Coming Out

'Coming Out', and how...


What is 'Coming Out'?

Coming out is where a person accepts to themselves their sexual orientation and wishes to share it with someone else. Coming out is a hugely important part in the life of anyone who identifies as LGBT. It can be difficult, especially if you are afraid of the reaction from your family or friends.

According to 'Shout: Research on the needs of young people who identify as... lesbian, gay, bisexual and or transgender' (YouthNet 2003) "the average age for men and women to realise they are LGBT is 12/13 years old... however, the average age they first tell someone else is 17/18 years of age." This shows that many LGBT people know their sexual orientation from a young age. It also shows how it can put a huge strain on young LGBT people, and how important it is to provide a service and space where they can be themselves, even if they aren't 'out' to family or friends.

 

If you're considering coming out then you have to be prepared to handle the impact it will have on your life. Here are some of the things to think about first...

 

Why now?

  • There is no set time as to how long you should wait. Gay men and women who have come out will each have different experiences, but most will have been fairly confident about their sexuality first. So ask yourself if this is something you've been thinking about for a long time, or a sudden urge that you haven't had a chance to think through. Because basically once you're out, it's very difficult to get back in.

 

Who shall I tell?

 

  • Kick off by confiding in someone you can trust who can give you the support and understanding you need to tell others. Also use the opportunity to talk through the way you feel with them. If this is the first time you've ever discussed your sexuality, it might help you get a clearer perspective on things.

 

What shall I say?

  • There is no script, but if you can come out with honesty and openness, and you show some respect for the person you're telling, then at the very least you can expect a similar response. Just be aware that you don't have to justify your sexuality to anyone but yourself.

 

What if they react badly?

  • Sadly, this is something you should always be prepared for. Whether it's shock or anti-gay sentiment that's prompted a negative response, try to stay calm. Stress that being gay doesn't make you any different as an individual, and that essentially you're still the same person as you were before you came out. All that's changed is their perception of you, so don't despair if at first they don't respond as you had hoped. Attitudes can often be changed, and you may find they just need some time to get their head around things. If you are worried about violence or being thrown out of your home, make sure in advance that a friend can put you up.

 

What will coming out mean to me?

  • It can mean as much or as little as you want. What's important is that you're comfortable with your sexuality, and confident that coming out is the right step for you to take. If you'd like to talk to someone about it anonymously and in confidence, you can call Dundalk Outcomers Helpline on Thursday nights between 8-10pm on 00353 42 9353035, or if you want to talk to someone face-to-face you can call into our centre.

 

Coming out: Is it for me?

 

Ellen Friedrichs on About.com has the following advice for (young) people thinking of coming out:

Though coming out can be an amazing experience, it is important to think about your reasons for coming out before taking the plunge. Coming out at any age can be challenging, but because teenagers tend to live with their families, there are a few unique issues young people need to think about. Ask yourself:

  • Will coming out jeopardize my situation at home?
  • Is it safe, physically and emotionally, for me to come out to my parents?
  • Do I have resources available (both emotional and financial) if coming out changes my situation at home?

 

Once you have thought through these questions, you might want to think about your reasons for coming out.

Here are some good reasons to come out:

  • You feel confident in your sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • You feel like you have the support of family and / or friends.
  • You are confident that coming out will help you grow and make you feel better about yourself as a person.
  • You feel like the positives outweigh the negatives, and that you can handle possible negative reactions from friends and family.

 

Here are some not so good reasons to come out:

  • A friend or partner is pressuring you to come out.
  • You feel like you are lying to people if you don't.
  • You feel like coming out will make you feel legitimately GLBT.
  • You think coming out will make you feel more grown-up.
  • You're mad at your parents and want to upset them.

 

If you think your reasons are good ones, you might decide that you are ready to come out. If not, it might seem like a better idea to hold off. Whatever you decide, make sure you have support. People coming out tend to have better experiences if they have someone they can rely on for help and understanding.

Ellen also has the following tips for "How to start a conversation about being LGBT":

Decide who you are going to tell and how. The conversation you have with mom and dad might not be the same one you have with your buddy, or even your sister.

Pick a location. Choose a neutral spot where you will feel comfortable. Somewhere public might be better than your best friend's room, or your mom's study.

Gauge how the person feels. You may know how the people in your life feel about LGBT issues, but you may not. If you don't, you might want to try to get a better sense.

Have a "feeler" conversation. Here are some sentence starters that can help you do so:
"I was watching ________ movie, and the main character came out to his mom."
"So what do you think about these gay marriage bans?"
"Some kids at school started a Gay / Straight Alliance. I was thinking about joining."

Decide whether or not you still want to come out after the "feeler" conversation.

If you choose to come out you have a few options:

Just say it. "Mom, dad, I'm gay."
Ease in. "Jim, I've been having feeling for other girls recently."
Ask a question. "Aunt Flo, what would you say if I told you I was bisexual?"

Congratulate yourself. You just did something really hard and took a risk!

Tips:

Remember, don't come out during an argument, when you (or the other person) is tired, upset or distracted!

Don't beat yourself up if the conversation doesn't go as anticipated.

Cut the person you are talking to some slack.This might be a big surprise for them, and it might take a little while for your news to sink in.

Don't come out before you're ready.

Try to identify at least one person who you think will be supportive about you coming out before you do so.

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