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Guide to Coming Out for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People

and Their Friends and Allies

(adapted from the Human Rights Campaign Foundation Coming Out Guide by Kris Coonan, UQ Union, University of Queensland)

 

 

What is “Coming Out”?

Every human being on the planet has to “come out” about some aspect of their identity at some point in their life. Coming out should not be a shameful or confessional process. It is simply a procedure we go through to confront other people’s ignorance about aspects of ourselves with which they are not familiar.

Being attracted to someone of the same sex or understanding that your gender identity is different from your biological sex can be frightening — so much so that people may initially deny these feelings. But soon the feelings arise again. You try to put them out of your mind but you can’t. Finally, you stop resisting, and in that instant, your world changes. You discover that being true to yourself feels better — more natural — than denying your true self ever did. But what will this mean for you and for the rest of your life? Certainly, life is more challenging if you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. You will be required to develop the courage to honour your own experience of love and self-identification above anyone else’s judgments about it. But you can do it. And, when you are ready, you can take the next step — you can come out. Millions of people have done so — and many say it was the best thing they ever did.

 

Being Honest With Yourself  

From birth, most of us have been raised to think of ourselves as heterosexual and as the gender that corresponds with our biological sex. Our parents, our families, our teachers, our friends — and seemingly our entire culture — told us that a day would arrive when we would meet someone of the opposite sex and get married. Very few of us are told that we might fall in love with someone of the same sex. And virtually all of us are strongly discouraged from identifying more with another gender. That’s why so many of us are shocked or confused when it happens. And other cultural factors come into play — in a big way.

 

“I was taught from early on that Latinos and people of colour are looked down on,” says actor Wilson Cruz, who is Puerto Rican. “To be homosexual on top of that is one more thing people can look down on us for. ... There are certain expectations of what a man is supposed to be, and when you don’t fit into those moulds, you’re seen as less than worthy of your race,” said Cruz. “But I’ve learned there are certain expectations you will never live up to, and you have to get to the point where that’s OK.” 

 

Many people identify as gay or lesbian because their primary attractions — both emotional and physical — are to members of the same sex. Many people who are attracted to both men and women identify as bisexual. Some transgender people say they felt like they were assigned the wrong gender from as far back as they can remember, while others come to the knowledge that they don’t “belong” to the kind of gender they’ve been assigned later on in life.

 

And sometimes people don’t feel comfortable with any of these labels or they choose a mix of them. The important thing is to be honest with yourself and — when you’re ready — to be honest with others about who you are and to whom you are attracted. THE FACTS No one knows how many people are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The most reputable estimates (10 to 15%) are skewed by the fact that many people are afraid or unwilling during surveys to identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — even when assured of anonymity. Whatever the numbers, the facts are the same: Your Sexuality or Gender Identity is natural to you. It is not some frivolous “lifestyle choice” as some homophobic and transphobic people would have you believe. Some people say that sexuality or gender identity is a “lifestyle choice” to discourage you from gay or lesbian relationships or from being comfortable with expressing your gender in the way that feels right to you. But think about it for a minute: Did you choose to have feelings of same sex attraction? Did you choose your sex at birth? Or do you simply love who you love and know what your gender is, despite all the pressure to the contrary? Sexuality and gender identity are not choices any more than being left-handed or having brown eyes or being heterosexual are choices. They are a part of who you are. The choice is in deciding how to live your life. It’s OK to Be Yourself. 

 

In the 1970s, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association revised their positions on homosexuality. Both determined that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. In 1994, the American Medical Association released a statement saying, “Most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.”  Nonetheless, some people might try to tell you that you are sick and that you need professional help to “change.” No scientifically valid evidence exists that shows that people can change their sexual orientation, although some people do repress it. The most reputable medical and psychotherapeutic groups say you should not try to change your sexual orientation.

 

Most important, remember that the problems people have dealing with their sexuality come from society and its treatment of LGBT people — not from being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. It’s OK to seek help in dealing with the confusing feelings you may have about your sexual orientation or your gender identity. Understanding and being honest with yourself as well as coming out are critical milestones in life. As with any other significant step in your life, you might seek professional help through the process. Just remember: the anxiety you are feeling is primarily the result of family or social prejudice against LGBT people. Being Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender is natural. You’ve probably heard some people say that men are “meant” to be with women, and women are “meant” to be with men — or that you should be a “real man” or be more “feminine.” They may say that unless you are straight, you are going against nature and morality. But if being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is unnatural, why would it occur, generation after generation, despite some cultures’ strong prohibitions? And why would same-sex sexuality occur in approximately 80% of the 400 animal species whose sexual behaviour has been comprehensively studied? The fact is same-sex love and gender variety has occurred throughout history, in every nation and culture. They are natural variations among humans, and may have occurred somewhere in your own family’s history. When people say being LGBT is unnatural, they mean it is against their preconceived idea of, or conditioned assumptions about, what is natural.

