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Coming out to your friends and family

Two young men and a young woman

Telling your parents that you are gay may be very important to you – or maybe you’re leaving it for a later day. Telling your friends first could be a good way to rehearse and get used to being out. Either way, this section should address some of your concerns.

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Coming out to your family

Gay men and women often say that coming out to parents is more challenging than any other aspect of the coming out process. It is very hard to judge how your parents are going to react to the news about your sexuality. There are several things you should take into consideration:


1. Right time and place

When and where you decide to tell them is important. It's probably not a good idea to announce it at a family dinner party! Your parents might not react well, so try to go somewhere quiet where you can tell them exactly how you have been feeling and that will also give them the opportunity to say how they feel.


2. Be prepared

You will probably already have rehearsed your coming out speech. Be prepared for the unexpected – your parents may have many questions. Be clear about what you want them to know and what you don’t intend to share.

Whatever their reaction, it is best to stay calm and be clear about why you are telling them. This will hopefully enable your parents to see that you are confident and sure of what you are saying.


3. Possible reactions

Here are a few typical things that parents say when their child comes out, plus a few suggestions on what to say from young gay men who have already went through it:

'Where did we go wrong?'

'You didn't do anything wrong, you have been wonderful parents and have raised a son/daughter who wants to be honest with you, who doesn't want to live a lie. A son/daughter who wants you to be part of his/her life.'

'It's just a phase'

'I have been coming to terms with this for a long time and I know for sure that I am gay and will be for the rest of my life, I hope that after you are able to come to terms with it we can have a better relationship.'

'You just haven't met the right girl/guy yet'

'I have met lots of girls/guys but I am not attracted to them, I can't change the way I am.'

These are just a few ideas on how to respond to parents’ questions.


Help and support

Remember that the choice to come out is yours – don’t let anyone pressure you. If you need support there are groups for LGBT youth and parents of LGBT children.

You may find that your parents already had an idea that you could be gay. They could be absolutely fine about your sexuality and be very supportive.

You can't ever tell how parents are going to react, so take it in your stride. Even if your parents are fine with your sexuality, they might still want to meet other parents who are going through similar experiences, or to support other parents who had a harder time coming to terms with their child’s sexuality.


Coming out to your friends

Supportive close friendships can be vital to anyone going through the coming out process. Have you thought about coming out to your friends yet?


Testing the waters

Coming out to friends is usually the first step towards living as an out gay person. It’s a good idea to test their attitudes first: talk about gay celebrities that you all know and see what your friends say. If they come across as being homophobic, it might not be a good idea to tell them just yet.


Confidentiality

At a time when you are coming to terms with your sexuality, it’s important to have friends who can support you and help you sort your head out. Trust in friendships is vital – if you don’t want your friends to discuss your sexuality with anyone, be clear about this from the outset.


Supporting each other

Your friends should be able to help you decide what you want to do. They can be there for you, when you need to talk through any issues or concerns, and hopefully your friendships will become stronger as a result.

They will support you if you decide to come out to your parents, or if you want to go out on the gay scene.

Coming out will give you the opportunity to meet lots of new people and have lots of new experiences, but don't forget the friends that helped you on the way there.


Join a peer group

Being young and gay can sometimes make you feel quite isolated and that you are ‘the only gay in the village’.

If that’s the case with you, try joining a gay youth group near you – you’ll meet other young LGBT people and get support and advice from them.


Do’s and don’ts:

Take your time. You need to feel comfortable about your sexuality before anyone else can.

Do not be pressured into coming out. You and only you will know when the time is right.

Build up trusting friendships. You can never tell how people will react. Tell a friend you know will be supportive. Your confidence will grow and that will help you next time.

Give them time. Finding out you are gay or bisexual could come as a big shock to your parents and they might need time to deal with it, which is fine. After all, you took time to come to terms with it, so why shouldn’t they? They may turn round and say that they have known for ages and are just glad you felt you could tell them.

Don’t be scared of their questions. Friends and family may have lots of questions to ask you – some of these will sound silly, but they just want more information. Be happy that you can now talk about your sexuality openly.

Have support in worst-case scenario. It might be the case that not everyone you tell will react positively. There are still people in the world who believe being gay is wrong. If you do get bad reactions just maintain your strong friendships and the support you get from them should help you through.


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