Telling people you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender
If you’re thinking about telling someone, think about some of the questions below in light of your own situation. Remember, everybody’s situation is unique and everyone’s family and friends are different. For some people, your sexuality and feelings won’t be an issue, and for others it might be scary and they may have a hard time accepting what you are telling them. Remember, who you tell and when you tell them is up to you.
Ten questions to ask yourself
The following are ten questions that it can be good to ask yourself if you’re thinking about telling someone you’re gay, lesbian, bi or transgender. They’ll help make sure you’re prepared and comfortable.
1. How sure are you about your sexual attractions and sexuality?
‘Are you sure?’ is likely to be one of the most common questions you will be asked. Whether the answer is yes, no or maybe (all of which are ok), you need to be able to respond with confidence to the question.
2. How comfortable are you with your sexuality?
If you’re feeling sad, guilty or angry, you may want to seek help in understanding and coming to terms with those feelings before coming out to people who may react badly.
3. Do you have support?
If your family or friends’ reaction may upset you, find someone or a group that you can confidentially turn to for support and strength. BeLonG To are a great organisation that can support you through this time through support groups and meeting other people who have gone through what you are experiencing.
4. Are you knowledgeable about LGBT identity?
A person’s response may be based on stereotypes and myths about gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people. Doing some reading on the subject or speaking to someone who is knowledgeable may help you answer some of your own questions and some of the questions that others may have. Having some information that others can read may also be helpful. Have a look at the Loving Our Out Kids website that was developed to support parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender children in Ireland.
5. What’s the mood at home?
If you have a choice of when to tell people about your feelings, consider the timing. Try not to tell people during an argument or use the issue as a weapon. If you tell people during an aggressive and defensive moment you may end up getting a bad reaction and distancing them.
6. Can you be patient?
People often require time to deal with this information if they haven’t considered it prior to your sharing. If you decide to tell someone close 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 did not know everything about you.
7. Are you financially dependent on people you want to tell?
If you suspect that someone may withdraw any financial support or force you out of where you live, you may choose to wait until they don’t have this pressure to hold over you. It’s important that you think about all the advantages and disadvantages of telling someone.
8. What are their general views of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people?
Depending on your relationship with someone, you may already have a good idea about their 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.
9. Is it your decision to tell someone?
The decision to tell someone about your sexuality should be yours, however this is not always the case. Try not to feel pressured by people who think that ‘everyone must come out’ or by snooping people who ask unwanted questions.
10. Are they likely to respect your privacy?
You may feel comfortable only having one person or a small group of people knowing about your feelings. Before you tell someone you may need to consider how likely they are to respect your right to privacy and respect the confidentiality of what you are telling them.
Reactions to ‘coming out’
Just as you are unique, so is everyone around you and so they will all react differently. Some people will have no problems with your sexuality and be happy for you, some may have already suspected and were just waiting for you to tell them. For others it will challenge their feelings towards you. They may feel worried, angry or responsible. It may be necessary to allow them time and space.
Shock, denial, and feelings of guilt are often experienced by people when they are told someone close to them is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Remember, you have probably given your sexuality or gender identity a lot of thought, but it may be new to them. Although the feelings they may work through are similar to those you’ve dealt with, the difference is that you’re ahead of them in the process.
You might want them to understand and grasp this important part of your life right away and give you support. However, you might also need to allow people time to express their own feelings. Try to be patient. You may need to explain things a few times. Just because you’ve said something once does not mean they have heard it. Later, they may be ready to ask questions, listen to answers and acknowledge their feelings.
If your family or friends reject you because of your feelings, it is hurtful and can be difficult to cope with. Remember, you are sharing an important part of yourself. If people choose to ignore this they are missing out on knowing who you are. Hold onto who you are. Hold onto the fact that you are special. There are people who will help you reach out for their support. If your family does ask you to leave home, BeLong To and Focus Ireland will be able to give you advice on what to do next.
Have a look at the other information in this section and the helpful sites. For support, call, email or drop into BeLonG To, a support service for young people aged 14 to 23 years-old who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender.
Text adapted from “you’re not alone”, a booklet written by the Gay and Lesbian counselling service (WA) and the WA AIDS council under the “Here for Life” sexuality project.