 

 

AM I BISEXUAL?

Bisexual people are attracted to both men and women. A bisexual person may not be equally attracted to both sexes, however, and the degree of attraction may vary over time as one’s sexual identity develops. No “test” exists to determine whether you are bisexual. Some people acknowledge their bisexuality after a period of identifying as gay or lesbian. At first, you may not know what to call your sexual feelings or whether you feel sufficiently attracted to both sexes to consider yourself bisexual — but there’s no measuring stick to decide what amount of attraction to other genders is necessary to identify as bisexual. In addition, you may hear some of the common myths about bisexual people — that they can’t make up their minds; that they can’t commit to long-term relationships. Don’t listen as these are simply ignorant prejudices. Bisexual people are simply attracted to people regardless of their gender. And don’t feel you need to hurry into a decision. Coming out — whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender — is a precious journey.

  

 

WHAT DOES TRANSGENDER MEAN?

Transgender is a term that describes a broad range of people who experience and/or express their gender somewhat differently from what most people expect. It is an overarching term that includes transsexual people and cross-dressers as well as anyone expressing gender characteristics that don’t correspond with characteristics traditionally ascribed to the person’s sex or presumed sex. It is not a sexual orientation. Some transgender people may define themselves as female-to-male or male-to-female transsexual, and may take hormones prescribed by a doctor and undergo medical procedures for sex reassignment surgery. And some people identify as transgender because they don’t feel comfortable with either the male or female gender exclusively. Cross-dressers identify as their gender at birth but sometimes dress in clothing of the opposite gender. Transvestite is a psychiatric term describing men and women who cross-dress for sexual gratification. Many people, however, do not cross-dress for that reason, but do so to express their transgender nature — and prefer the terms crossdresser, drag king or drag queen. Whatever you feel most comfortable with, it’s important to realize that gender varies and many people don’t fit neatly into one narrow definition. Further, many transgender and transsexual people are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

 

 

COMING OUT

 Coming out means identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The first person you have to reveal this to is yourself. After that, you can deal with friends and family. For many people, the coming out process is difficult. But most people come out because, sooner or later, they can’t stand hiding who they are any more. Once they’ve come out, most people acknowledge that it feels much better to be open and honest than to conceal such an integral part of themselves. Coming out is simply about being true to yourself — in a world where nearly everyone assumes you are straight. It’s not about bringing attention to yourself, as some critics like to say, according to Christopher Rice, author and son of well-known novelist Anne Rice. “People say, ‘But you don’t have to advertise or flaunt your sexuality if you’re gay,’” says Rice, who is gay. “Well, there’s a big difference between being forthright and ‘flaunting’ it.” Sometimes, the overwhelmingly heterosexual society we live in affects our ability to deal with the possibility of being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. For Rice, the biggest hurdle in coming out was his own fear about being different. “I came to understand that one of the biggest hang-ups was me. I was convinced everybody would have a horrible reaction to my coming out. But my parents were wonderful — as were many others. Certainly, there was a wide spectrum of reactions — of highly tolerant to not very tolerant. But mostly, I was just projecting onto them my own insecurities.”

 

 

Understandably, it takes some time for many of us to reach the point where we feel comfortable enough about ourselves to share our discovery with others. But when we do take that step, our lives can change forever — most often, for the better. Before going away to college, Linda Villarosa was confused and unsure about her sexual orientation. One reason why she did not explore her feelings right away was because, at that time, she was trying to fit into a white neighbourhood and didn’t want to do anything others could think of as wrong. Finally, after she left for school, she took the step. “I came out because I couldn’t stand not being myself any more.”  After college, she came out to 7 million readers in an Essence article she wrote with her mother. The article, called “Coming Out,” remains the most highly responded to article in the history of the magazine. Villarosa later became executive editor of the magazine and is now a contributing writer to The New York Times and is the author of “Body & Soul: The Black Women’s Guide to Physical Health and Emotional Well-Being.” Similarly, many transgender and transsexual people come out to be true to themselves. But it still can be quite dangerous for some people to have their transgender status revealed, says writer/activist Jamison Green. “It’s necessary for transpeople to be comfortable enough about their difference that they can make appropriate disclosures to others.” What is important is your own comfort level — as well as awareness of your own safety in various circumstances, says Green, a transsexual man. “Not all transpeople need to come out all the time.” It’s also important to find your own comfort level about how you want to express your gender. “There is no one way to be transgendered,” he says. “Some of us just want to alleviate our body/gender misalignment and experience life as ‘ordinary’ men or women, whether we are gay, straight or bisexual.  “I knew everyone would watch me change from androgynous to masculine, from woman to man, and some people would be disgusted, some frightened and some derisive,” he recalls. “I was amazed how much support I received, and I know it was because I was clear and calm and understanding when others were confused. I had to spend a lot of time answering questions; I was very patient with people, and I know that made a difference for them.”

