What is 'coming out'?
The process of telling others about your sexuality (also known as 'sexual orientation') is often referred to as ‘coming out’. Coming out is not necessarily a one-off event - lesbians, gay men and bisexual people may have to come out many times during their lives.
There is no one prescribed way to come out as lesbian, gay or bisexual. Reactions to someone coming out can range from very positive, to less welcoming. You may feel comfortable being open about your sexuality with some people, but not with others. Coming out to certain people, such as family, friends or colleagues may be difficult and takes courage.
Once you have made the decision to tell people about your sexuality, you may want to think about how you tell them. We have set out a few thoughts on coming out, and links to places you can contact if you want further advice and support.
Stonewall has written a guide designed to provide answers to some of the most common questions that young people might have if they are thinking about coming out or think they might be lesbian, gay or bisexual.
I think I might be gay or bi. How can I be sure?
If you fancy someone of the same sex it may mean that you are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Being bisexual means being attracted to people of more than one gender.It’s not unusual to be attracted to someone of the same sex at some point in your life. Being lesbian, gay or bisexual means that these feelings go beyond a one-off crush.
You shouldn't feel under any pressure to decide if you are gay or bi, or to attach a label to your feelings if it makes you feel uncomfortable. The important thing is to allow yourself time and space to explore how you feel. Coming out is different for everyone and you’ll know when it’s the right time for you.
Coming out as trans
Trans people come out at all stages of their life and in different ways.
Some people will know at a very early age that the way they feel does not match what most people expect based on the gender they were assigned at birth, and might talk to their parents, friends or teachers about how they feel.
Others might not come out until much later in life. Some might only ever acknowledge their feelings to themselves. Remember, it’s up to you to decide when you are ready to tell someone how you feel, and who that person is.
It is important that you give yourself the time and space to explore how you are feeling and how you want to express your gender identity. This might include doing research into different trans identities, reading blogs or watching videos, joining an LGBT youth group or looking up different ways of supporting your transition. It’s ok to take your time over this and don’t feel you must rush to make any decisions before you are ready.
Could it just be a phase?
Growing up can be a confusing time, particularly where feelings are concerned. Sometimes people fancy someone of the same sex but may not be sure that they are gay or bi. Some people know that they are gay from an early age and others at a much later stage, some people are bisexual. No one can know you better than you know yourself, don’t let people tell you it’s a phase when you know it’s not.
What will my friends say?
Most people worry about how their friends will react when they come out. Your friends might be surprised, have lots of questions, not know what to say or even have guessed already! At first, choose a friend you trust and who you think will be supportive. Think about how you’ll answer some of the things they might ask like, ‘how do you know?’
If one of your mates reacts badly, remember they might just need some time to absorb what you've told them.
Although you can’t predict what people will say or do, when you tell a close friend that you trust, the chances are they’ll be pleased you've shared something so personal with them.
How do I tell my family?
There’s no right or wrong way or time to tell your family that you’re lesbian, gay or bisexual. However, it’s a good idea to take time to think about what you want to say. Coming out when you’re arguing or angry isn’t a good idea. Some people tell their parents face to face while others prefer to write a letter or send an email. Whichever way you choose you’ll probably be a bit nervous. You might want to talk to a friend about it or think about what you’ll actually say.
Your parents might be shocked, worried or find it difficult to accept at first. Remember, their first reaction isn’t necessarily how they’ll feel forever. They might just need a bit of time to process what you’ve told them. The thing most parents worry about is that their children are happy! Just in case things don’t go so well as you hoped, there are people and organisations that you can talk to.
You might find it interesting to read our guide for parents as this could give you an insight into some of the questions they may have.
You could also suggest that your parents contact SPLAG who are a group for families and friends of lesbians and gay men.
What if I’m being bullied at school?
Schools and colleges are now better places to be gay and bi than ever before. Lots of schools have their own LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning) societies or groups that you can join. Some schools have GSAs (gay-straight alliances) where students, regardless of their sexuality, come together to support one another and champion equality and diversity in the school community.
Schools have a legal responsibility to make sure you aren't bullied and so if you do experience it make sure you tell a member of staff and make sure something happens about it.
How do I meet other people like me?
You might not know anyone else gay in school, but lots of areas now have LGBT youth groups, The What's in My Area? section of our website is a great place to start looking! The internet can be a great place to socialise, find information, support and people who are going through similar thoughts and feelings to you. But the thing is, unless you know them in real life, you never know who you’re talking to so it’s important you know how to stay safe. This means not giving out personal details, making sure a friend knows if you’re meeting up with someone and reporting any dodgy behaviour you encounter online. There can be lots of pressure on young people to have a girlfriend or boyfriend and this is no different for gay and bi people! You may decide that you want a relationship but you should never feel pressured into doing anything that you’re not comfortable with.
Need some more support?
LGBT Cymru Helpline - General information, advice and confidential support and counselling in many areas of life and around various issues that people might experience. Mon & Wed 7pm-9pm 0800 8402069.
SPLAG Wales (Support for Parents of Lesbians and Gay Men) - Confidential telephone help line, support groups and the provision of information so that families and friends may be helped to understand, accept and support lesbians, gay men and bisexuals with love and pride. 0845 652 0321
For further information please contact Stonewall Cymru's Information Service on 08000 502020 or email firstname.lastname@example.org