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Coming out

The term coming out is a shorter form of the phrase “coming out of the closet.”  It is used to describe LGBTQ folks telling other people about their gender or sexual identity.

By coming out, they may feel more free to express their sexual or gender identity in their daily lives and in their relationships with others.

Should I come out?

  • Coming out is your decision and may depend on what feels safe and right for you, your relationships with your friends and family, and how confident you feel about your identity.
  • You should never feel pressured to come out to anyone in your life, even if you are in a relationship with another individual of the same sex.
  • Coming out is not all-or-nothing – you may choose to come out to some people in your life and not to others

Useful tip:

You may choose to come out to a few supportive people first and not everyone all at once.

Why might I consider coming out?

  • There are many reasons to come out. Here are just a few:
    • It may feel important to you to be open about your sexual or gender identity.
    • You may want to be with people who accept you for who you are.
    • You may want your communities, friends, and family to accept a potentially important part of your identity.
    • You may want to make a political statement in support of the LGBTQ community.

Why might I consider not to coming out?

  • There are also many reasons to not come out. Here are just a few:
    • You may feel like your sexual or gender identity is private and not something you want to share with everyone or with certain people.
    • You may feel it is not the right time.
    • You may fear that your friends or members of your family will reject you.
    • You may fear that you will be bullied or experience homophobia , biphobia or transphobia at school or work.
    • You may fear that you will lose your job.

How do I come out?

  • You may want to start by coming out to only a few close and supportive friends or family members who you trust. Here are some steps that you might follow:
    • Stay calm and get to the heart of the matter quickly. You may be nervous, but try not to get upset.
    • Tell them what your gender or sexuality identity means to you and that you don’t want it to affect your relationship.
    • Let them tell YOU what your being LGBTQ means to them and how they think it might affect your relationship.
    • If you need to, ask them to keep things quiet for a while. (Be prepared that that this may not happen and news may travel fast.)

What should I say when I come out?

  • Here are some ways to start the conversation:
    • I trust you and you are very important in my life. I have something I want to tell you and I hope it won’t affect our relationship.
    • We’ve been friends for awhile and I want you to know something about me.
    • I’ve been keeping something hidden from you for a while and I don’t like that.

Useful tips when you come out:

  • Be prepared for the worst and hope for the best. While you may be sure of your identity, remember that it may be new to your friends and family and it may take them time to understand and adjust. They may be supportive, hurt, angry or happy.  Be patient and answer their questions. Laugh together and be honest. That way you will build a stronger relationship with them.
  • If you are worried about coming out to your parents, think about asking a supportive and accepting friend, sibling or other close relative to be there with you. This can be a big support to both you and your parents if they struggle to come to terms with your gender or sexual identity.

If my friends and family have questions where should I send them?

  • Most libraries have books about being an ally or coming to terms with coming out. Some good books for your friends and family are:
    • Hear Me Out: True Stories of Teens Educating and Confronting Homophobia by T.E.A.C.H.
    • A Family and Friends Guide to Sexual Orientation: Bridging the Divide between Gay and Straight by Bob Powers and Alan Ellis
    • Straight Parents, Gay Children – Keeping Families Together by Robert A. Bernstein
    • Free Your Mind: The Book For Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Youth and Their Allies by E. Bass
    • Trans Forming Families: Real Stories About Transgendered Loved Ones by Mary Boenke
    • Check out Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) for resources.
    • GLAAD also has a great resources for friends and allies to check out.

For more info, check out Supports for LGBTQ Youth.