 

COMING OUT TO YOURSELF

“Growing up, I felt there was something about me that truly set me apart from other kids. But I didn’t have a grasp on what it was,” says Candace Gingrich, manager of HRC’s National Coming Out Project and half-sister of U.S. former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. “I had a few fleeting crushes on girls and, then, a full-blown crush. Inside, they felt right and normal. But at the same time, I didn’t have any way to process those feelings because I didn’t know any gay people or know that I knew them. I felt that I would risk something if I expressed my feelings.” Gingrich started playing on her college rugby team — which had some lesbian players — and for the first time saw women being openly affectionate to each other. “It was like being dropped into what was originally a foreign country but, once there, I realized it was my country of origin. I thought, ‘Wow, the feelings I’ve been having are normal. It is OK to be who I am.’

 

COMING OUT TO OTHERS

Some people come out when someone asks them if they’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Others make a point of pulling people aside and saying, “There’s something I have to tell you.”   If you choose the latter option, ask yourself: “Who is the most open-minded and caring person I know who is also the least likely to be shocked, threatened or put off?” This might be a friend, a relative or a teacher. Tell that person that you’d like to talk to them about your sexual orientation or your gender identity, or that you’re trying to be more honest and you’d like to talk. Say you’ve come to them because you trust them.

 

TESTING THE WATERS

You can get a sense of how accepting your friends and family are by the things they say, or don’t say, when gay or transgender related issues come up. You might try to bring it up yourself by talking about such issues in the news, in films, on radio or television shows, or in debates over equal rights.  If the reactions from your friends or members of your family are positive, the chances are that they’ll be more accepting of you. But always keep in mind that it’s easier for most people to accept LGBT people in the abstract. It’s a bit different when it’s “my son” or “my daughter” or even “my best friend.” A word of caution: It’s always a risk to come out. You never can know how anyone will react — because our society, throughout history, has been full of positive images of heterosexual people and bereft of positive images of LGBT people. There’s a good chance that people will judge you based on those images, no matter how open-minded you might think they are. On the other hand, it is often surprising who among your friends and families are the most supportive.   It’s a big risk to come out for transgender people, says Dana Rivers, who lost her job as a teacher when she came out. And, more than likely, transgender people cannot conceal who they are from people that knew them before transitioning. “You just cannot hide what you are as a female-to-male or a male-to-female transsexual,” says Rivers. It can also be uncomfortable to be transgender in the gay community because some members remain ignorant of gender-related issues and fail to accept transgender people, she notes. What is key, however, is simply being authentic — when the time is right, Rivers says. “Everyone needs to make their own decision about when to come out. It is important for people, especially those I am close to, to know about this dramatic, profound shift in my life.”

 

TELLING FRIENDS

When you are ready to come out to your friends, you may be lucky enough to have some friends or acquaintances in the LGBT community to help

you — to give you some support, lend you a book that helped them on their journey or simply share a few words of advice. But heterosexual friends also can be staunch supporters. Choose carefully who to trust in the early stages of coming out.  For comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer, one of the hardest parts of the entire process was dealing with the reactions of some of her friends. When she came out in college, Westenhoefer and her friends faced a barrage of mean-spirited remarks from other students. “They took an obvious dislike to us. It was hateful, horrible rhetoric — and divisive,” she said. In the end, some of Westenhoefer’s friends stopped spending time with her. “I lost some friends. I felt like they just couldn’t step up to the plate. It was very hard — really hard — to deal with that, and to tell them that they were not being supportive.” Many gay people find that the friends they thought would be least judgmental were the first to drop them, while those who seemed unlikely allies offered the strongest support. But you’ll learn many valuable lessons about what the word “friendship” means. “It’s those first five minutes in coming out to your friends or acquaintances that are really the hardest. But after that — things get better than before.” Tracy Young admits that she initially had a really negative reaction when two of her closest friends revealed that they were in a lesbian relationship. She recalls recoiling in disgust when her friends came out to her in high school. “I just freaked out. I told my mother that two of my friends were together.” Her mother proceeded to explain to her, however, that her friends’ feelings for each other were OK. “She told me they were my friends — and asked why I was turning my back on them.” Young was supportive after that — and eventually met and fell in love with a woman.

