How To Come Out To Your Friends And Family
Some advice from people who've already done it.
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So you're thinking of coming out. First and foremost: Congrats! Second up, it's worth remembering that the experience is different for everyone. Maybe you're feeling a bit nervous about it or maybe you can't wait to tell the world.
Realistically, you probably feel a bit of both but the very best thing is that how you do it (or don't do it) is totally up to you. You're the one in control because this is your story to tell.
If you would like a few thoughts from people who've come out themselves, check out what some MTV staffers and friends have to say about their own experiences below.
"Things I would say are important to remember – it doesn’t matter whether your friends are shocked or surprised, if they love you, it won’t make one bit of difference. And once they’ve got over the shock, if they do react with anything other than love and support, then why do you want them as friends in the first place?
Family can obviously be a little more sensitive, but the most important thing in this life is to be true to yourself. Sometimes you’ll be surprised by their reactions (my very heteronormative Dad was totally cool, my stage school-pushing-mother cried for three days straight), and know that no matter their initial reaction, you’ll need to give them time and space to absorb the news.
I’m so lucky to have a family who love and accept me – and I really do feel my Dad’s response is the dream parental philosophy: “We never thought for a second you’d be gay. But all that we care about as your parents is that you’re happy and live a life full of love. The gender of who you’re with is kinda irrelevant.” Preach."
"My advice is not to over think it. If your friends know you well enough, they probably already know you’re gay.
On the other hand, if they have no clue and they shun you for it, let them walk. Who shuns someone for being fabulous? Bin ‘em."
"The summer before my third year at uni I decided it was time to come out after years of denial and for me, it was less about actually telling people and more about coming to terms with my own sexuality.
It's a surreal experience telling someone you're gay, especially when, at the time, I still didn't want to believe it myself. My main concern was that my friends wouldn't want to associate with someone who wasn't like them, who, in my head, was less than them. When I eventually did start to tell my friends, they all reacted in the same way. Happy. They were happy that they could finally make sense of why I had gone so far into myself over the months building up, why I had been miserable, why I had ultimately been so depressed. Oddly, this didn't make me happy, it made me feel worse. I didn't want to move into what should have been an exciting new time in my life. 'We can come to gay bars with you!' my friends would supportively say. I couldn't think of anything worse, I didn't want them to see me among 'my community'. As far as I was concerned my friends were 'my community' and I didn't want to be associated with the LGBTQ+ at all.
Over time, my internalised homophobia drifted, as did my hang ups about being an out gay man. What I learned from my experience is that if you have a strong friendship circle, coming out is easy, learning to accept yourself for who you are? That's the hard part. But once you are able to do that, you really can start to life your true life. I can tell you now, there is no better feeling."
"Looking back I really find it funny, but at the time coming out to my very religious mother was hard. I’d told friends when I was 17, and even some family I knew were safe but I waited until I was 20 to tell her.
It didn’t go well; she cried and she literally tried to exorcise me over the phone. We didn’t speak for a few weeks afterwards, but then she reached out and told me she still loved me and that would never change. The first time I saw her was difficult and awkward, but the second time was better and the time after easier. A decade later she has met and accepted my boyfriend. She asks me about him, asks how he is and what he’s up to at work.
If you have a unaccepting parent, your relationship might not be the same after coming out, but you will feel a damn sight better. They say ‘It gets better’ and it genuinely does!"
"I came out as gay during a game of Never Have I Ever. I was 16 and a girl from my school said Never Have I Ever thought I was gay. I drank. Luckily at the time, I was looking for a way to come out and was mainly among friends. However, if I wasn’t ready that experience could have been horrible.
If you’re coming out, it’s important that you do it on your own terms if you can. There’s no shame in not being ready. Just try to find someone that you love and trust to open up to. As soon as you can be open with someone, even if it’s just one person, it gets better.
Oh and if you think that someone might be LGBTQIA+ don’t push them to come out in a drinking game or otherwise. Let them come out when they’re ready."
"The thing about coming out is isn't really just a one time thing. Generally you'll find that you inevitably spend a good couple of years going telling various people from different areas of your life that - surprise! - you aren't as heterosexual as they'd assumed after all. While it gets easier and less of a big deal every time you do it, I did personally find it easiest by starting small and testing the waters with just a few people who I felt closest to.
My friends weren't the slightest bit surprised (a bit of a let down for my inner drama queen) and while their acceptance was expected, it still felt like a weight had been lifted off me when they were so immediately supportive. From then on it was pretty easy as I knew that if I ever did get a negative reaction from anyone, I still had my best people there for me. Actually I've never had anything other than immediate acceptance from anyone, and while I was probably most worried about telling my grandparents because honestly who wants to discuss their sex life with their 85-year-old grandpa, my parents totally got it and my mum helped me out with that by casually dropping it into conversation first so they had a heads up.
For anyone working out how to go about coming out I'd say don't worry too much about it. Don't feel pressured to do it in the first plus as you don't own anyone anything, but if you do then maybe start by telling the people you feel closest to. Also, if you don't want to have a face to face conversation then doing something like writing a letter, email or text to the person you want to tell is something I found really great ways of casually slipping it into everyday conversation!"