LGBT Health
NHS Choices

Coming out

If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender you may be wondering how to come out for the first time, or struggling with the decision to come out at work, school or to your family or friends. There are many resources available to help you decide whether coming out is right for you, and to help you with how to do it. You may also want to consider contacting support groups.

What is “coming out”?

“Coming out” is when someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual tells someone about their sexuality, or when someone who is transgender tells someone about their gender identity.

Should I come out?

Coming out means you can be honest about how you feel and not keep part of your life hidden. It means that the important people in your life will know about your sexuality and/or gender identity. It means you don’t need to worry about someone else finding out you are LGBT.

Coming out is a very personal decision. Who you come out to and even whether you come out at all is up to you. Coming out has advantages, but is not always the right decision for everyone.

There are a lot of resources available for people coming out. If you are struggling with the decision to come out, you might find the resources at the end helpful.

No one should judge you for whether you come out, when you come out or how you have chosen to come out. It is important that you stay safe and that you do the right thing for you.

Getting support to come out

Coming out for the first time or in a new situation can be easier if you have support from others.

There can often be more support available than you might realise. Many LGBT networks are hidden or informal and until you make contact you may not realise that they exist. Stonewall Cymru has information on many local groups in Wales. Many LGBT groups exist online, where it is easy to be relatively anonymous if you are not ready to come out to those people around you at home.

Not all groups work for everyone. If a group isn’t right for you, keep trying! Don’t let one bad experience put you off groups entirely.

Who should I come out to?

Coming out can be a nerve-wracking experience. However it can also be a very positive one!

Sometimes those less closely connected to you will find it easier to support you. Friends might be more accepting than family. Youth workers or teachers should not tell your family or friends unless they believe you are at risk of serious harm. They can be a good source of support.

LGBT people often find their family and friends are very supportive. They may have already suspected that you are anxious about something and be relieved that there is nothing more serious going on with you!

Support organisations exist for friends and families of LGBT people. For instance, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays http://www.fflag.org.uk/

How to come out

There is no right or wrong way to come out. You should come out in the way that feels most comfortable for you.

For some people, it is easier to have the conversation face to face. This can feel scary, but does mean that you can answer any questions and get reassurance yourself.

For others a text or email conversation might be better. An advantage of this is that it gives the person receiving the information time to come to terms with it and respond.

You may find that the people you come out to react badly initially. While friends and family often have suspected that a loved one may be LGBT, for some people it comes as a big shock. Your sexuality or gender identity might be natural to you but might take some getting used to for others. This can be difficult for you to deal with. If your family reacts very badly initially, it might be worth getting support. Over time, family and friends do often come to accept that a loved one is LGBT.

Remember that you do not have to come out to everyone all at once. It is ok to come out as gradually as you feel comfortable with telling people. It is ok to come out in one part of your life but not in others. Some people are out to their families but not at work. You need to make the right decision for you and no one has a right to make you feel bad for not coming out.

If you are coming out in the workplace or in education, remember that there are laws to protect you. For more information, see the links below.

“Being outed”

Sometimes you don’t have a choice in when you come out or who to. This usually happens because others have guessed or found out about your sexuality and confronted you, or because someone you have come out to has told others. This is known as “being outed”.

Being outed may not be malicious, and those you are outed to might still be supportive. Sometimes they will have been worried about you. Sometimes they will have suspected for a long time and be relieved that nothing serious is wrong.

Unfortunately, not everyone is supportive and this can be a difficult, even scary situation. Some LGBT people may find themselves homeless, or face violence. If this happens to you, there are people who can help. See the A-Z topic on Domestic Violence [link] and information on reporting a hate crime below.

Even if you are supported, it can still be difficult to have information about your sexuality or gender identity known before you are ready. If you have kept your sexuality or gender identity a secret, being outed can feel exposing and you may be worried about what it means for your relationships with those you have been outed to. You may also need help to answer questions from people who are concerned about you, as they may now expect you to know everything about being LGBT!

Will coming out change things?

British people more are accepting of LGBT people in Britain than ever before (see the link to a positive report by Stonewall in the resources below). Most British people are opposed to prejudice against LGBT people and support LGBT people being able to have children, get married and not be discriminated against.

