How to come out

So, after a lot of soul searching you’ve worked out that you’re not straight - at all. It’ll probably feel overwhelming and exciting at first, as it should. Unfortunately, the whole coming out thing is likely to put a damper on your mood. It can be a pretty scary thing to consider. Thankfully, you have us to help you through it.

A young man is staring at a pool table. He is thinking about how to come out. This is a wide-angle image.

Am I ready to come out?

Sadly, there isn’t a BuzzFeed quiz on social media that’ll definitively tell you whether you’re ready or not. You might be ready to come out to your friends, but deciding how to come out to your parents may leave you stumped. Or vice versa.

No two LGBTQIA+ people are going to have the same experience. Circumstances are individual and – similar to having sex for the first time – usually coming out is a matter of knowing, in yourself, when you’re ‘ready’. This can take months, years, or even decades – and that’s fine. The right time is whenever it feels right for you.

“In a lot of cases, people just have an epiphany moment where they think ‘I need to do this now. If I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it,’” says Wayne Dhesi, founder of RUComingOut. “But if any part of you doesn’t feel ready, then you’re probably not. Just take your time and sit with it until you feel comfortable.

How to come out

So, you’re ready… as ready as you can be at least. But how do you come out to the different people in your life? Here are some steps to follow.

How to come out to your parents

There’s no instruction manual called How to come out to your parents. You don’t have to sit down with your parents and tell them, face-to-face, that you’re attracted to the same gender, like cross dressing or are transgender. This works for some people, but not everyone. If this idea fills you with absolute horror, why not research some other ways, like:

  • Writing it in a letter or email. That way they get time to process so they don’t have a knee-jerk negative reaction which they’ll probably regret later!
  • Ask them if they can guess what you’re going to tell them. They may come up with lots of things they find much harder to accept than you being gay or trans, like getting someone pregnant, or being arrested. Then, what you tell them may come as a relief. Or they may have known for years and were waiting until you were ready.

RUComingOut allows people to share their experiences of coming out – have a look and see if anyone else’s method appeals to you.

Make sure you have a support group in place

Wayne suggests telling one person you really trust first. Someone you know will support you without judgement. Then, whatever happens with other people in your life, you’ve got someone to lean on. Start with the most open minded people first, and before you know it you’ll have built up a strong support network of close friends.

“It’s much easier once you’ve told one person,” he says. “And it’s probably best not to tell the person you’re worried about first. Always try to build on positive experiences.”

Don’t judge people’s initial reactions

You’ve spent however long ruminating and stressing and pondering what you’re feeling. You’ve taken the time you needed to come to terms with your sexual orientation or gender identity. The people you’re coming out to haven’t. So, don’t judge them on their initial response. Let them digest the new information and don’t expect their first reaction to be perfect. 

They may be shocked, and no one in shock behaves their best. They probably need time to process. Wait a week or so before you really know how they feel. In the meantime, distract yourself by doing things you love.

Be selfish – only tell who you want

You may feel like you should tell your parents first, but you don’t have to. If you’re only comfortable telling your mates right now – that’s okay.

“What’s most important is protecting yourself emotionally through this time,” says Wayne. “This isn’t about your parents getting upset or what people think, it’s about you. You’re doing this for you. Don’t be afraid to be selfish.”

What if I get a bad reaction?

If a family member or friend hasn’t responded positively, it’s bound to sting. It may even feel like your heart’s been ripped out. If this happens, surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable and give it time to settle down. Time heals all wounds. There are also a number of organisations and helplines you can contact for extra support at the end of this article.

Remember: if people have a problem it’s their problem, not yours. Your sexuality or gender identity is nothing to be ashamed of. Ever. Be as loud and proud as you like because, as Lady Gaga said, you were born this way.

If you’re worried you parents will kick you out

This is absolute worst-case scenario. But if you’re worried your parents are going to throw you out, you have to think carefully about your next steps. Weigh up whether it’s worth waiting, just to keep a roof over your head. 

If you decide to go for it, here are some useful links if you do find yourself homeless:

  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBTQ+ people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • LGBT Youth Scotland has lots of great advice articles about LGBTQ+ issues, as well as running supportive live chats online. Text on 07786 202 370.
  • Queer Youth Network gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with other LGBTQ+ young people online.
  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBTQ+ community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630

You might also want to share your experiences on our Discussion Boards, or read about other people’s experiences of coming out. And of course, you can always reach out to us through our confidential support services.

Next Steps

  • The Albert Kennedy Trust supports LGBT people aged 16-25-years-old who are homeless or living in a hostile environment. AKT has offices in London (call on 020 7831 6562), Manchester (0161 228 3308) and Newcastle (0191 281 0099).
  • LGBT Youth Scotland has lots of great advice articles about LGBT issues, as well as running supportive live chats online. Text on 07786 202 370.
  • Queer Youth Network gives you the opportunity to meet and chat with other LGBT young people online.
  • Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline offers a range of help services for the LGBT community, including message boards and a helpline. 0300 330 0630
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.

By Holly Bourne

Updated on 09-Jan-2022