 

  

TELLING FAMILY MEMBERS

Most people are afraid that their parents will reject them if they come out. You might be afraid that they will throw you out of the house, tell you you’re immoral, or simply stop loving you. It’s true that many parents are shocked when their children say they’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. But it is also true that for many parents, it’s very hard to completely reject their children. Some parents react in ways that hurt. Some cry. Some get angry. Some ask where they went wrong as a parent. Some call it a sin. Some insist it’s a phase. Others try to send their child to counsellors or therapists who attempt to change gay people into heterosexuals — a process rejected by all major medical and mental health professional organizations. Some parents send their child to counsellors or therapists who try to change gender-variant people. Candace Gingrich’s mother was pretty typical. “She wanted to know what happened to me that turned me into a lesbian,” Gingrich recalls. “She wanted to know where she and Dad went wrong. She wanted to know if I hadn’t met the right man yet.” Initially, comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer’s mother also was upset and confused because Westenhoefer had been dating boys for several years before she figured out she was gay. “She couldn’t understand that I could date guys, like them and yet decide I was a lesbian. And it also went against the old myth that lesbians hate men,” she said. It took her mother several months to come to terms with the news. “Then my mother went through a period of being worried about my safety because of ‘all the people who don’t like queers’ — and that I would spend my life in dark bars.” She also worried whether she and her daughter would remain close, as they always had been. Within a year or so, however, Westenhoefer’s mother came to accept her. She was soon including Westenhoefer’s girlfriend in family activities. Remember that your parents grew up in a time when some of the misperceptions about LGBT people were more prevalent than they are today. Remember, too, that they’re probably trying to keep you safe from something they do not understand. Finally, remember this is big news, and there’s really no time schedule for how long it takes parents to adjust. Some take months. Some take years. And, of course, some already know. Many people have questions when you come out to them. You might want to be prepared by showing them this booklet or another similar resource. For a list of books and online resources, visit HRC’s National Coming Out Project at www.hrc.org/ncop. Many communities have local chapters of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, or PFLAG.  Fortunately, parents seem to be more accepting of their children now than ever, but some parents still go to the extreme. For actor Wilson Cruz, it was awful. His father threw him out. “I lived in my car for three months,” Cruz recalls. For a year, he and his father barely talked. Then one night, My So-Called Life aired an episode in which Cruz’s character was thrown out of his house for being gay. Cruz’s father was watching. “He called me up after that, and it was very moving. He saw what I went through on an emotional and a physical level, and started to see what he’d done wrong. Now, I wouldn’t say it’s a complete transformation but he’s definitely a lot more accepting of me.” While Cruz’s experience was more dramatic than most, it shows that even people who react negatively at first can come around in time — and sometimes become your strongest supporters. It may not be easy for you to give them this time. But don’t be discouraged. In the long run, nothing helps as much as patience. “My biggest fear was that my parents would abandon me if I was honest with them,” recalls author Linda Villarosa. “But my mother asked me point-blank: ‘Are you a lesbian?’ I wasn’t comfortable lying. I was also caught off guard. I was so happy. For one split second, I thought, ‘They’ll be happy for me.’”  Instead, her father cried because he was afraid she didn’t love him any more. And her mother demanded that she go to therapy. “She said, ‘This isn’t really who you are. This is a phase. You can change. You can go to therapy.’ But I said, ‘No, this is who I am, and I’m happy.’”  While it took time, Villarosa says her family finally let go of the fantasy of the person they thought she was and came to accept the real Linda Villarosa. She and her mother enjoy a close relationship, and Villarosa’s mother is helping Linda raise her two children.

 

COMING OUT TO YOUR CHILDREN.

