Tips for Coming Out as Gay or Bi:
All issues relating to coming out as gay or bisexual can be difficult for LGBT people to deal with, and the anxiety experienced whilst in the closet or prior to coming out is equally difficult to deal with. Most people who are closeted experience feelings of isolation, emotional distance, frustration and anxiety, because they feel unable to tell close family and friends who they are, and to live their own life.
However, most people have really positive experiences with coming out and often regret not doing it sooner. It’s really important, though, that you take the time to consider your own personal circumstances when making the decision to tell people close to you, that you are gay, or bisexual. What may be right for one person, may not be right for you. Your safety and wellbeing should always come first.
These tips are designed to help you to think about and plan different ways you can approach coming out, with the least amount of stress.
Before Coming Out.
Tip 1: Coming out to yourself is a big deal and coming out to others is much easier once you have first accepted your sexuality.
The most important person you will ever come out to is yourself. Many people can struggle for years denying or suppressing their sexuality to themselves. This is not uncommon in older generations, but as acceptance of LGBT people has increased, this is becoming less of an issue. It can be difficult to start talking about your sexuality to others, whilst you are still dealing with it yourself. A lot of anxiety can come from fighting yourself, and once you find self acceptance and make peace with yourself, you will start to feel much better and more confident. Some common thoughts that hold people back might be:
- I don’t fit the stereotypes so I won’t fit in.
- I’m religious and it’s against my faith.
- I don’t have many close friends and family and don’t want to lose them.
- I’m scared.
Tip 2: Forget the stereotypes.
In the past, people often thought of LGBT people in terms of stereotypes, which often
Could be negative. However nowadays as visibility of the LGBT community has improved, people have come to realise that we are not defined by any particular stereotype and that one of the greatest attributes of the LGBT community is our diversity. Being gay or bi doesn’t mean you have to wear certain clothes, have a particular haircut, or listen to certain music. Just be you. Discovering your sexuality is all about finding out who you are, what you like and how you want to be.
Tip 3: You don’t have to choose between your faith and your sexuality.
Most religious groups have LGBT followers. There is a much bigger acknowledgement today that there are more LGBT people in the world and many organisations are adapting to that reality. There are also some faiths that are especially welcoming to the LGBT community. You don’t have to choose between having a religious faith and your sexuality.
Tip 4: You gain more than you lose.
You may have anxieties over losing friends and family after coming out. It is unlikely that you will lose the people closest to you, but you can and most likely will lose a few other people from your life. Some friendships are lifelong, but a lot of friendships are shorter, and most people in our lives don’t stay forever for lots of reasons. In the end, ”those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” More important, is that coming out will open the door to a whole new life and friendships and people who you cannot even imagine right now. People like you.
Tip 5: It’s ok to be scared. Everyone is.
Any big change in life always comes with a degree of uncertainty and that can be scary. Being scared is a natural reaction to leaping into the unknown. That is what this guide is for, to help to make the unknown a bit less scary.
Tip 6: If you have any unresolved anxieties which perhaps may not relate to your sexuality, think about obtaining counselling before coming out.
Some people may have unresolved issues, other than their sexuality, which is causing them additional anxieties and possibly depression. If this sounds like you, try and arrange for counselling to help you overcome or understand any wider issues first, so that you are more confident when coming out. This will make the experience easier. Your GP or local health care centre will be able to arrange this for you. Alternatively your local LGBT group should be able to signpost you to a counsellor.
Tip 7: Your personal safety should come first.
Some LGBT people can have a difficult time coming out, as they are located in areas or are part of a community who may be homophobic or just ignorant about gay issues. If coming out is likely to put your life or wellbeing in danger, then you should consider delaying doing so, until you are in a better position of strength. You may need more help from LGBT support groups who understand your particular needs before doing anything else. There are support groups for people from all kinds of religious faiths, or cultural backgrounds who have experience of dealing with the difficulties of particular groups. You can find these usually through the internet or your local LGBT group.
Tip 8: The time to come out, is when YOU are ready.
