their sexual orientation. You don’t need to change who you are to fit anyone’s standards or stereotypes.
4. Get a sense for how accepting a loved one is before telling them. Do your best to ensure the first person you tell is open, accepting, and supportive. Try bringing up issues with friends and family like gay marriage or transgender teen homelessness, or mention an LGBTQ+ movie or TV character.
- You could say, “I saw story on the news about same-sex marriage. What are your thoughts on it?”
- Before you come out to someone, think about how accepting they are of other people. Do they have a loved one who’s openly LGBTQ+, and do they treat that loved one with love, support, and respect? Do they make offensive jokes or disparaging comments?
- If you have a trusted friend who’s a member of the LGBTQ+ community, they might be the best person to tell first. They’ve been in your shoes, and there’s a lower risk that they’ll react negatively.
5. Come out to people who will respect your privacy. The first people you tell should be absolutely trustworthy. When you come out to them, be sure to tell them that they shouldn’t tell anyone what you’ve confided in them.
- Before coming out to someone, ask yourself if they tend to gossip. Have they ever broken your trust in the past? Do they tell you about other people’s secrets?
6. Write a letter, if it seems less intimidating. If coming out to a loved one face-to-face is too intimidating, or if you’re afraid of getting tongue-tied, you could write them a letter instead. Start by letting them know that you trust them and want to share something important with them. Then tell them about your sexual orientation or gender identity in clear, simple terms.
- For example, you might write, “I’ve wanted to tell you that I’m gay for a little while now, but I’ve been so scared. I think part of me has known most of my life, but I’ve never really accepted it until recently.”
- Be sure not to give your loved one the letter at school, work, or a crowded place.
- You could ask them to read it in private, or you could hand them the letter and ask them to read it in your presence. It might be easier to get the conversation going if you put everything you want to say in writing.
- Writing a letter could be a good method if you’re worried about coming out to your parents.
Telling a Trusted Friend
1. Choose a supportive friend who will help you gain confidence. An open-minded and understanding friend can support you and help you gain the courage to move forward. If your first experience coming out to someone is positive, you might be less anxious about telling other people in the future.[
- You might find it easier to come out to your friends before telling your family. However, keep in mind that you’re in charge. If you’d feel more comfortable telling your parents first, then that’s the path you should take.
- Keep in mind people don’t always meet your expectations, and you can’t control anyone’s reaction. Don’t get discouraged if someone you tell doesn’t react the way you expected. Sometimes, people are shocked or upset at first, then become more accepting after they’ve had time to absorb the news.
2, Pick a relaxed, private place to tell them. While there’s no ideal way to come out, a private, distraction-free time and place can make things easier. Avoid having the conversation when you or your friend are stressed, upset, or busy. That way, you’ll have an easier time expressing yourself clearly, and your friend will have a chance to process what you have to say.
- For instance, you wouldn’t want to want to deliver the news when your friend has a basketball game in 10 minutes or is running late for work.
- You don’t have to make a big deal about it. Just ask your friend to hang out, and say that there’s something you want to tell them.
3. Try to be honest, matter-of-fact, and positive. Take a breath, relax, and 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.” If you haven’t come out to anyone else, let your friend know that this is the first time you’ve told anyone, and that you’ve chosen to tell them because you trust that they’ll be there for you.
- While it’s a big moment, it’s not like your confessing to a crime or informing your friend that you have a life-threatening sickness. You’re sharing something with someone you trust. This is a good, friendship-affirming thing, so do your best to keep your tone positive.
Allow your friend to react and ask questions. Your friend might need a moment to process what you’ve said, so be patient. Give them a few minutes to react, and let them know they should feel free to ask any questions.
Your friend might not have any questions, or they might say that they’re not surprised. Don't worry if the conversation is a little awkward, or if they don’t know what to say. Just give your friend the time they need to take in the news.