Coming Out

By  ReachOut     |    Updated: 17th May, 2017    |    6 min read

Coming out and telling others that you have feelings towards people of the same-sex can be rewarding or totally hard. Remember – you don’t have to go it alone. Find out how people might react, and how to deal with negative reactions and harassment.

 This can help if:
  • You want to tell people about your sexuality
  • You’re not sure if you should
  • You don’t know how to deal with their reactions

What is ‘coming out’?

When people use the phrase ‘coming out’ they’re talking about deciding to openly identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or any other label that describes a person’s sexuality. It also usually involves telling mates, family or work colleagues about your feelings and attractions towards people of the same sex.

As people understand and learn more about their attractions they usually start to feel comfortable with their sexuality. For some people this is simple and straightforward and they’re comfortable telling their friends and family about it; for others it’s not so easy – this can be for lots of reasons and coming out can sometimes be complicated.

Not going it alone

You don’t have to figure out the process of coming out by yourself – you can always draw on the experiences of other people. Local organisations in some cities often run workshops around coming out, and there’s a bunch of anonymous helplines for questions about sexuality. If you feel ready to come out, a good way to start can be talking to someone you know, who you trust to be understanding and supportive.

If you feel that you can’t tell anyone about your feelings at the moment, that’s ok too. Who you tell and when is entirely your decision. Just make sure to keep an eye on how keeping it under wraps makes you feel. If it starts to get to you, or you begin to feel sad about not sharing what you’re going through, make sure you find someone you can talk to. This is a tough time, make sure to look after yourself through it!

Reactions to coming out

Different people will react differently based on their own beliefs, expectations and values. Some people will have no problem with your sexuality and be happy for you, and some might have already suspected and were just waiting for you to tell them, which might feel like a bit of a shock to you.

For others it might be challenging and bring up a lot of different feelings for them. They could feel worried, confused, angry or responsible. It’s worthwhile remembering that, though you have given your sexuality a lot of thought, this is probably all new to them and it might be a surprise. Though it’s fair to want people to be totally accepting and embracing of this aspect of who you are immediately, it may just take some people a bit of time. It’s pretty common that people’s first negative reaction isn’t their same opinion over time.

Tips for countering negativity

Some tips for dealing with people who don’t get it straight away:

  • Try to be patient. You probably really want them to understand and be immediately supportive, but it may just take a bit of time.
  • Don’t take it personally. If someone has a negative reaction, recognise that it has a lot more to do with them than with you. Try not to take on their hang ups, and just recognise that they need to work through their own issues on the topic.
  • Walk away. If a person becomes rude or offensive, just walk away. Give them time to cool off and don’t feel responsible for how they react.

If your family or friends reject you because of your feelings, it can hurt and be really difficult to cope with. Try to find someone understanding who you can talk to, whether that’s a friend or a local support service. You may also like to direct your family member or friend to PFLAG, an organisation that provides resources and hosts events for parents, family and friends of same-sex attracted people. Sometimes it can also help to talk to someone who has been in a similar situation as they may have some helpful tips to offer you. It could also help by reminding you that you’re not the only one to go through what you’re going through.
If you need to talk to someone for any reason, contact Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline 13 11 14. They can help direct you to relevant help services and can also provide you with someone to talk to.

People hassling you

People sometimes discriminate, and can even be violent towards people who they don’t like for being different. Attitudes about sexuality have been slowly changing for the better and are more positive in many places, but some people are just jerks and sometimes no amount of information will change their minds.

No matter the reason, harassment or abuse, whether verbal or physical, should not be tolerated and might be breaking the law.

Some ideas for dealing with harassment are:

Being afraid that someone will give you a hard time can be isolating and upsetting. You don’t need to deal with it on your own.

It can be hard to know where to find the right support you need. ReachOut NextStep is an anonymous online tool that recommends relevant support options based on what you want help with. Try ReachOut NextStep to learn about the support options available for you.

If you want to hear from others who have come out, watch this video made by Qlife Australia.

What can I do now?

  • Get personalised support options for coming out with the ReachOut NextStep tool.
  • Try telling someone you trust first.
  • Learn more about sexuality.

Also check the related topics:  

Sexuality & Gender

Factsheet provided by ReachOut


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