Everyone should come out in their own time. You may feel under pressure to tell those close to you that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual before you are ready. But remember, coming out is about you and no one else. If you start to think about pleasing others you will lose sight of what is really important – your happiness. Focus on yourself and what’s important to you. That will ultimately make those you’re close to, happier as well. The fact that you are reading these tips may indicate that you are feeling ready to start the process.
Preparing For Coming Out:
Ok, so assuming that you have reached the point of accepting who you are, and that you want to start the coming out process, there are things you can do beforehand to make things easier.
Tip 9: Read about other people’s coming out experiences.
There are many online resources which can be helpful, and may give you ideas and encouragement. It helps to know that other people have experienced what you are feeling and have come through it ok. Some websites to try are www.RUComingout.com which contains hundreds of coming out stories. There are also online forums where you can chat to other people who are or have come out, where you can talk anonymously. This can be a very powerful help if you have felt unable to talk to anyone about your sexuality before.
Tip 10: Connect with the LGBT community.
Some people come out first, before venturing into the LGBT world. That works for some people, but connecting with the LGBT community first, will allow you access to support groups and for you to make friends who can give you emotional support during your coming out process. You don’t have to go through this alone. Check online if there is a local LGBT group, who can be a great first point of contact to other services to help you. Try www.icebreakersmanchester.org.uk which is a group which gives support to people before, during and after coming out. You will likely find that connecting with the community for some time before coming out, will make you more confident, since you know you have a support network behind you. Also spending time around other LGBT people, will help you to feel more at peace with yourself and helps take away the fear of coming out.
Tip 11: Coming out is a really positive experience.
After years of being unable to be you, it feels very liberating to be able to be authentic with family, friends and colleagues. You can also be a positive role model to others around you who may be considering coming out.
Tip 12: Coming out is easier if you are self dependent.
This tip may not affect everyone, but if you are dependent on someone else, say for housing, who you think may react badly, then it might be better to wait until you are self dependent before coming out to them.
Tip 13: Come out before you come out.
It sometimes helps the coming out process, to drop a few hints and clues along the way in the weeks beforehand, so that people already have an idea, before you tell them. That way you are just confirming what they already know or suspect, rather than telling them something they were not expecting to hear. These can be simple things like showing that you have a positive attitude to LGBT issues and watching the gay character storylines on TV. Liking LGBT stories on Facebook and simple things like that can help give people a few gentle hints in advance.
Tip 14: Join your university or workplace LGBT group.
If they have one, consider joining. This can be an easy way to make some new friends and allies, and to obtain support and access to information. Some people use this as a way of starting to come out when they first join their university or workplace.
STARTING TO COME OUT:
Tip 15: Pick the right time.
There are times when coming out can be more difficult because other events are putting pressure on the person you want to come out to, and you won’t have their full attention. Some more difficult times to come out might be; your Mum’s birthday party, seasonal holidays, or if your family or friends are going through a difficult emotional time themselves. Try waiting until after the event, when things are more calm.
Tip 16: Coming out to new people is easier than to people you already know.
This is because new people don’t have pre-conceived ideas about who you are, and also you haven’t invested anything in their friendships yet. Facing a rejection from someone new won’t matter so much as rejection from an existing friend. Use this thought when starting new things in your life, like a new job, new university etc. It is much easier to be open at the beginning, than allowing people to form ideas about who you are and then coming out to them later.
Tip 17: Don’t label yourself if you don’t want to.
For some closeted people even saying the word gay, can be difficult and emotional, due to the anxiety that can built up around that area of their life. If this sounds like you, then think about another way you can tell people, that works for you, like, “I’m not into girls, I like guys.” After a while the anxiety around the word gay will disappear.
Tip 18: Tell one or two people to begin with.
When the time feels right for you, start by telling one or two people, who you trust the most. As soon as you have told them, things will seem so much easier, like a weight off your shoulders. You will also now have allies to ask for support.
Tip 19: Coming out is a process not an event.