Most LGBT people nowadays find coming out a positive experience. It can be a huge relief not to have to keep a part of your identity secret, or be worried about being found out.

What if coming out goes badly?

Sometimes, LGBT people face discrimination and lack of support after coming out. Even people who support rights for LGBT people sometimes react differently when it is a close friend or a member of their family. You may hear things that make you feel angry, upset or scared. You may experience discrimination. You may even be asked to leave your home or face violence.

If you face prejudice or discrimination as a result of coming out, there are no easy solutions. However, contacting one of the groups listed below is a good first start. Remember that you have the same right to good treatment as everyone else. You have a right to feel safe and respected. You have a right not to be attacked and belittled.

If you are verbally or physically assaulted as a result of your sexuality or gender identity you can report this to the police as a hate crime. It can be intimidating to report hate crime. You can get support to do this from one of the groups listed below.

Do I have to come out?

Coming out isn’t easy for everyone. Some communities or families may make it very hard to be open about your sexual identity or gender identity. Some LGBT people may fear that if their sexuality or gender identity becomes known, they will lose their job, be made homeless or be subjected to violence.

It is illegal to discriminate against, or verbally or physically assault a person for being LGBT. However it is also a realistic possibility for many LGBT people. Groups do exist to support you in these situations and it can be helpful to contact them.

If you feel that coming out might be dangerous for you, it might help to know about organisations that can help if you are made homeless or suffer violence as a result of your sexuality.

Coming Out to Your Children

Some parents might want to come out to their children as lesbian, gay, bi or trans.

Sometimes there will be a lot else going on when this happens. For example, you and their other parent may have decided to separate, or you may be facing difficulties in your relationship or in other parts of your life as a result of coming out. You know your children, and there is no right or wrong time to come out to them.

Children whose parents have come out as trans or not-straight often say that their parents’ sexual orientation or gender identity is less of an issue than deception, lying and arguments between their parents. Children often take their parents’ gender identity or sexual orientation in their stride, although sometimes they will need time to get used to it.

If you are telling your children that you are LGBT, the following tips may help

 

  1. Explain it to them in words that they can understand. For help with this, see Pink Parents and Colage
  2. Do it at a quiet time. Give them space to process their feelings and let them ask questions.
  3. Think about their questions in advance. They may worry about how it will change their family or if they will be bullied. Unfortunately, children brought up in households with same-gender parents are still bullied and discriminated against. This is wrong, and there is legal protection if it happens, but it is still something children (and parents) may worry about.
  4. Listen to their fears and try to give them honest, practical answers.
  5. If possible, try to make sure that they have other supportive adults to talk to. Children may open up to adults who are not their parents.
  6. Some children may find it helpful to connect with other children growing up in LGBT families. Stonewall Cymru has a list of local LGBT parenting groups (phone 08000 50 20 20), or you could start your own. LGBT parents often connect on facebook or via forums.

 

For many LGBT people, the thought of telling their children about their gender identity or sexual identity is very scary. You may be worried your children will reject you. But many children are brought up in LGBT households nowadays. There is a lot of evidence that they do as well as children brought up by straight cis parents.

Talking to younger siblings and nephews/nieces may also be difficult. This advice can be helpful in talking to any child.

 

Remember you are not alone!

Almost all LGBT people have had the experience of coming out. Whether or not to come out is a decision that LGBT people face regularly throughout their lives. It is seldom enjoyable and can be nerve-wracking. However it generally gets easier with practice!

Most LGBT people who come out do find it a relief. Most LGBT people do find that their family and friends are supportive eventually, even if not initially.

You have a right to come out in your own time, to feel safe and supported and not to experience discrimination.

Cardiff University - It Gets Better

Resources

LGBT Jigsaw for homeless LGBT young people.

Age UK information for older LGBT people

Regard for LGBT people with disabilities

Unity Group based in Swansea and Wrexham have groups and drop ins for a variety of people

Information on hate crime

Reporting hate crime in Wales

Parents guide from Stonewall

Positive Stonewall report on attitudes towards LGBT people (pdf)