‘Coming out’ means telling someone something about yourself that isn’t immediately obvious. In relation to sexual orientation and gender identity, this means sharing with others that you are lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans (LGBT).
The process of coming out can be very different for everyone and it can take some time to get to a point where you feel comfortable and confident enough to have those conversations with people.
Why come out?
Mostly, people just want to be honest about who they are, especially with the people they love.
Hiding who you are can be a big struggle. It can take your focus and energy away from other important things in your life such as your job, studying or exams.
Just because someone may decide to come out to family or friends, it doesn’t mean they have to come out to everyone. It’s quite common for people to be out in certain areas of their lives but not in others.
It may take you a while to get to a point where you feel ready to come out which is absolutely fine. The main thing to remember is to not put pressure on yourself and to only come out when you feel ready.
How to come out
There are many different ways to come out, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. If you are thinking about coming out then it’s important that you find a way that feels right for you.
Who do you want to tell?
It’s unlikely that you will be able to gather everyone you know in one room and come out to them all at once, and this is probably something you’d find pretty daunting anyway! Therefore you’ll probably need to do it in stages.
Think about who you want to tell first. Ideally this should be someone who you think will be supportive, such as a friend, family member or maybe a trusted youth worker or teacher. They will then be able to support you when you tell other people.
How will you tell people?
Everyone will have their own preference when it comes to choosing how to come out.
The most obvious way is to sit down in person and talk. The benefits of coming out this way are that you’ll be able to answer any questions they may have, and also get some comfort or reassurance if you need it. It may feel daunting but once you’ve told one person it really does start to feel easier.
Some people may choose to send an email, text or letter (remember them?!) as this will give the person time to process what you’re telling them before they respond.
Some people have used social media to come out. Although this method of coming out means you’ll probably only need to do it once, it also takes away the opportunity to have those personal conversations with those who are close to you.
But remember: there is no right or wrong way to come out.
Support with coming out
Some people come out with no problems at all but for others there may be obstacles and setbacks. Sometimes those close to you may need some time to get used to the news. It can be difficult if the people you care about have a hard time accepting who you are. Everyone’s coming out journey is different. Stonewall have some resources which you may find useful.
(Article adapted from Stonewall/Coming out as a young person)