Coming out is not a one off event. It is really a process which can last months or even years. There will always be new people coming into your life, who you will considering coming out to at some point. Take whatever time feels right for you and perhaps think about coming out in phases to different groups of people in your life over time. Each time you come out, you will feel much more confident afterwards.
Tip 20: Allow for people to be shocked.
If you followed tip 13, people should already have some idea before you tell them. However, be prepared that some people might be shocked to learn that you are gay. This isn’t necessarily a negative reaction, just a reflection that you are telling them something they didn’t know. We all make assumptions about others and can be shocked when those assumptions turn out to be incorrect. Remember that it probably took you some time to come to terms with your sexuality, and it may take others time to process the information, and that’s ok. Give them time and be sensitive to their feelings too.
Tip 21: Prepare to be underwhelmed.
You may spend so much time worrying about negative or angry reactions, that when you do come out, the positive reactions you get and even the indifferent ones, may leave you feeling somewhat underwhelmed and wondering what on earth you were worrying about! Most of the fears and anxieties are in our own heads. Also people you come out to may have figured things out long ago, and were just waiting for you to tell them.
Tip 22: Don’t pin everything on the first reaction.
There will be people you tell, who do not react in the way you expected or even don’t react at all. That’s ok. Maybe you’re the first person who ever came out to them. Maybe they don’t know any other gay people. Maybe they have issues going on in their own life that you aren’t aware of. Perhaps they don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. Also, if you coming out was unexpected, their initial reaction may be surprise or shock. Surprise or shock does not mean disapproval. They won’t be thinking in that moment, about how to react to the news or how to show their support. They will be trying to process the information, so don’t pin everything on their first split second reaction. Try not to be over sensitive to the initial reaction or lack of reaction. Some people need time to process. First reactions are not final reactions, so give people time.
Tip 23: Stay in control of the news.
If you want to come out to people one at a time, then it can be important to stay in control of the news, so that close friends or family don’t get to find out from someone else first. If this is how you want to do things, then let people know when you come out to them, that you don’t want the news to get around until you have had a chance to come out to some other people first.
Tip 24: You don’t have to come out to everyone.
You are not obliged to come out to anyone that you don’t want to. Most LGBT people start off by coming out to close family, close friends and close work colleagues. These are the most important people in our lives. You don’t have to tell everyone else personally, unless you really want to. After you start coming out, word starts to get around by itself.
Tip 25: Partially out or fully out?
Once people have come out to those closest to them, the urge or need to come out tends to lessen for most people. It is quite common for LGBT people to remain partially out after this, often for quite some time. However it is entirely up to you who you want to come out to and in what timescale. Usually LGBT people go from partially to fully out when they get into a long term relationship, and want their partner to be part of their whole life.
Tip 26: Other ways to come out.
If you feel confident enough that you’d rather do a mass come out, technology can help here. Some people post on their facebook page, a message about their sexuality. Alternatively you could post a rainbow flag as your picture or feeds about the local pride parade or news feeds and likes that show that you are LGBT friendly. It’s entirely up to you, after all this is your moment and you are in charge. If you feel you can’t tell someone face to face, like a parent, consider writing them a letter if that helps.
Tip 27: Be prepared for questions.
Once you break the news, some people will ask you questions. Some will ask if you are sure you are gay, or practical questions about your safety, need for support and wellbeing. It will help to reassure them that you have friends who support you or that you have joined an LGBT social group etc. Some people can let their curiosity go too far, and may ask very personal questions of a sexual nature, which are frankly, none of their business. Let them know that they are getting way too personal if you feel they are. Some might ask you to speculate on the sexuality of others. Don’t speculate or gossip about other people. If they are gay or bi, they will come out in their own time. Think about some of the questions you might get asked and be prepared for them. If you aren’t ready for questions yet, just then tell them so. You can always talk further about it when things have settled down. Often just telling someone you are gay is enough information.
Tip 28: There is help available for parents who struggle with the news.
