Should I Come Out?

Many young people ask themselves the question: SHOULD I COME OUT?! 
The short answer: Only if you want to, and only when you're ready. Don't come out just because someone else thinks you should. Being attracted to someone of the same sex, being bisexual, being transgender or being gender variant is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, if you feel very strongly about something you may want to share this with others.

For example, you may have a crush on someone and desperately want to be able to tell someone you trust. You may want people to understand all of who you are. Or, you may have a new significant other you want to introduce to people you care about.

Sometimes there are very good reasons not to come out. There are real risks involved. There are people who won't accept you, people who will do and say negative things. They could be people you love or depend on for financial support, companionship, or encouragement. There are also very good reasons to let some people know that you re gay. Hiding who you are keeps your relationships from being real.

Many LGBT individuals find that the loneliness and isolation of keeping a secret is worse than any fear of coming out. You have to come out to yourself before you come out to others. This means not only knowing you're lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), but being comfortable with being it and being sure of who you are as a person. Knowing you re lesbian, transgender, bisexual or gay is just being aware of one more piece of who you are. You are the same person you were before; you just know more about yourself. You might want to educate yourself about being LGBT before you come out. You can do this by reading books about coming out and talking to other LGBT people. Stop by All Under One Roof LGBT Center to chat with adult mentors and other LGBT youth about your situation. By learning about others experiences, you ll know what to expect when you come out. Tell your new gay friends that you are getting ready to come out so they can support you. Who should I tell? Tell only those people who you want to know. 

The people you tell first should be the ones you trust the most. You need to be able to trust them not to hurt you, to accept you as you are, and to respect your privacy and not tell anyone you dont want told. Think about what you could lose by telling a particular person. Might your family kick you out of the house? Would they cut you off from your friends? Would a friend withdraw from you? Would they tell other people at school? Also think about what you could lose by not telling a particular person. Is the secret putting a strain on your relationship with parents or friends? Would you be closer with them and be able to get support from them if they understood why you were acting withdrawn?

If there is someone you would like to come out to but are not sure how they will react, try to feel them out first. Get them talking about a book or a movie about gays to see where they stand. A person might joke about a gay character in a movie without thinking but show far more thoughtfulness when responding to your coming out. How do I tell my family? Before coming out to your family, think about their general reaction to LGBT people. Do they have gay friends? Is their religion accepting? How do they respond to gender variant people? Have you heard them say theres anything wrong with being gay? Think also about your relationship with your family. In the past, have they shown that they love you even when theyre upset with you? Have they stuck by you even when you've done something they did'nt like? 

Think about what might happen after you have told them. Do you have a place to stay if you had to leave home? Do you have someone else you could turn to if your family cut you off financially? If you answered no to these questions, it might be best to wait until you have a safe place to go and a way to support yourself before coming out to your family. If you answered yes? to all of the questions, then its probably safe to tell them. Weigh the yes? and the no? and trust your gut. If you are terrified about coming out to your guardians, parents or family as a whole, pay attention to that. Not everyone will be accepting. It will be easier to talk to your family when you are feeling good about yourself. If your feeling confused, it could increase your familys confusion and give them less confidence in your judgment. 

Be ready with answers to their questions. Remember that many family members are from an older generation, one that in some ways was more homophobic than yours. They may need some time to accept your being LGBT, just as you probably needed some time yourself. Even if they are accepting of gays in general, they may be shocked to learn that you are gay. They may worry about what your being gay says about them or that they have failed you in some way. That worry can sometimes come out as anger and defensiveness. If you do decide to come out to others, give some real thought to the following: Think about what you want to say and choose the time and place carefully. Be clear about your own feelings. Have information available about local support groups, like PFLAG and All Under One Roof. Be aware of what the other person is going through. The best time for you might not be the best time for someone else. Be aware of the health, mood, priorities and problems of those you want to talk to. Present yourself honestly and remind the other person that you are the same individual you were yesterday. Be prepared for an initially negative reaction from some people. Do not forget that it took time for you to come to terms with your sexual orientation and/or gender identity, and that it is important to give others the time they need. Have supportive friends lined up to talk with you later about what happened. Set a time for someone to call or text you to check in about how things are going. Dont give up hope if you dont initially get the reaction you wanted. Some people need more time than others to come to terms with what they have heard. Try to keep the lines of communication open with people after you have come out. If a person rejects you and refuses to try to work on acceptance, thats not your fault. Keep in mind that this initial refusal may get reversed once the individual gets used to the idea that you are LGBT. If time does not seem to change the individuals attitude toward you, then you may want to re-evaluate your relationship and its importance to you. 

Remember that you have the right to be who you are, you have the right to be out and open about all important aspects of your identity including your sexual orientation, and in no case is another persons rejection evidence of your lack of worth or value.

Things to Keep In Mind When Coming Out:

1. Never come out in an argument or to hurt someone.

2. Never come out in a moving vehicle.

3. A person is more intelligent than a group of people. Come out to people one at a time and     somewhere private.

4. People who are ignorant may say things initially that they don't realize are painful to hear. Remember that they are simply unaware and in a state of surprise. 

5. They may already know.

6. Coming out in drag is a bit much (unless you really have the right shoes...

7. People have to deal with 1) the issue of homo/bi/trans stuff and 2) you as a person 3) the combination of the two since you may or may not fit the stereotype they have about LGBT people.

8. Be sober.

9. Don't have your partner/boyfriend/girlfriend/lover with you. This is not "Deal or No Deal." More surprises are not good.

10. Be ready for them to need time and space to think about things before any discussion takes place. 

11. Be ready for them to drill you with questions that may or may not offend you (see #4). 
book, pamphlet, phone number, or other resource that they can use or call for                      can help you with this.

13. It is your life to live, you only have one, and the bottom line is that you are going to                       continue living as an LGBT person no matter what their reaction is.

14. It may not be a bad idea to have smelling salts handy.

15. There are people who will never be supportive no matter what is said.

16. If your audience had that deer in the headlights look, don't make any quick moves.

17. Breathe. (seriously) And make sure you have lined up support for yourself. All under One
 Roof LGBT Center  can help with this too.

18. No two coming out experiences are ever the same. And don't think you're only going to have to do it once.

19. Don't plan on doing anything else for the rest of the day/night.

20. Always have an escape plan. You may not need it, but if you do, you won't be surprised.

 Have a place to crash for the night, and money you can get to. And always and no matter what, remember that you are not alone and you WILL get through this. There are many people who love and care about you. All Under One Roof LGBT Center is a place that you can always turn to for support, and resources if you need them.