October 11th is National Coming Out Day. Every year, on that day, people all over the country come out (or ‘invite in’) their parents, friends, and loved ones.
Of course, you don’t need to come out on National Coming Out Day in order to let people know about your sexuality. The thing about coming out is that you should do it when the time feels right for you.
Whether your parents are super tolerant or very conservative, coming out can be tough to do. Luckily, millions of people have already done this before you, myself included. So there’s helpful wisdom that can be shared.
How to Come Out to Your Parents
While people come out at all different ages and times, it is increasingly common to come out at a young age. In a recent Twitter poll that I conducted that collected 261 unique responses, 43.7% of the respondents reported coming out before the age of 18. Another 28.4% reported coming out by the age of 21.
In total, nearly three-quarters (72.1%) of the survey respondents came out by the age of 21.
I’m looking to aggregate data on our community: What age were you when you came out to your parent(s) as #LGBTQ+? 🏳️🌈
(Please reshare if possible…thank you for the help! 🙏🏽)
— Cade Hildreth | LGBTQ+ (@CadeHildreth) January 20, 2020
While coming out is far from an easy process, I hope sharing my experience (and lessons learned) will make it slightly easier for others. Continue reading to learn a five-step process for coming out to your parents.
1. Consider Your Situation and Make a Plan
Making the decision to come out to your parents is a big deal. Expressing who you really are to the ones you raised you is something that calls for strength, bravery, and a whole lot of vulnerability.
Still, it’s important that you consider you and your family’s specific situation and lifestyle before you come out. You want to think about how your parents might react, where you live, and how to ensure your own safety.
Depending on the type of people who your parents are, they might react in less than ideal ways. Unfortunately, some parents respond to coming out by pulling financial support or kicking you out of the house.
Although this is an appalling thing to do, it sadly does happen.
If this happens to you, reach out to queer rights organizations and groups who can offer you plenty of support and resources.
2. Reach Out to Another Adult Whom You Trust First
By expressing yourself to other adults who are in your family or your community can help you to figure out how to better come out to your parents.
If you aren’t sure how your parents are going to take the news, or if you’re worried that they will react negatively, it’s a good idea to first speak with someone who you know will be supportive.
And if you’re not sure who to turn to, it can be extremely helpful to speak with a queer-affirming licensed therapist.
Although you may want to tell your parents as soon as possible, it’s generally a good idea to speak with trusted family and friends so that they can help you figure out how best to express yourself.
For many, coming out to close friends or supportive relatives may be helpful first steps before coming out to parents.
Also, if you feel that one parent will be more supportive than the other, speak to the supportive parent first. They would be the best source to help you come out to the more difficult parent.
3. Express How You Feel Instead of Defining What You Are
Sexuality and gender can be fluid and always changing. Knowing what labels and words feel right for you can be a long and difficult process. And trying to express those labels to your parents can be extremely difficult.
If you’re not comfortable or able to put the right words together when it comes to articulating your identity to your parents, then don’t. You shouldn’t feel any pressure to define yourself to others.
Instead, you should focus on expressing what you feel to your parents.
This is your time and you can decide what you do and don’t say. Feel free to talk about how you feel, whether that’s identifying as a certain gender, being attracted to people of the same sex, needing space to explore a new identity.
4. Pick a Place and Time that Feels Right to You
It’s important to understand that when coming out, it’s on your own terms. So whether that is in your parent’s living room, the restaurant across town, or in a beautiful park, you are the one who gets to choose where and when you come out.
Being able to be in charge of this situation is a powerful first step in a whole lifetime of owning who you are and exhibiting confidence and self-acceptance.
If you’re a more private person, or if you aren’t positive about how your parents are going to respond, then consider coming out to your parents in a location that makes everyone feel comfortable.
That comfortable place might feel different for everyone. One person might feel comfortable doing it in their own kitchen while another might choose a park. Coming out in a public space can also help to temper your parents’ reactions.
5. Enter the Conversation Feeling Confident
It’s completely natural to feel scared, angry, stressed, anxious, or any other feeling when it comes to taking this major step. You have to remember though that you’re not alone in experiencing these feelings.
Before coming out to your parents, try going to a private space and allow yourself to get physically and mentally in tune and calm.
You want to build yourself up as much as you can before coming out to anyone.
Write in a journal, listen to your favorite songs, sand make a list of all the things that you love about yourself. List the people in your life that support you as you are. These activities will help you feel more centered and confident for the big talk.
Importance of Knowing How to Come Out to Your Parents
Although it isn’t always easy, when you know how to come out to your parents, you can have a more successful and productive talk. Remember that no matter what the end result is, you can’t let anyone tell you who or what you are.
Also, many parents will need time after this conversation to process and respond in ways that will best support you both in the long-run.