Coming out (of the closet) is often used to refer to LGBTQ+ people opening up about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Sharing something so intimate may feel scary which is why we have created a guide on how to come out!
The average age that people tend to come out at is 20 although it is slightly lower for gay men and slightly higher for lesbian and bi folks. As times are progressing, we can see that this average age is going down in the UK. Teenagers are starting to feel more and more comfortable to come out to their peers while still in school.
There isn’t a right or a wrong way of coming out. Everyone’s circumstances are different and you know what feels best for you. We have listed a couple of approaches as examples:
Coming out to your parents or friends can be an incredibly stressful thing to do and you may be worried about their reaction if they have not previously expressed support for the wider LGBT community (or worse, they have openly expressed a negative opinion).
The very first thing to consider is your own safety. Does your background and your resources allow you to come out safely?
If so, then that is great and you can move forward, but equally if your safety is in danger, then not coming out may be the best option for now until your circumstances change. There may always be some small changes or ramifications from coming out, but they should not endanger your personal safety. If you feel in danger, then please contact a LGBTQ helpline.
If you are unsure about the reaction you will get, you can try ‘dipping your toes’ by gauging how they react to other LGBTQ+ people. You could mention a LGBT celebrity, acquaintance or show. If you’re feeling brave enough, you could allude to your own sexual orientation or gender identity by dropping hints to gauge their reaction.
If you’re apprehensive about coming out, then it is especially important to consider who to come out to first. Your parents may not be the first people you want to confide in. You want to make sure that you have a supportive friend/relative there for you that you can trust 100% when coming out. You may not feel the need for that if you have a good relationship with your parents and you know they will be supportive. But if not, then consider carefully who you will tell first. Ask yourself the following questions:
Once you have considered all of the above, you can now choose to come out to your parents or friends. There are a lot of examples of how you can approach this. Some include:
For bisexual people, coming out can present some unique challenges. A lot of bisexuals face skepticism from both outside and within the LGBTQ community. Furthermore, there is a real bi-erasure and bisexual invisibility at play as bisexuals are often ignored and excluded from traditional LGBTQ spaces. All of this can make it more complicated to come out to friends and family.
According to the Williams Institute, about 50% of LGBT people identify as bisexual, meaning that the bisexual population is actually the biggest group in the LGBT community.
So although you may feel alone, you really are not alone as these numbers prove! Follow the same steps as above to gauge whether coming out is safe for you and who knows, you may find another closeted bisexual where you least expected it.
If you need help with coming out or with the effects of having come out, see below for the many resources to support you in this process!
Coming out is unique to all of us.
There is no right or wrong way to do it, and for some LGBTQ+ people it isn’t a nice experience; rejection by family members, abuse and being kicked out of home can leave LGBTQ+ people with long-lasting trauma that effects their adult life.
We’re sharing coming out stories from across the globe to show how different each experience is, and to give hope to those with negative experiences that there is a world of LGBTQ+ people who love you, support you and will help you through it.