“Coming out” is the acknowledgement of your sexual identity. It can be personal or shared, and often means:
- Telling others you’re attracted to people of the same sex
- Identifying yourself as gay, lesbian, or bisexual
- Telling others that you identify as transgender
- Deciding to tell others about your feelings and attractions
Remember that deciding to whom to come out and when is completely up to you. The first and most important thing is being honest with yourself.
If you feel ready, you might want to tell someone you trust that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. This might be a close friend or family member whom you trust will be understanding and supportive. You might not feel able to tell people about your feelings right now, and you might feel like you have to keep your sexuality a secret.
Organizations like the Human Rights Campaign and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) have local chapters where you can find support from people who have gone through the same things that you’re experiencing now.
Being bullied or harassed. Unfortunately, some people in our society discriminate or may be violent toward people who are perceived as different. No matter the reason, whether you are at school, work or just hanging out, harassment and abuse – whether verbal or physical – should not be tolerated. Some actions you can take if you’re being harassed are to tell friends you trust what is going on, report the harassment to someone in authority, like a teacher, boss, or if necessary, the police.
In addition you can also talk to a support group or a counselor, or call the National GLBTHotline at 1-888-THE-GLNH (843-4564), the National GLBT Youth Talkline at 1-800-246-7743, or the Trevor helpline at 1-866-488-7386.
Reactions to coming out. Each person that you come out to will probably react differently. For those people who take your news a little harder, try to give them some time and space. They’re working through the same feelings that you did, but you’re ahead of them in the process. You will need to support each other through the coming out process. They may have a lot of questions for you – about your feelings, how you knew, what this means– and this just means that they are working through it at the same time you are. Be open and honest with them, as they ask questions, as you would want them to be open and honest with you.
Try to remember that by sharing your sexuality, you’re sharing an important part of yourself. If people choose to ignore this part of you, they are missing out on knowing who you are. There are people who will support you. If you’re having a hard time coming out to the people closest to you, it might be helpful to talk to someone outside of the situation, like a counselor. It might even be helpful to talk to a complete stranger.
You can call the above mentioned hotlines – the National GLBT hotline at 1-888-843-4564, the National GLBT talkline at 1-800-246-7743, or the Trevor helplineat 1-866-488-7386 to speak anonymously with a trained volunteer.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.
Special Thanks: Tommy Chesboro, Tony Aaron Fuller, Hannabah Blue