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Coming out

Coming out means telling the people around you that you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual. But who do you tell? Do you always have to tell someone? When is the best time to do it?

Why come out?

Why should you tell other people that you’re gay, lesbian or bisexual? Straight people don't announce that, do they? Unfortunately, most people still automatically assume you are straight. For instance, they’ll say, “Do you have a girlfriend?” And not, “Do you have a girlfriend or a boyfriend?”

Be open about yourself

If you don't want to pretend you're straight, you can tell people you are lesbian, gay or bisexual. This is what you call ‘coming out’. Then you're being open about yourself. You make clear to the people around you how you feel. That's good for you, but it's also good for them. Then they’ll understand you better.

This is how to do it: 5 tips

  • Think about who you want to tell first. Choose someone who you expect to react positively. Someone who won’t pass your secret on straight away. Someone who is a good listener and accepts you as you are.
  • Say you've got something important to tell them about yourself. Maybe you want to keep it a secret: ask the other person first if they can keep a secret.
  • Some young people tell their parents first. If your parents don't react positively, give them time to get used to the idea. You may have been used to it for a while, but it is probably new to your parents.
  • Other people prefer to tell a friend first. Make sure you can trust this person. He or she may need time to get used to the idea.
  • If you doubt whether someone will react positively to your coming out, ask them first what they think of homosexuality in general.

When is the right time?

You have to decide yourself when it’s the right time to come out. Perhaps you need to wait until you're used to the idea yourself before you tell anyone. Or until you're in love and don't want to keep it quiet any longer. Or until the first time you have sex. Some young people wait until they've left home.

Reactions

People's reactions to a coming out can be very varied. Some think it's fine straight away, while others need to get used to the idea. Some thought it all along, but others think it's just a phase. Some people react negatively. Don't get drawn into a discussion. Just say you’re not happy with their reaction. And give them time to get used to it. This may apply to your parents or some people you know. But people often turn out to be more tolerant than you thought they were. They may even surprise themselves. Just give them space.

What then?

It's often a relief to say that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual. You can stop pretending to be someone you're not. Once you've told one person, you’ll probably feel the need to let other people know. In fact, you will probably come out over your whole lifetime, as you meet new people. There's a good chance it will get easier and easier. After a while, when someone asks if you've got a girlfriend, you'll simply say, “No, but I do have a boyfriend”, or “No, I’m attracted to men”.

Not telling anyone

Some young people make a conscious decision not to tell anyone, driven by the fear of losing family or friends or of being bullied. In some families, it's a scandal to be homosexual. You might be in danger if you tell them. Does this sound familiar? Seek help from someone you can trust! Perhaps from a family member or friend. You could also talk to your doctor or a care worker. And you can ask questions online, the Sense Infolijn helpline for instance. Are you looking for help?