What is 'Coming Out'?

Coming Out is the name used for the process of acknowledging ones own sexuality or gender identity to others.

It is not a new expression. Wikipedia credits Karl Heinrich Ulrichs as coming up with the term in 1869.

If we lived in a world where heterosexuality was not the dominant form of sexual expression, would we even have this thing called Coming Out?

If you are uncertain about your sexuality or think you might be gay, it is worth taking a look at the suggestions on our Am I Gay? page.

If you have acknowledged to yourself that you are gay, you are probably thinking about, or have already told other people. You might be looking for support around coming out.

There is no 'right way' to come out just as there is no reason why gay people have to come out to others. However some people believe that as gay people we have the right to be who we are and for our identity to be respected and supported.

Coming Out Tips.

We talked to some other gay people who came out to family or friends or work colleagues and asked them for tips to provide anyone who was thinking about coming out. These were the most popular tips:

  • Find out as much as possible about being gay and gay life. Whoever you tell is probably going to have lots of questions. So it helps to be ready with some answers.
  • Be as sure as you can about who you are.
  • Take your time and don't rush into it. It is your life.
  • Make sure you will be safe in the company of whoever you come out to. If you think you are at any risk of violence then you are not safe.
  • Think about how you are going to tell them. Face to face is usually better. Remember if you tell them in a letter or text message it might seem easier, but you are still going to have face them some time!
  • Don't expect them to be able to understand straight away. Think about how long it took you to understand. They may need time too.
  • Have some reading material or a website where you can refer the person. They might have a lot of catching up to do. You can also offer them support from an organisation like PFLAG.
  • Have your own support ready from a friend or organization. If you are coming out to people you live with, have a back-up plan of somewhere else to stay if they take it badly.
  • It is better to be calm and not under the influence of alcohol or drugs when you tell people.
  • Don't expect them to keep it a secret.
  • Don't be surprised if they already know.
  • Think about coming out as a process instead of an event. It may continue for some time. Some people have said that when we are gay we never stop coming out, because often the first assumption about us is that we are 'straight' or heterosexual.

What to avoid:

  • Coming out during an argument or to hurt someone.
  • Coming out while in a moving vehicle.
  • Coming out to people you know will 'out' you to others (unless you are ready and want this).

More Coming Out Tips (an external site).

How to Come Out to Parents (an external site).

Tips for Parents Coming Out to their Children (an external site).

Information and support for people considering changing their Gender Identity (an external site).

Coming Out Films.

Gay films can show us that all kinds of possibilities exist in life. They can demonstrate useful as well as not so helpful ways of coming out. Besides that, they are usually fun to watch. We have created our Gay Films section for anyone who wants some suggestions or the opportunity to watch trailers of some really fun and supportive gay movies. You can also click on the links here to buy DVDs of the films you love or want to watch.

Click here to check out and buy coming out movies!

Online Support & Information.

There are a number of websites where you can go and find information or read about how other gay people have managed coming out. We have included these links on our Being Different, Feeling Good page.


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