Action Tips: Coming Out

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Coming out can be a big step for you. It can relieve stress and boost self-esteem, and you might become a role model for others. Yet coming out is also a big deal to the person you tell. You might find the process easier if you’re prepared.

What You Call Yourself

In coming out, you don’t have to identify yourself. Some people simply express that they have recently been attracted to a specific person of the same sex or that they are uncomfortable with gender norms. If you feel comfortable with labels, gay or lesbian usually refers to someone who is emotionally, romantically, sexually, and relationally attracted to the same sex, but if one of these aspects isn’t correct, you might find prefer the term bisexual (attracted to varying degrees to both sexes) or queer (a non-descript way to describe your openness to more than just the opposite sex). Transgender describes a person who expresses their gender differently than what most people assume, but this doesn’t always mean transsexual.

Who You Tell

Who to tell is your choice. If this decision depends on how supportive the person will be, read their signals beforehand. Mention LGBTQ related issues or presence in the media, such as anti-gay harassment or the gay storyline on a TV show. If the person has positive things to say, chances are they will be more supportive.

You can always ask for help. It can be easier to tell someone you don’t know well, such as your school counselor or a trained professional from an LGBT support telephone hotline. If you’ve already told someone, you can ask him or her to be around when you tell others.

When and Where to Talk About It

Timing is important. People who care about you might have a strong reaction (positive or negative), so consider how much time you will have to talk, if the person’s attention could be distracted, and if others could unknowingly interrupt. Also consider the chance that they’ll want to continue talking later instead of right then and there. It took you some time to accept your identity before coming it, so it might take others time to accept it.

Lead the Conversation

If the person acts positively, then you can have a great conversation. Gentle humor always relieves the tension that built up to that moment.

If the person is unsure how to react, invite them to ask questions. If they are uncomfortable with the identity, say what you want from them (“I just want your support. We will still hang out the same,”).

If the person reacts negatively, be prepared to tell them to take some time to themselves. However, also be prepared to challenge you with myths like, “It’s a choice,” or “you can never have kids.” Research the facts and statistics about the LGBTQ people that live happily all over the world, and calmly introduce your new community (“One million American children have gay parents”).

Take Action

Know that there are resources help you be active and comfortable in your new identity.

You can join or establish a Gay-Straight Alliance club at your school to combat anti-gay discrimination in the hallways and classroom. If the administration tries to prevent your right to a club or if the school refuses to protect you against harassment, you can contact Lambda Legal. This LGBT rights organization can set you up with a lawyer than can help you for free.

If things get tough at home, try calling a toll-free hotline. The GLBT Youth Support Line (1-800-850-8078) or The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) are two great hotlines. They can give you advice on how to educate and mediate with your family members or can just be there to chat about what’s on your mind.

If you have transportation, an LGBT Center in your area will probably have a youth support group where you can become a role model for others struggling to come out.

Your religion can remain important to you. Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim, there are organizations like Torah Queeries and UCC Coalition that continue to worship while accepting the LGBT population.

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