Coming out is the phrase used to describe the process of someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual telling the people around them about their sexuality.
This can be a difficult process for people and they may be worried that others will treat them differently once they know. Even though it can be scary, most people feel coming out is very important as it means that they can be honest about how they feel and not keep an important part of their life hidden.
Getting to know yourself
One of the very first steps of coming out is acknowledging to youself what your sexual preferences are. This may sound really obvious, but for lots of people admitting to themselves that they are gay, lesbian or bisexual can be hard for lots of reasons.
It could be because they have been brought up to think that being one of these things is wrong, or because they are worried about being teased or bullied. If you are not sure if you are gay, lesbian, or bisexual, you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
Who to tell?
When you are first coming out the most sensible option is to tell someone who you trust and who you think will be supportive and understanding. It will probably help if they are someone who can keep a secret, as you may not want other people finding out before you are feeling comfortable and confident about your sexuality. This person could be a close friend, family member or a trusted adult such as a teacher or youth worker.
Will it change things?
Hopefully coming out will change things for the better for you, as you will not feel that there is a big part of your life that you have to keep secret. Many people describe feeling relieved that they can be open and about who they are.
However, there can be a downside to coming out, as you may come across people, including friends and family, who are homophobic (prejudiced against gay, lesbian, or bisexual people) who might make you feel angry, upset or scared. You might experience discrimination.
This is why it can be helpful to tell a small group of trusted people first, as that way you will feel supported and have people to talk to about how things are going.
Take your time
Remember, if you are not sure of how you feel about your sexuality, there is no hurry to make your mind up or tell people. Coming out is a very individual thing and it is important to do it in your own way and in your own time.
If you want help and support about coming out, being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or anything around your sexuality, check out some of these organizations.
If you want to talk to someone, in confidence, about your sexuality, you can call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.
You can find out about our youth groups around the country here: http://www.ygm.org.uk/home/comingout/youthgrouplistings
FFLAG – Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays
PACE – promoting lesbain, gay, bisexual and transgender health and wellbeing
The Gay Youth Corner
Gingerbeer – The Lesbian Guide around the UK
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation – Ending Homophobia, Empowering People
Queer Youth Network
Stonewall – advice and support for LGBT equality