The next stage involves going public in some way, of "coming out of
the closet". Who you tell next is really up to you. You may decide to
tell your best friend or a member of your family.
Remember, once you have told someone about your sexuality it can
become known to others within a short period. This is human nature and
there is very little you can do to prevent this. If you are resolved to
deal with any negativity that this disclosure may bring, you will be
sufficiently prepared for it.
This is the most important question to ask yourself. If you answer
something like: "Because I'm proud of who I am" or "It is impossible to
become a fully happy human being if my sexuality remains suppressed" or
"I want to meet other gay people" then these are good reasons. Think
very carefully if your reasoning is to hurt or shock people. Often the
person who gets hurt will be you.
gay people describe how important it is to first tell someone outside
the family. Make sure it's someone you trust and who you believe to be
open minded and supportive. Be careful if you decide to confide in a
teacher at school - they may be obliged to tell someone else what you
have told them. Find out the school policy on confidentiality before you
If you have decided to tell your family it may be easier to talk to
one parent before the other. You could then ask them for help to
approach the other. Sometimes brothers and sisters are a good starting
point as they are likely to understand more about homosexuality or
bisexuality. Make sure you understand why you are going to tell them.
One of the best reasons to come out to your family is to become closer
There are a number of typical responses that parents, particularly,
are known to say: "How can you be sure?", "I went through a phase like
this at your age", "You'll grow out of it", "You haven't tried hard
enough with the opposite sex" and "How can you know at your age?"
We have listed them here because they may help you to think of your
answers to them. You might find it helpful to discuss these questions
first with a trusted friend or a lesbian and gay helpline or
switchboard. See the
for a list of support organisations.
This can be a traumatic time for some members of your family. You may
feel unable to answer all their questions or to deal with all of the
issues that come up for them. They, in turn, may not feel comfortable
talking about homosexuality or bisexuality with you. There are several
organisations that offer support to parents who are coming to terms with
their sons' and daughters' sexuality.
FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) produce booklets
specially written for parents.
This can be a difficult time if your happiness is dependent to some
degree on your family's reaction. If this is the case for you, we would
advise that you talk it over with someone who has been through it
already - perhaps your local gay switchboard or helpline.
There is no rule that says you have to sit down and talk to others
about this, there are other ways.
might like to write to them first and give them time to react in their
own way. This is probably a better approach if, for example, you live a
long way from your family or friends. Remember that you have probably
taken a long time to get used to the idea yourself and others might need
the same amount of time. Writing a letter allows you to take your time
and to compose your thoughts carefully and clearly. It can also give the
person you are writing to space to react and consider the news before
discussing it with you. This could be a useful approach if you are
expecting a very hostile or negative reaction.
If you decide to talk face to face, remember not to rush it or to do
it when one of you is in a hurry or distracted. It probably won't help
to memorise a script either - you can guarantee that some people do not
respond in a predictable manner. If you are worried about their
reaction, tell them of your fears and that you don't want to hurt them
but need to be honest with them. Remember to listen to what they have to
say - it should be along the lines of a chat, not a speech!
When it comes to coming out, timing is an important consideration.
Choose the moment carefully - do it when you (and they) have lots of
time - not last thing at night when you are likely to be more tired and
Think about the way you are feeling, allowing for nerves, which are
perfectly natural under the circumstances, don't do it if you are
feeling angry or emotionally sensitive - this will affect what you say
and how you say it. For obvious reasons don't do it when you are drunk
(even if you think you need a drink to steady your nerves).
And remember - only when you are good and ready. A friend once said
that he knew he was ready to tell his family only when he realised that,
if he had to, he could live without their support. Fortunately for him
(and his family) this didn't happen.
So you've told someone. You are either balancing on the edge of an
erupting volcano or dancing with joy on the moon (or both!). Some people
describe a huge weight being lifted from their shoulders, of feeling
euphoric and giggly and childlike again.
Don't feel guilty about it - go on and enjoy yourself, you deserve
it. The thrill of revealing something long kept hidden can give a
tremendous sense of relief.
Use this new found energy wisely and remember that close friends and
family may be worried that you have changed out of all recognition.
Reassure them that you have changed - and for the better and that you
are simply exploring a new, more complete you.
Most people will experience many positive reactions. For example,
"We're so pleased you could tell us" or "Well we had already guessed and
were just waiting for you to say something". Some gay people have also
met with the response, "So am I".
"My parents refused to talk about it. They dismissed it and
said they didn't want the subject brought up again. I decided that I was
going to continue to live my life as a gay man. I stopped going home as
often as I used to and attending family occasions. It is only now, three
years later, that they have begun to broach the subject with me."
If it hasn't gone too well - don't lose heart. Time is a great healer
and things will get better. If you are experiencing rejection from some
close friends, ask yourself if they were really so close that they
couldn't support you through this. If your family is reacting badly,
this is in all probability, normal. They may be experiencing a whole
range of emotions including shock, grief, guilt, blame, disappointment
and lots of pain.
"My family say that they accept that I am gay but they don't
want to see me being affectionate with another man. They say that they
won't be able to cope with it."
Remember how long it took for you to come to terms with being gay.
Many parents will feel a loss in some way - perhaps of future
grandchildren or weddings and other family gatherings. This can blur
their happiness and their love for you.
"I was at a wedding recently and everyone was there with their
partners. I was upset that I couldn't bring mine. Everyone asked the
usual embarrassing questions about girlfriends and I just had to smile
and make excuses. I didn't want to row with my family about it but it's
just not fair."
At the end of the day, your parents are still your parents and, in
time, few reject their children because they are gay.
"My dad said, "You're still my son and I'm proud of you." He'd
been very homophobic up to then."
If they go quiet on you, give them time to react and the opportunity
to think about what you have told them. If they ask lots of questions,
it's a good sign. It may help to think of it as though it is in your
interests to respond to them - they are likely to be the same ones that
you have asked yourself many times along the way.
If things are so bad that you feel like giving up with the whole
process of coming out, it's important to talk to someone about your
fears and concerns. Again your local switchboard, helpline or Gay Men's
Health Project can offer you support and guidance.
probably better to persevere and keep going, after all, you have come
this far and in many ways it would be difficult or impossible to go back
now. The next person you talk to will probably give you a huge hug and
say that they were relieved that you had found the courage to tell them
and that they had suspected that something may have been on your mind
for a long time.
Gay people have received legal protection from discrimination in
employment since December 2003, but this does not mean that
discrimination on the basis of a person�s sexual orientation has been
eliminated. In particular, gay employees can still face problems in
The ban on gay people in the armed services was officially lifted in
2000. For more information, visit
AFLaGA (Armed Forces Lesbian and Gay Association).
In some prisons where the prison culture is particularly homophobic,
gay prisoners, including those on remand, risk harassment, abuse and
violence. See the
for sources of support
It is worth mentioning, too, that if you disclose your sexuality to
your general practitioner (doctor), they may record these details in
your medical records. These medical records can be accessed by a range
of organisations for many different purposes.
We would like to thank
Gay Men's Health
Wiltshire and Swindon &
North and Mid
Hampshire Gay Men's Health Project.
For the coming out pages.
Illustrations by Robin Bastian © 1994. | Design by LCDweb