LGBT Health
NHS Choices

Coming out

What is “coming out”?

“Coming out” is when you tell someone about your sexuality, gender expression and/or orientation. For definition of LGBTQ+ terms.

Should I come out?

Coming out means you can be honest about how you feel and not keep part of your life hidden. It means that the important people in your life will know about your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Coming out isn’t easy for everyone, but for some it can be liberating.

Coming out is a very personal decision. Who you come out to and even whether you come out at all is up to you. Coming out has advantages, but is not always the right decision for everyone.

There are a lot of resources available for people coming out. If you are struggling with the decision to come out, you might find the resources at the end helpful.

When you come out or chose how to come out, it is important that you stay safe and that you do the right thing for you.

Getting support to come out

Coming out for the first time or in a new situation can be easier if you have support from others.

There can often be more support available than you might realise. Many LGBTQ+ networks are hidden or informal and until you make contact you may not realise that they exist. Stonewall Cymru has information on Coming Out and details of community groups that are local to you in Wales. Many LGBTQ+ groups exist online, where it is easy to be relatively anonymous if you are not ready to come out to those people around you at home.

Not all groups work for everyone. If a group isn’t right for you, keep trying! Don’t let one bad experience put you off groups entirely.

Who should I come out to?

Coming out can be a nerve-wracking experience. However it can also be a very positive one!

LGBTQ+ people often find their family and friends are very supportive. They may have already suspected that you are anxious about something.

Support organisations exist for friends and families of LGBTQ+ people. For instance, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

 

How to come out

There is no right or wrong way to come out. You should come out in the way that feels most comfortable for you.

For some people, it is easier to have the conversation face to face. This can feel scary, but does mean that you can answer any questions and get reassurance yourself.

For others a text or email conversation might be better. An advantage of this is that it gives the person receiving the information time to come to terms with it and respond.

You may find that the people you come out to may react in a way you don’t expect. While friends and family often have suspected that a loved one may be LGBTQ+ for some people it comes as a big shock. Your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression might be natural to you but might take some getting used to for others. This can be difficult for you to deal with. If your family reacts in a way you don’t expect, it might be worth getting support. Over time, family and friends do often come to accept that a loved one is LGBTQ+.

Remember that you do not have to come out to everyone all at once. It is ok to come out as gradually as you feel comfortable with telling people. It is ok to come out in one part of your life but not in others. Some people are out to their families but not at work. You need to make the right decision for you and no one has a right to make you feel bad for not coming out.

If you are coming out in the workplace or in education, remember that there are laws to protect you. For more information, see the links below.

“Being outed”

Even if you are supported, it can still be difficult to have information about your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression known before you are ready. If you have kept it secret, being “outed” can feel exposing and you may be worried about what it means for your relationships with those you have been outed to. You may also need help to answer questions from people who are concerned about you, as they may now expect you to know everything about being LGBTQ+.

Will coming out change things?

British people more are accepting of LGBTQ+ people in Britain than ever before. See Positive Stonewall report on attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people. Most British people are opposed to prejudice against LGBTQ+ people and support LGBTQ+ people being able to have children, get married free to be without discrimination.

Most LGBTQ+ people nowadays find coming out a positive experience. It can be a huge relief not to have to keep a part of your identity secret, or be worried about being found out.

What if coming out doesn’t go as planned?

Whatever your age coming out can be a difficult process and many people find that they have to come out more than once, to friends, family and the workplace. For further information visit Stonewall Cymru.

Do I have to come out?

Coming out isn’t easy for everyone. Some communities or families may make it very hard to be open about your sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. Some LGBTQ+ people may fear that if their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression becomes known, they will lose their job, be made homeless or be subjected to violence.

It is illegal to discriminate against, or verbally or physically assault a person for being LGBTQ+. Groups do exist to support you in these situations and it can be helpful to contact them. For LGBTQ+ service and community groups that can help you visit Stonewall Cymru.

Coming Out to Your Children

Some parents might want to come out to their children about their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Sometimes there will be a lot else going on when this happens. For example, you and their other parent may have decided to separate, or you may be facing difficulties in your relationship or in other parts of your life as a result of coming out. You know your children, and there is no right or wrong time to come out to them.

Children whose parents have come out as trans or not-straight often say that their parents’ sexual orientation or gender expression is less of an issue than deception, lying and arguments between their parents.

If you are telling your children that you are LGBTQ+, the following tips may help:

  1. Explain it to them in words that they can understand. 
  2. Do it at a quiet time. Give them space to process their feelings and let them ask questions.
  3. Think about their questions in advance. They may worry about how it will change their family or if they will be bullied.
  4. Listen to their fears and try to give them honest, practical answers.
  5. If possible, try to make sure that they have other supportive adults to talk to. Children may open up to adults who are not their parents.
  6. Some children may find it helpful to connect with other children growing up in LGBTQ+ families. Stonewall Cymru has a list of local LGBTQ+ parenting groups (phone 08000 50 20 20), or you could start your own. LGBTQ+ parents often connect on Facebook or via forums.

For many LGBTQ+ people, the thought of telling their children about their gender identity, expression or sexual orientation is very scary. You may be worried your children will reject you. But many children are brought up in LGBTQ+ households nowadays. There is a lot of evidence that they do as well as children brought up by straight cis parents.

Talking to younger siblings and nephews/nieces may also be difficult. This advice can be helpful in talking to any child.

Remember you are not alone!

All LGBTQ+ people have had the experience of coming out. Whether or not to come out is a decision that LGBTQ+ people face regularly throughout their lives. Coming out time and time again can be exhausting for LGBTQ+ people. It can be liberating and nerve-wracking. However it generally gets easier with practice!

Most LGBTQ+ people who come out do find it a relief. Most LGBTQ+ people do find that their family and friends are supportive eventually, even if not initially.

You have a right to come out in your own time, to feel safe and supported and not to experience discrimination.

Cardiff University - It Gets Better

Resources

LGBT Jigsaw for homeless LGBT young people.

Age UK information for older LGBT people

Information on hate crime

Reporting hate crime in Wales

Parents guide from Stonewall

Positive Stonewall report on attitudes towards LGBT people (pdf)