How to Tell My Family and Friends I Am Gay
No matter what your relationship is with your parents or other important people in your life, coming out can be nerve-wracking. It is, however, a rite of passage and ensures that you do not have to have to spend so much time and emotional energy hiding a huge part of who you are from some of the most important people in your life. Whether you are expecting rejection or acceptance, telling your family and friends about your sexual identity is an important step. Still, many people want to know how to tell my family and friends I am gay. Here are some suggestions to make the process easier:
1. Consider your audience’s comfort level when talking about sex.
Sex in general is a taboo topic and sexual orientation falls under the umbrella of sex. Considering your audience’s comfort level on this topic will help you determine how to approach your audience. If you plan to tell your parents about your sexual identity, just from being raised by these two people you will have an idea about their comfort level when discussing sex-related topics. If you are talking with your parents, this doesn’t mean you should hold back. Rather, this is a reminder to be mindful of your audience and how to best disclose your sexual orientation. The same rule of thumb applies to telling your friends and other family members. Consider your audience and their comfort level with sex, sexual identity and and sexual orientation. Once you know your audience, you will better know how to have the conversation about being gay.
2. Consider how much you want to tell them.
On the topic of parents, if you have siblings who are straight, do they feel comfortable telling your parents about their relationships? Some people are lucky enough to have families that are very open and accepting, while other families find the topic of relationships to be off limits. Again, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t tell your parents that you are gay, simply that when telling them the truth about your identity, you don’t necessarily have to tell them about your sexual experiences, unless this is a topic that you’re sure they will actually want to discuss with you and one that you want to discuss with them. The same approach applies to talking with other family members and friends. Some people are more comfortable talking about sex than other people. Knowing your audience will help you determine what details you want to disclose, if any at all.
3. Be prepared for their reaction.
Often, especially in this day and age, the response will be positive. Those special humans in your life will will likely show you a heap of support or they will let you know that they already knew and were just waiting for you to confirm. That said, there’s usually a person or two who might express shock, sadness or even anger. Disbelief is another common emotion. Knowing that these are possibilities should not stop you from telling your family or friends that you are gay, but you should be prepared for your audience’s reaction, whatever it might be. Keep in mind, their response is more about them than you, so if in that moment they aren’t kind or overly excited for you, remember that this has nothing to do about you and everything to do with them.
4. Bring backup.
If you are planning to tell your parents “I am gay” and you have some hesitations, grab a friend or sibling who already knows and who supports you and bring them to the family meeting, dinner or brunch where you plan to tell your parents. If one of your siblings or your best friend already knows this aspect of your life, bringing them along gives you backup, especially if you expect that the conversation is not going to go well. Also bring back up for those conversations with certain people who you think might not handle the news well. Your backup being there might temper a negative reaction, especially if that initial reaction is anger. Having a third party there might help your family, friends or parent’s temper in check and also help them realize that what you’ve told them isn’t really that big of a deal considering the state of the world nowadays.
5. Try to understand where they are coming from.
Keep in mind that confusion, sadness, and even anger are steps away from ignorance and fear. Your loved ones may be concerned about how this revelation is going to affect not just your life, but their lives, too. Their thoughts might go immediately to having to “deal” with this when talking to relatives, people in your neighborhood, their friends and people in the community. If they react negatively, remember that they are probably just concerned and they have likely never been in this situation before. It may take them a while to come around, but they will get there, especially when they realize that you haven’t changed or done anything to them, you’re the same as you’ve always been.
6. Try to understand the grieving process.
If your parents react with confusion, anger, sadness or disbelief, keep in mind they could be in the beginning stages of grieving. Remember, your parents are likely hearing you’re gay for the first time, and with that comes a shift in how they have envisioned your future life up to this point. This is a big moment for you and your parents. Change, no matter what kind, can be difficult to adjust to. Recognizing that strong emotions like anger, sadness or disbelief are part of the natural grieving process can help these emotions feel less personal and more normal when held in context. For friends or other family members who might appear to be grieving, again remember that this is about them and that you’ve done nothing wrong. Allow people in your life to have the space they need and if they can’t come around and accept you, then that’s their loss. Long-term you will be better off without that negative energy in your life.
7. Be as confident as possible.
Mustering up the confidence to tell your parents, family or friends can be difficult. Being comfortable with your identity is a good way to make sure that you are as confident as possible when talking to your parents. Your security in yourself might partially hinge on your audience’s acceptance, but it does not have to revolve around it entirely. If you are having trouble pulling together the bravery you need to tell them, try talking to a counselor or discussing with someone else who already came out and how they did it might help boost your confidence.
8. Practice with someone else.
If you are feeling anxious about telling your family and friends you are gay, it might be a good idea to practice the conversation with someone else. For example, engage in a role-play with someone you trust or tell one of your friends that you know well. This will give you the opportunity to think about what you want to say and prevent some of the word stumbling you may find yourself in during that conversation.
9. Choose the right moment.
In the middle of an argument is probably not the best time to tell your family and friends about your sexual orientation. Basically the approach here is to seize the right moment. Likely it will just happen in a moment that feels right, but other times it’s good to plan. Ultimately, you want your audience to be in a good place emotionally and cognitively so that they can focus on the conversation and have limited distractions. Sometimes though, when you have something you need to say, it will just build up until it spills out in a certain moment. While this last scenario might not be ideal, just roll with it. Everyone has their own coming out story.