Coming out as LGBTQ can be exciting, overwhelming, and sometimes scary. It’s different for everyone, and you’re the only one who can decide when the time is right.
What is “coming out”?
“Coming out” of understanding your own sexual orientation or gender identity and then deciding to share it with some or all of the people in your life. Coming out is different for everyone and there are lots of ways to do it. Some LGBTQ people choose to come out only to themselves, and not to anyone else. Only you can know what’s best for your life right now. Learn more about coming out.
Should I come out?
Coming out is a decision that LGBTQ people have to face all the time, with every new person they meet. So it’s something you’ll probably do over and over again throughout your life. The way you approach and experience coming out might change, depending on where you are and who you’re with.
Coming out is a very personal decision. You — and only you — get to decide if, when, and how you do it. Coming out can be a really important step, and people should only come out if and when they’re ready and feel safe doing so. It’s never ok to pressure someone into coming out or to out
You might want to start by talking with other people who are LGBTQ. Sometimes it’s also helpful to talk to adults you trust, like a counselor, social worker, teacher, or supportive family member, to help you decide when you want to come out, and who to come out to.
For all people — and young people especially — gender and sexuality can change and evolve over time. It might take you a while to fully understand your own sexual orientation and gender identity, and these things can shift as you get older. Sharing a big part of who you are as a person during the time that you’re trying to figure it all out can be complicated.
For a lot of people, coming out can be a great experience — especially if they have support from their friends, families, and communities. While it can make your relationships better and make you feel great, it can also feel scary depending on who you’re coming out to and what you think their reaction will be. And unfortunately, in some places there’s a lot of homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia— fear and hatred of people who are LGBTQ. If you think coming out might cause you harm — physical, emotional, or financial — you may decide to wait to come out until you have a plan to take care of yourself.
Where can I get more information about LGBTQ issues?
There are lots of places online where you can find info about LGBTQ issues and get connected with communities. Here are a few ideas on where to start:
GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network)
If there’s an LGBTQ center in your area, that can also be a great place to meet people and find a community. Check out CenterLink to see if there’s an LGBTQ center near you. Reaching out to the older LGBTQ folks in your community can also be really helpful if you’re looking for information and resources, or just want to connect.
Where can I get help if I’m struggling with issues
around my sexual orientation or gender identity?
As you’re learning more about your gender identity and sexual orientation, it’s normal to feel lost sometimes. And it can be easy to feel alone or scared when you’re having these feelings. Reaching out to people who care about you and understand what you’re going through can really help. If you’re struggling, reach out! You’re not alone. Here are some people who might be able to help you:
- Parents, guardians, or other trusted adult family members
- Close friends and their parents
- Other LGBTQ young people, in your community or online
- Your doctor
- Your school’s
- A supportive teacher, school counselor, or coach
- A minister, rabbi, priest, or spiritual mentor who you know is LGBTQ friendly
- A local LGBTQ youth support group
- GLBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-PRIDE
- Trans Teens Online Talk Group
- GLBT National Help Center Chat Line
If you’re worried that you might hurt yourself or another person, it’s important to get help. You can contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 if you need to talk to someone right away for help or support. There’s also Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) — a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people.
How can I help support my LGBTQ friends?
Being an ally is about supporting equal rights and justice for LGBTQ folks, and it’s also about helping your friends know that you have their back and they aren’t alone.
Here are some ideas for being the best ally you can be.
Educate yourself. Learning about the experiences and history of LGBTQ people is an important way to understand the issues that are affecting your friends. It’s not the responsibility of LGBTQ people to educate you, so step up to the plate and explore the books, blogs, and videos, out there. Tumblr and YouTube are places where many LGBTQ people are sharing their stories and experiences.
Listen! As a person who’s trying to ally yourself with your LGTBQ friends, one of the most important things you can do is listen to as many people in the community as possible. There are many, many different LGBTQ experiences and stories, and listening to a diverse group of voices is one way to understand the issues that affect the people you care about.
Don’t Assume. It’s impossible to know what a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is just by looking at them, so don’t make assumptions. But to assume there could be LGBTQ people in every space you’re in. Assuming that everyone around you is straight makes things harder for LGBTQ people.
Speak up. If you notice bullying or oppressive language, say something. Anti-LGBTQ comments and jokes are hurtful. Call out your friends, family, or co-workers and let them know that you find them offensive. If you see a young person being hurt or bullied because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, let an adult know. And speak up when you see anti-LGBTQ comments online, or jokes where LGBTQ people are the punchlines.
Never “out” someone. It’s important to let people come out in their own way and on their own terms. Telling people that a friend is LGBTQ without their permission can break trust and even put them in danger. Depending on their personal situation, they may be at risk for homophobic bullying and violence if people find out they’re gay or trans. It is never okay to out someone without their permission.