Some parents may struggle to understand how to process the information. They may have spent years imagining your heterosexual wedding and grandchildren etc, and have mentally plotted out a life for you. They will need time to adjust to a new reality. They may have lots of questions and also want reassurance themselves, that they are doing and saying the right things. It can help, in such a situation, to direct them to a website such as; being gay is ok. www.bgiok.co.uk This has a section of advice for parents of LGBT people. There may be other online support they can seek advice from, and there are also books available to help them. Point them in these directions if you think it will help.
Tip 29: Some people may act a bit differently around you at first.
Sometimes after you have come out, some people who are still processing the information, may seem a bit more physically or emotionally distant than before. This isn’t rejection. It is just them processing the information. It can help to remind them that you haven’t changed, but rather they just know a bit more about you. Things usually settle back down after a short time, once they have processed the information.
Tip 30: Prejudiced people.
Some people can be prejudice about all kinds of issues, when they think those issues don’t concern them. But when they realise that issue does concern them, then they are faced with confronting their own prejudices. This can happen with LGBT issues. However, it is their problem to deal with their own prejudices. These types of people may start off with a negative reaction and may disappear from your life for a while. It can be their catalyst for a change of opinions, and these people may later return as a supporter. But sometimes a prejudiced person will not change their opinions and may leave your life for good. Whilst this is sad, it is better to have people in your life who support you and are a positive influence on you. It will save you a lot of anxiety and emotional energy to acknowledge that you cannot always reason away prejudices with such people, and if they leave your life, so be it. It is their prejudices that are the problem, not you being gay.
Tip 31: What if I get rejected?
Some people do have a negative experience and may face rejection by a close friend or family member. If you feel a family member, say, is homophobic or may reject you, it is better to come out first to people who you feel will support you. Also you can get support from many LGBT groups or online forums. Then take some time to let your confidence build before thinking about how or if to tell them. If you do get rejected by someone, don’t keep it to yourself, talk about it with the people that support you.
They can also give you some perspective on the situation and may also be able to talk with the person. The number of people who support you will usually greatly outweigh any bad reactions.
Tip 32: Prepare for some different types of reactions.
There are a few different reactions that you will likely get when coming out, and it may help to think about how you might react to them in advance. Remember that for the person you are coming out to, this could be a new experience for them too. Sometimes in these circumstances, some people may say something dumb. Try not to be overly sensitive to their first response if it is rather dumb. It’s probably all new for them too.
Tip 33: Friends might try to send you on a date.
Friends might try to match you with another gay friend of theirs, simply because you are both gay. If you like the idea, great! However, if you don’t, then don’t feel under pressure to go along with other people’s ideas, if they are not what you want. After just coming out, you will probably not be ready to start dating anyway. Take the time you need to find out about YOU, without other people trying to decide what is best or appropriate for you. You have spent enough time conforming to what other people think. Now it’s time for you to finally be YOU and to live your life, and do what you want. This is your moment.
Tip 34: Don’t let others keep you closeted.
When you start to come out, you may find that someone you come out to, tries to convince you that you are not gay and may even advise you not tell anyone else. This can happen more if you haven’t fully accepted it yourself, as you may be giving out vibes of uncertainty. This is why it’s better not to come out until you have accepted your sexuality yourself. However well meaning this person may think they are, it really isn’t helpful and you should not let them push you back into the closet, if you are ready to come out.
Tip 35: Don’t force others to come out.
In your excitement about finally being out, it can be easy to put someone else you think might be gay and closeted on the spot, by asking them if they are also gay. For some people it might be a chance for them to come out also, but generally it is better not to put someone on the spot and instead just try to be a good role model and someone who they can feel comfortable around. It might not be the right time for them, for reasons you may not be aware of. But in their own time, they may just come out to you.
Tip 36: Start living!
Well you made it this far, it’s time for you to start living YOUR life and be the person you were always meant to be, without the restrictions of the closet. Remember though to have your safety net of friends and support in case things don’t go exactly as planned. Make new friends, network, enjoy life but remember it doesn’t have to be a race!
Icebreakers Coming out tips v3 8.22.
Last updated 13 Oct 2022