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How To Come Out To Friends and Family

How to Come Out: 6 Tried-and-Trusted Approaches

Our top tips for preparing for the big day.

Coming out - support
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Coming out is an ongoing process. It can be brilliant – just like in the movies – or it could be exhausting, stressful, and unpredictable. If you’re building yourself up, let SupportRoom give you a helping hand with some tips on how to come out.

If you live in a big city, your friends and family are probably already exposed to LGBTQI+ life to some extent. But if you live in a small town, people’s experiences might be different. 

Regardless of where you live, telling people that you sit somewhere within the LGBTQI+ spectrum can be a daunting experience, and many people put it off – sometimes forever. 

As appealing as keeping it a secret might feel, eventually, that secret becomes unwieldy. And maintaining your secret becomes a massive weight upon your shoulders. 

So, if you’re looking for some advice regarding how you might tell your loved ones that you’re gay, bi, trans, intersex, or whatever; read on. At SupportRoom, we’re experienced in supporting people through stressful life events.

1. Accept yourself first.

Accepting your sexual- or gender identity can be a traumatic process, but if you want others to accept who you are, it’s important to start loving YOU for who you are. Sexual or gender orientation isn’t something to be ashamed about – it’s just a facet of you; something that makes you an individual.

Of course, there’s potential for negative reactions when you come out to people. You probably know which of your friends are going to be supportive and who might not take the news so well. 

So, start with a close friend or family member who you know is likely to be supportive. Choose a time and a place when you feel most comfortable and in control of the situation – more about this next. 

Part of accepting yourself is sharing the news. When you’re ready, tell someone about your sexual/gender identity. 

2. Don’t get wasted to come out

Sometimes, it feels like alcohol is the social lubricant we need to make difficult decisions. Perhaps you feel more relaxed and confident after a few drinks, but getting drunk enough to tell someone you’re gay is not a good idea; partly because you’re going to wake up with a hangover the next morning, and the guilt and paranoia are going to be awful. 

Choose a time when you’re calm and in control. If it feels like the prior conversation is turning to conflict, jettison the plan and choose another time. 

3. Have a back-up plan

Telling friends is one thing; telling your family can be altogether more unpredictable. But it doesn’t mean that you should live in secret. This is all about how to come out to your family.

If you’re living at home with your parents, have somewhere to go if they get upset or angry: a friend’s house or another family member. This can be a big thing for parents to take on-board: if they had no idea that you are gay, then it can come as a shock. 

You may be surprised by their reaction. Sometimes what feels like a massive confession has little impact and things continue as usual. However, sometimes our parents can surprise us with a bad reaction when we expect all to be well – so prepare yourself for this possibility. 

When you tell your parents that you’re gay, it changes everything they had in store for you; everything they imagined for your future is likely to be different. For them, coming out can draw out a grief reaction requiring them to “put to rest” the “You” they thought they knew. They need to learn to recognise you in a whole new framework. 

That often takes a little time. 

Understanding what they’re going through helps you see the bigger picture. If you have a strong enough relationship, they’ll come round in the end. But, on the day of your coming out, it’s a good idea to plan to have somewhere to stay in case things get tense. 

4. Be gentle

This tip sounds like we’re asking you to be totally passive and apologetic for your existence; that’s not what we mean here at all. In an ideal world, coming out should be as simple as bringing a puppy into the home; it should be exciting and a rite of passage. 

But, in the real world, that’s not always how things always roll out. 

Think about introducing the topic beforehand to see how they react – this goes for friends as well as family. Talk about a law or policy or something that could affect LGBTQI+ people. See what their opinions are. Perhaps share a book by a gay/trans author – or leave one lying around on the coffee table. 

Gauging their response is a reasonable indicator of how they might react when you come out with the news. 

5. Recognise that things will change

If you get a disappointing reaction, bear in mind that it’s probably just surprise that drives it. When you’re considering how to come out, you should prepare yourself for unexpected responses.

After the dust has settled, most people feel different. They see that you’re still the same person they knew before you told them. 

And, with a little time, things will go back to normal. 

Be patient. 

6. Coming out is an ongoing process

People don’t just come out once. You’re likely to have to come out to new people in the future, but – like all life skills – it gets easier. 

The first time is always the scariest. Remember – your identity is yours to control. You come out when YOU want to: there’s no shame in choosing not to bring your sexual- or gender-identity into areas of your life you want to keep separate.

Coming out is a very personal thing, and it’s different for everyone. Be kind to yourself, and remember: you’re never alone. 

I need some help to come out

You might feel that you need to talk to someone for advice and support before and after you come out for the first time. 

The LGBT therapists at SupportRoom are here to help. We can talk through your coming out anxieties and – together – we can come up with a range of strategies that help you through the process. 

You’re never alone. If you need someone to talk to – whether it’s uncertainty about your sexual- or gender orientation, or how to approach telling people about it, then we’re here to help.