Children always want to know the truth about their parents’ sexual orientation and may already know before being told, says Felicia Park-Rogers, director of Children of Lesbian and Gays Everywhere and an expert on HRC FamilyNet, the organization’s web channel for LGBT families. But children are not always happy about the news. It’s a tremendous change to have a parent come out —particularly if it accompanies a divorce. Emotions such as anger, sadness and confusion may emerge. Most of all, children have lots of questions. You (and, potentially, your partner) need to make a judgment about whether and when to tell your children. Here are some helpful hints:  • Tell your children in a private space where the conversation will be entirely confidential. • Allow for plenty of time to continue the conversation over the next few days and weeks —and years.  • Explain your sexuality or gender shift in an age-appropriate way. • Reassure your children that you love them and that they are your top priority. • Connect them with other children of LGBT parents. Let them know that they are part of a caring community.

 

Coming out to yourself, your friends and families is a huge part of the journey toward being honest about your sexual orientation. But coming out is more than just telling those close to you. It is a challenging process that continues throughout your life and across all of its facets, as the following sections indicate. Many opportunities will arise where you will need to choose whether to come out as a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender person. Almost daily, you will face having to make decisions about when and where to come out. Take as much time as you need — this is your journey. And be sure to find help via local support groups or online contacts. If you are transgender, this kind of support is critical because of the particular challenges you face.

 

COMING OUT IN THE WORKPLACE

One of the biggest risks you may face is coming out on the job. It’s a decision that has the potential to affect your livelihood. It’s not always easy to come out on the job — even if you’ve already come out to your family and friends. When Linda Villarosa went to work at Essence magazine, she was afraid to come out to her boss and colleagues — even though she had come out in college a few years earlier. But, once again, she found she couldn’t stand hiding any more, and she took the chance. “My boss and I were in her car coming back from a weekend editorial retreat, and she was saying something about fixing me up with her brother-in-law. And I just blurted out, ‘I’m a lesbian.’ She was embarrassed about the brother-in-law and very kind. And that Monday, I came out to just about everybody else at work, and everyone was fine.” While some workplaces can be supportive, it’s important to be armed with information about discrimination and vilificaion laws in your State before coming out on the job.

 

 

COMING OUT TO YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDER 

Being honest about your sexual orientation or gender identity can be a matter of life and death — or, at a minimum, essential to getting effective care and treatment. Some of the people who may most need to know the truth about your orientation or identity are your health care providers. Coming out to them can be hard, however, because inaccurate information exists across the medical community about the treatment of LGBT patients.  A number of health care providers still mistakenly presume all patients are heterosexual. As a result, it can be awkward when a doctor or nurse asks whether you are sexually active and what kind of birth control you use. Their ignorance encourages many LGBT people to delay or avoid getting the care they need. And it keeps many from talking with their providers about promoting good health and preventing disease in an informed, open way. Moreover, supportive health care providers face obstacles in giving care and treatment to transgender and transsexual people — who often have to pay for services routinely covered by insurance companies. If you are not ready to come out to your own health care provider, perhaps you would feel more comfortable talking with a gay-friendly one (see the contact list for details. Similarly, if you have a therapist, make sure they are knowledgeable about issues facing LGBT people. A number of providers remain ill informed, particularly about transgender issues — and could give inaccurate or damaging advice. Many professionals, when working on such issues, use a set of guidelines compiled by the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association. A growing number, however, treat transgender clients by getting their informed consent. It’s important for you to ask your doctor if she or he has experienced working with a transgender patient’s transition — and whether it has been from male to female or female to male. It’s also a good idea to consult transgender organizations or friends before choosing a doctor or therapist. In addition, it’s important to understand that there is no right or wrong way to transition. It’s your own process. Whether you choose to take hormones or to have sex reassignment surgery, it’s OK. Do whatever is comfortable to allow you to be true to yourself.

 

