How to come out

  • Being honest with yourself about your sexuality is even more important than being honest with others. Pretending to yourself that you are not gay when you are is as pointless as feeling bad because you aren't a badger, and will only make you unhappy in the long term. Come out to yourself first!

  • You should only come out when you feel ready. Never do it because someone else thinks you should. It’s a personal choice, so follow your instincts. Feel as confident as you can about who you are and what you want before you tell others that you are gay.

  • Test the water first. If you're not sure how people will react, get them talking about homosexuality in general and see what they say and how they behave. Mention a famous gay person in the news, a gay singer, or the new gay bar that's just opened nearby. If people respond in a positive and balanced way, or if there's simply no particularly noticeable response to the topic, then you can be more confident of coming out to them. On the other hand, if people are negative or even hostile around the subject of homosexuality, then it's wise to be cautious when considering coming out to those people. Keep in mind though that some people react differently when around their friends, perhaps joking and teasing, so don't be too quick to write someone off as homophobic. Also, people sometimes react to someone close to them being gay differently to how you might think they'd react based on what they say about gay people on TV.

  • Remember, a lot of straight people don't knowingly know any gay people, so your coming out may well be a new experience for them as well as you.

  • Think about who you want to come out to. Do you mind if everyone knows, or do you want a controlled coming out? It’s no good coming out to the school gossip if you aren’t ready for everyone to know. Telling a close and trusted friend may be the best place to start. You may welcome their support later when moving on to telling other people and - sometimes more difficult - your parents.

  • Some people say coming out to girls is easier than to boys as they are often more open-minded and sensitive, and not governed by macho image and how they feel homosexuality compromises it. Start with a female friend if you think this might be easier.

  • Choose a time to tell people when they are relaxed and not in the middle of an upheaval or upset of any kind. This is especially important to consider when coming out to parents; choose a time - if at all possible - when the home is tranquil!

  • Consider telling one parent first, perhaps one you feel will handle your coming out better than the other. This way you may have some support from one parent when you tell the other.

  • Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get cheers and congratulations. Often people just don’t know how to react to the news, but it doesn’t mean they have a problem with your sexuality. Again, be patient with people. It may be your first time coming out, but it may also be the first time they've been come out to.

  • If you come out when very young (under 16) you may find that you are told that you are going through a same-sex attraction phase and will grow out of it. It is true that sexuality changes, and that a lot of young people have same-sex experiences but go on to be heterosexual - but it's also true that a lot of gay and bisexual people know full well what they are from a very young age. Be patient with people, but be firm too - you know how you feel and how real it is.

If people react badly to the news

  • If after you come out to someone they refuse to talk or seem hostile, consider sending them a letter. This will enable you to say everything you want to in a well thought out way, without getting nervous or reacting emotionally like you might face-to-face. It gives the recipient time to think about things without feeling confronted.

  • Just as it took you a while to get used to being different, it can take the people you come out to time to adjust. Giving people time to digest the information can make a big difference to their attitude toward you.

  • It's a sad fact that some people view homosexuality in a negative way and may believe that it's an illness, is evil or a perversion etc. Against these kind of bigoted views it can be hard to get through to someone and reeducate them, but it's worth trying. Sometimes you can show someone with homophobic views that they are wrong. Seeing a real gay person (i.e. you!) can challenge stereotypes and beliefs that people hold.

  • Sometimes you have to accept that someone is homophobic and won't change, and therefore the friendship has come to an end. This can be painful when it's someone you care about, but is it better to hide your sexuality in order to keep a homophobic friend, or to be true to yourself and allow people to value you for who you really are? Real friends are the ones who care about you just as much after you come out.