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Coming Out a Guide!

Author: Superdrewby
Date: 2001

One of the most common requests I receive is advice on how to come out to parents from both teenagers and young adults. I have put together this short resource with some tips and ideas on how to plan and come out to parents in a way that is safer and puts you at less risk. Please note that this is meant as a guide only and should not be viewed as the definitive guide for helping to solve all your problems, and if you are worried for your safety then do not come out!

Some General Don'ts

Plan how to tell them

I know it sounds silly but it is important that you plan how and where you are going to tell them you are gay. Make sure that you have somewhere to go if things do blow up into a huge confrontation so you can go somewhere safe while they cool down. Plan what you are going to say to them and how you are going to say it. A reasonable approach will get a far more reasonable reply. Tell them when you feel refreshed and have the time to talk to them about your feelings rather than when you just want to crawl into bed and sleep.

Have a Back up Plan just in Case

Sometimes parents may do and say some things in the heat of the moment that they don't really mean including throwing you out of the house. Make sure you have somewhere to go, people to turn to and people you can trust. Also make sure that you have some money to get there!

Write Them a letter or an e-mail

I know that it isn't very personal, but if you want to tell them and you are really frightened of their reaction tell them in a letter and give them the chance to think about it before you see them in person.

Get Support From your friends

Before you tell your parents tell your friends and get support from them, after all it is a huge issue for you as well as them!

Think About Why You are Coming Out

Think about why you are coming out and what you hope to achieve by doing so. This will then help you work out how and what to say to your parents.

Print out some material for them to read

Having something to give them like some literature on being gay is a good way of letting them deal with the issues. Try Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) as they have been around for years. The organizations is operated by Parents who have gay and lesbian children and they know how your parents feel. Give them the number of a local counseling organization so they can talk to someone about their own feelings because just like you when you first started to deal with your sexuality now they are going through something similar.

Give Them Some Time to Think

Just because you have come out and have already done all the thinking about being gay and how you feel about it doesn't mean they will have too. Your parents will need some time to think about and absorb what you have told them. The first reaction from many parents is two fold, the first is a feeling of guilt that they have done something wrong and the second is a denial that you can actually be gay and that it is just a passing phase.

Use Words like I Feel instead of You Should

Try not to use confronting or insulting language or words, try to let your parents understand how you feel by using words like I feel like this or When you say or do this it makes me feel....Don't tell them they should feel this or you should be this as this is confronting to them.

Try not to shout or get angry

If you get angry this will only make your parents angry and turn the conversation into a screaming match and both of you may say things you don't really mean.

Some common responses from parents

These are some of the common things that parents say when told that their child is gay. Try to think up some answers to these before you tell your parents so you are prepared.

These are only a few of the common things that parents say and the following details the phases that parents may go through when you tell them.

Parents Phases

Phase One - Shock

Unless your parents have already worked it out that you are gay they are going to be in shock which is quite normal and no need to fear. However just be aware that anything they do and say in the first few days of the shock phase isn't necessarily what they really think or mean.

Phase Two - Denial

The second phase and this can start right from the beginning is one of denial. You have told them you are gay and they either say no you aren't, pretend you didn't say anything or just even walk away and ask what you want for dinner! This phase can last a while and it is best to help them by gently telling them and reminding them you are gay in unobtrusive ways. Some parents may never get past this phase and may happily live in denial the rest of their lives. They might pretend that you are not gay or change the subject whenever it brought up. It's a difficult call to decide whether to push it and keep telling them or let them live in their own little world, in the end though it's up to you!

Phase Three - Guilt

The third phase is guilt, and this is a really difficult one. Your parents may blame themselves or each other for making you gay. Tell them it's not their fault and try to get them to talk to other parents who have gay kids.

Phase Four - Exploring Emotions

Once parents have got over the denial, shock and guilt they will be curious and ask questions. Be prepared to answer them honestly and without too much emotion. They will still feel some anger and hurt but they are getting there and with your help they will reach the next step.

Phase Five - Staring to Accept

When your parents start to accept you they may start to take an interest in your partner or your friends and ask more questions without the hurt or the anger. They may also ask that you don't tell other members of the family i.e. Uncles, Aunts etc. until they are ready to tell them too. Let them take their time.

Phase Six - Acceptance

Congratulations your parents have now accepted you are gay, they might not want to march beside you in a gay pride rally but they are proud of their son or daughter nonetheless and accept you for who you are. Not all parents will get this far and it may take a long time. It took my parents a couple of years to get to this point!

Coming Out Tips

These are not mine, they are by Clyde Berry!

  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,the issue of homo/bi/trans stuff and you as a person and the combination of the two since you probably don't fit the stereotype they have about gay people.
  8. Be sober
  9. Don't have your boy/girl friend with you. This is not "Let's Make a 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)
  12. Sometimes it's easier to read about an issue than to admit you are uneducated. Have a book, pamphlet, phone number, or other resource that can be called when you aren't around.
  13. It is your life to live, you only have one, and the bottom line is that you are going to continue living as a gay 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 has that deer in the headlights look, don't make any quick moves.
  17. Breathe. (Seriously)
  18. No two coming out experiences are ever the same.
  19. Don't plan on doing anything else for the rest of the day/night.
  20. People will need a lot of time, for the most part, to really think about things.
  21. 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 in case a worse case scenario does occur.
  22. Have resources for you to call, you need support, too!
  23. Just because you come out to someone once, doesn't mean you won't have to do it again, and again, and again...
  24. Do not try to answer questions about Richard Simmons, Rosie O'Donnel, Keanu Reeves, Tom Cruise, Richard Gere (or the Gerbils), Oscar Wilde, the Spice Girls, Bert and Ernie, or anyone else.