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Coming out

Coming out as LGBT can be a hugely positive experience.

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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I think I might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT)

Congratulations! It’s not always easy to come to terms with being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and it’s amazing that you’re accepting your feelings about this. You should be really proud of yourself. Accepting your sexual orientation or gender identity is the first step in coming out, a process which can be super exciting and positive.

But what is coming out?

Coming out is the process of accepting your sexual orientation (gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer) or gender identity (transgender) and being open about that with other people.

Accepting your sexual orientation or gender identity can be a long process. Most people are raised to believe they will be straight and cisgender, so when you start to realise that you’re not, it can take some time and work to accept this. But be brave - coming out can be an amazing experience, and can open you up to the wonderful world of being a proud, out LGBT person.

That sounds a bit scary - where would I start?

Make sure you’re ready - it’s good to go at your own pace. Come out when you feel comfortable and confident in doing so. There is absolutely no rush and don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you really don’t feel ready yet. 

When you’re ready, take a deep breath and talk about it

Who is the most open minded person you know - who is most likely to be positive and supportive? This person might be the best to tell first. Think about what you want to say and where you want to say it. Try to avoid coming out at a time when you or the person you’re coming out to are upset, stressed, or angry, or if there is alcohol or drugs involved.

Think about what you’re going to say

If you’re trans* and want to be referred to by a different name or pronoun, how are you going to tell them this? If you’re lesbian, gay, or bi, and already dating someone of the same gender, are you going to tell the person you’re coming out to about this? Have a think about what information you want to give and what is the best way to explain it.

Only tell who you feel comfortable telling

You might decide to tell some mates first, before telling your family, and that’s absolutely fine. Many people come out in stages and to different people at different times. You’ll know yourself what you feel comfortable with. Remember though, once you start telling people, other people may have a habit of finding out.

Be prepared for different reactions

So many people may have amazing reactions - even better than you’d expect. However, sometimes you might get negative reactions too. You may have known you were LGBT for years and have had time to get used to it. For the person you’re coming out to, this may be the first they’ve ever heard of it. It could take them some time to get used to, so have a little patience. Remind them that you’re still the same person, and direct them to some resources that might help them understand.

Be prepared for your own emotions

When you’re going through the process of coming out, you may go through a range of different emotions. At different times, you might feel frightened, nervous, stressed, relieved or excited. It’s absolutely ok and normal to feel any or all of these emotions. Make sure you have enough emotional support available for you if it starts to get a bit much. Find out more information on mental health here.

Make sure you have enough support

It’s not fair, and you should never have to deal with reactions to your sexual orientation or gender identity that make you feel upset or sad, but unfortunately, there’s a chance that sometimes you will. If a coming out conversation goes badly, make sure there are other people you can turn to to support you. It’s good to think about this in advance, so you know where you can turn for help and support if you need it.

If you’re not sure if you know anyone you can turn to, you can contact BeLonG To on 01 670 6223, the LGBT Helpline on 1890 929 539, the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI) on (01) 873 3575, or Samaritans on 116 123.

Remember - no matter what they say, you’re amazing

It can be so upsetting to get a negative reaction to you coming out as LGBT. Remember though, if someone has a negative reaction to your sexual orientation or gender identity, it is never your fault and there is nothing wrong with you. You’re absolutely perfect the way you are, and if someone can’t accept your sexual orientation or gender identity, then that’s their problem. You have the right to be open about your sexual orientation and gender identity, and for this to be respected and valued.

Celebrate the fact that you’re coming out!                                     

Coming out can be a big, brave step, and you should feel really proud for having made it. It takes a lot of courage and work to come out, so make sure you take some time to give yourself a pat on the back and congratulate yourself for being so brave.

Think about negative reactions from parents

If you’re dependant on your parents and you think they may react very negatively, you don’t have to tell them now. If you need their support for money, food, clothes and education, and you think coming out to them might jeopardise their support for you, then there is no need to come out to them now. It might be better to wait until you’re older and can look after yourself. There’s nothing wrong with waiting.

What to do if you’re discriminated against or harassed

If you are discriminated against because of being gay or lesbian, this is called homophobia. If you are being discriminated against because you are bisexual, this is called biphobia. If you are being discriminated against because you are transgender, this is called transphobia. This can be really difficult, and you shouldn't feel afraid to seek help for support. Find more information on homophobia, biphobia and transphobia here. If you’re being discriminated against, contact the Equality Authority in Ireland.


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Published January 11th, 2013
Last updated October 28th, 2015
Tags coming out mental health lgbt
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