If you’re considering telling your family and friends that you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you’re might be feeling scared, anxious, nervous or uncertain about how your loved ones will react to the news. The coming out process is different for everyone, but chances are that the people you tell about your feelings will have a lot of questions. It’s important that you’re honest about your feelings with the people in your life, but before you come out, here are a few factors you might want to think about.
1. How comfortable are you with your sexuality?
It’s important that you’re completely comfortable with yourself and your sexuality before you tell others. If you’re feeling sad, guilty, confused or angry about your sexuality you might want to seek help in understanding those feelings before coming out to people who may react badly.
2. Can you discredit common stereotypes?
A person’s response to your news might be based on stereotypes and myths about gay, lesbian or bisexual people. Do your research on what support groups exist in your community and the terminology these groups use. You want to be aware of some of these myths by talking to gay, lesbian, bi or transgender people that you know, or by reading up on some literature provided by the support groups in your area. It’s important that what you know isn’t just from stereotypes.
3. Is it your decision to tell someone?
The decision to tell someone about your sexuality should be yours. However, sometimes this isn’t always the way people find out about your sexuality. Try not to feel pressured by people who think that “everyone must come out” or by snooping people who ask unwanted questions.
4. How does this person view gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people?
Depending on your relationship with someone, you might already have a good idea about his or her views and feelings on sexuality and gender identity. It may be wise to use this knowledge and consider how much information and support you may need if you decide to tell them about your feelings.
5. Do you have support?
Unfortunately, not everyone is understanding of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender relationships or feelings, and some people may not react positively to your news. It’s important that you have support that you need to tell your loved ones and live a full and happy life after you’ve come out. If that support doesn’t come from your friends and family, you might want to find someone or a group of people that you can confidentially turn to for support and strength. You can find local support groups through a chapter of the The Human Rights Campaign and Gay-Straight Alliance.
6. Is this the right time to talk to your family?
It’s important that you talk to your loved ones about your feelings at a time and place that is right for you. Try not to tell people during an argument. If you tell people during an aggressive or defensive moment, you may end up getting a bad reaction and distancing them.
7. Are you financially dependent on people you want to tell?
If you’re financially dependent on someone, and you plan on telling this person, consider how he or she might react. People may initially be upset or find your news hard to accept and in time become more accepting. In extreme cases, the person might withdraw financial support or ask you to leave. If you suspect this could happen, you might want to wait to share your news when you’re financially independent.
8. Can you be patient?
People often need time to process this information. If you decide to tell someone close to you, be prepared to give them time to adjust and to comprehend the new information about you. Try to hang in there while they get over the initial shock of finding out that they didn’t know everything about you.
9. Are people likely to respect your privacy?
You might feel more comfortable if only one person or a small group of people know about your feelings. Before you tell someone, think about why you are telling them. You might need to consider how likely he or she is to respect your right to privacy and whether they will keep what you are saying confidential.
10. How sure are you about your sexual attractions and sexuality?
“Are you sure?” is likely to be one of the most common questions you’ll be asked. Whether the answer is yes, no or maybe, you need to be able to respond with confidence to the question. Also, you don’t have to be 100% sure, nor do you have to give yourself a label, but it is important that you are sure about sharing your feelings.
For more information
If you’re considering telling others about your sexuality, check out the Coming out fact sheet.
Information in this fact sheet was also provided by:
The Human Rights Campaign Coming Out Resource Guide
Other sources of support
Trevor Project and Trevor helpline (1-866-488-7386)
GLBT National Resource Database
National GLBT Talkline (1-800-246-7743)
National GLBT Hotline (1-888-843-4564)
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
The National Day of Silence (brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools).
National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Youth
Youth Resource, a website by and for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people
PFLAG, Parents, families, and friends of lesbians and gays
Last reviewed: Mar 13, 2013