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How To Come Out To Friends And Family, Six Tried And Trusted Approaches

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If you live in a big city, your friends and family are probably already exposed to LGBTQI+ life to some extent. But if you live in a small town, people’s experiences might be different. 

Regardless of where you live, telling people that you sit somewhere within the LGBTQI+ spectrum can be a daunting experience, and many people put it off – sometimes forever and live their life unhappy.

As appealing as keeping it a secret might feel, eventually, that secret becomes unwieldy. And maintaining your secret becomes a massive weight upon your shoulders. 

If you’re in need of some advice regarding how you might tell your loved ones that you’re gay, bi, trans, or intersex, this guide will help.

At SupportRoom, the experts are experienced in supporting people through stressful life events.

Coming out is an ongoing process. It can be a thrilling feeling, or it could be exhausting, stressful, and unpredictable.

If you are building yourself up, Adam Claxton, therapist at SupportRoom has given you a helping hand with some tips on how to come out.

1) Accept yourself first

Accepting your sexual or gender identity can be a traumatic process, but if you want others to accept who you are, it’s important to start loving YOU for who you are.

Sexual or gender orientation is not something to be ashamed about – it’s just a facet of you; something that makes you an individual.

Of course, there’s potential for negative reactions when you come out to people. You probably know which of your friends are going to be supportive and who might not take the news so well. Start with a close friend or family member who you know is likely to be supportive.

Choose a time and a place when you feel most comfortable and in control of the situation.

Part of accepting yourself is sharing the news. When you’re ready and only then, tell someone about your sexual/gender identity. 

2) Don’t turn to alcohol

Sometimes, it feels like alcohol is the social liquid we need to make it through difficult decisions.

You may feel more relaxed and confident after a few drinks but getting drunk enough to tell someone you’re gay is not a good idea; partly because you’re going to wake up with a hangover the next morning, and the guilt and paranoia can lead to anxiety. 

Choose a time when you’re calm and in control. If it feels like the prior conversation is turning to conflict, discard the plan and choose another time. 

3) Have a back-up plan

Telling friends is one thing; telling your family can be more unpredictable. But it doesn’t mean that you should live in secret.

If you’re living at home with your parents, have somewhere to go if they get upset or angry: a friend’s house or another family member.

This can be a big thing for parents to take on-board: if they had no idea that you are gay, then it can come as a shock. 

For them, coming out can draw out a grief reaction requiring them to “put to rest” the “you” they thought they knew.

They need to learn to recognise you in a whole new framework which can take time.

Understanding what they’re going through helps you see the bigger picture. If you have a strong enough relationship, they’ll come round in the end.

4) Be gentle

In an ideal world, coming out should be as simple as bringing a puppy into the home; it should be exciting and a rite of passage.  But, in the real world, it’s not that easy.

Think about introducing the topic beforehand to see how they react; this goes for friends as well as family.

Talk about a law or policy or something that could affect LGBTQI+ people. See what their opinions are. Perhaps share a book by a gay/trans author.

Gauging their response is a reasonable indicator of how they might react when you come out with the news. 

5) Recognise that things will change

If you get a disappointing reaction, bear in mind that surprise drives it. When you’re considering how to come out, you should prepare yourself for unexpected responses.

After the dust has settled, most people feel different. They see that you’re still the same person they knew before you told them. Be patient, with a little time, things will go back to normal. 

6) Coming out is an ongoing process

People don’t just come out once. You’re likely to have to come out to new people in the future, but it will get easier. The first time is always the scariest.

Most importantly remember, you come out when YOU want to: there is no shame in choosing not to bring your sexual- or gender-identity into areas of your life you want to keep separate.

Coming out is a very personal thing, and it’s different for everyone. Be kind to yourself and remember you’re never alone. 

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