SPIRITUALITY AND COMING OUT

Many people find strength and support from their faith as they struggle to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. At first, this might sound like a contradiction since many organized religions teach that homosexuality and gender variance are wrong or immoral. But there are also a growing number of organized religions changing their positions on homosexuality. Regardless of what religion you are, most religions also teach that God is merciful.  Former youth activist Jamie Nabozny was raised Pentecostal and hoped to become a minister. But he was gay and thought the only worse thing he could be was Satan himself. So he tried to put his same-sex attractions aside until, one day, he could deny them no longer. “I walked as far as I could into a big field. I was crying, praying and hollering at God. I said, ‘I’ve read the Bible, I’ve prayed, I go to church three times a week. Every time I have a homosexual thought, I rebuke it in the name of God and yet still I’m gay. Either you’re not there, or you don’t give a damn that I’m gay.’  It took me a little while but then I realized God was OK with it. The God I really believed in was not a God that hated or condemned people.” This is an experience many people go through. Faced with a conflict between their religion and their feelings, they come to realize that the God they truly believe in could never condemn people for loving. Some people find their spirituality even helps them come out. Comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer says she and her sister, a born-again Christian, have made progress over the last 10 years or so — despite her sister’s discomfort about Westenhoefer’s being openly gay. It has taken time, however, she says. “We’re adults now and we try to find common ground in other places in our lives. We’re trying to move forward.” But Westenhoefer notes she always insists that her sister, no matter what her beliefs, treat her with full respect. Members of all faiths and denominations are increasingly reaching out to the LGBT community. As they come out, many find it helpful to contact and get involved with a supportive group in their local area.

 

 

Finally, a brief summary of tips and ways to keep yourself as safe as possible when you decide to come out…

 

· Before you come out to others, you have to come out to yourself. That means knowing and accepting yourself. A good way to start this process – if you haven’t already – is to talk to people who’ve already been through this process, who can talk to you, suggest books to read etc.

· A support system is really important when you're coming out. You'll want people around who care about you and will be there for you, whether it's just to talk or to give you a hug when you need one - or to give you a place to stay, if you need that. If you don't feel that you already have people like that, then it is a really good idea to get to know other lgbt people and form a network of friends who have the knowledge and resources to offer you some support, before you come out to those who may possibly give you a hard time.

· The people you tell first should be the ones you trust the most.  You need to be able to trust them not to hurt you, to accept you for who you are, and to respect your privacy and not tell anyone you don't want told. Think about what you could lose by telling a particular person. If it's a parent, might they kick you out of the house? Cut you off from your friends? Think also about what you could lose by not telling a particular person. Is your relationship with your parents or your friends strained because you're keeping a secret from them? Would you be closer with them, and be able to get more support from them, if they understood why you were acting withdrawn? Think about what kinds of things you've been able to share with them in the past and how they reacted. If there's someone to whom you want to come out, and you aren't sure how they'll react, try to feel them out first. We can help you with suggestions on how to do this.

· Have a backup plan if you live with family. Many people say that their relationship with their parents was much closer after they came out because it was more honest. They say it was a relief to feel like they weren't keeping a secret any more. But it doesn't always work that way. Some young people who come out to their parents are forced to leave home. Some parents become abusive. Before you come out to your parents, there are some things for you to consider. Think about your parents' general reaction to gay or trans people. Find out as much as you can, by observing your parents or asking indirect questions. Think about your relationship with your parents. Have they shown that they love you even when they're upset with you? Have they stuck by you even when you've done something they didn't like? Be prepared. If you had to leave home, do you have a place to stay? If your parents cut off financial support, do you have someone else to whom you can turn until you get yourself independently established? If your answer to these questions is "no", don't come out to your parents until you have a safe place to go to and a way to support yourself. You'll probably be better off waiting until you're on your own. You might decide never to tell them, because they wouldn't understand. If your answer to these questions is "yes", then it's probably safe to tell them.

· Trust your gut. It's almost always frightening coming out to your parents, but if you're terrified about it, you should pay attention to that. Not all parents will be accepting. If you decide you can and want to tell your parents, think about how you can make it easiest on them - and on yourself.  Try to think about how they're going to feel, and the questions they may have, so that you're ready for them. Call a local PFLAG chapter or Transgender support group and speak to someone who can talk with you about how your own parent might react.

· Be prepared to give your loved ones time. Your parents and close friends and family need some time to accept this new way of seeing you - just as you probably needed some time yourself. Even if they don't have a negative reaction, your parents are probably going to feel worried about you - about whether this will put you in danger, about whether your life will be happy, about whether you'll have a family of your own. That can make them want to ignore or deny what you've told them. They may worry also about how they're going to tell their parents and friends.  They'll be starting a coming-out process of their own.

· Be ready with answers - or suggest people with whom they can talk.  The more homework you've done, and the more self-assured you seem, the more you'll convince your parents that you're ready to take responsibility for yourself.  Then they won't worry so much about you. Most importantly, make sure that you have other people with whom to talk, to “debrief” and get support afterwards.



Changeling AspectsIn affiliation with Agender-(Aust) & Transbridge-(Townsville)

We are based in South East Qld, in Australia About Us  ... Contact Us    ( Most Art above are extracts from the Art of Maxfield Parrish© )

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