Coming out at a Glance
- “Coming out” means telling people that you’re LGBTQ (or any other identity).
- You get to decide if and when to come out, to whom, and how to do it.
- Talking to a trusted adult can help you in the process of coming out.
Should I Come Out?
This is a question LGBTQ people ask themselves all the time, with every new person they meet. Coming out is a very personal decision. You — and only you — get to decide if and when, to whom, and how you come out.
While coming out is an important step, you should only come out to people in your life if and when you want to, you’re ready to, and you feel safe doing so. Never let anyone or anything pressure you into coming out before you’re ready.
For many, the coming out process — letting people know that you’re LGBTQ — begins with being open with people who are also LGBTQ. Sometimes it’s also helpful to talk to adults you trust, like a counselor, social worker, or clergyperson, to help you decide when you want to come out, and who to come out to.
Coming out can be a great experience for teens who have support from their families and communities. While it can make your relationships better and make you feel great, it can also feel scary depending on who you’re coming out to and what you think their reaction will be. In some situations, it can even be dangerous.
In some places, there’s a lot of homophobia — fear and hatred of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ). If you think coming out might cause you harm — physical, emotional, or financial — you may need to wait to come out until you have a plan to take care of yourself.
Who Should I Come Out To?
You don’t have to tell everyone you know at the same time. Coming out is a process — it doesn’t have to happen all at once.
There’s no “right” way to come out. For example, you could tell only one person, or only those who you trust and feel may react positively. Start with people you’re close to, and who you think will be supportive. Then they can support you through the coming out process to others.
You may want to be open and honest about yourself with the whole world. But, sometimes it is best to deal with each situation and relationship separately and carefully. Try to figure out if the people around you support LGBTQ people. Asking them what they think about LGBTQ people in general will help you better guess how they might react.
Remember that it can be difficult to predict how someone will react when you come out. So try to be prepared for any reaction you might get — both positive and negative. And know that, no matter what, you’re not alone.
Do I Have to Tell My Doctor that I’m Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender?
It’s best to be honest with your doctor, nurse, or other health care provider about what you do, especially when it comes to your sex life. The more information you give your doctor, the better care you’ll get.
Anyone who has vaginal, anal, or oral sex with another person is at risk of getting an STD. No matter what your gender identity or sexual orientation is, if you have sex, it's important to practice safer sex. But the reason you should tell your doctor if you’re LGBTQ is that it helps them figure out what’s needed to keep you healthy.
If you're under 18, you may be afraid that your nurse or doctor will talk about this stuff with your parents. It’s okay to ask what their privacy policies are before you say anything you’re nervous or uncomfortable with.
If you don’t feel comfortable telling your doctor that you are or may be LGBTQ, you may want to find a new doctor or nurse who is LGBTQ-friendly. Planned Parenthood provides high-quality health services to all patients — whether or not they’re LGBTQ. You may also find an LGBTQ-friendly health care provider through the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association.
How Should I Come Out?
There’s no “right” way to come out. The way you come out will depend on what makes you feel comfortable. It will depend on your personal situation and relationships. The way you come out has only one rule: it should feel right to you.
You might decide to have a conversation with the person or people you want to come out to. If you’re talking face-to-face, pick a time and place that makes you (and them) feel relaxed, without distractions.
If you’re worried about saying things the right way or you want to give them time to think through their response, you can also write a letter or an e-mail. You can read it out loud, or you can send it to them if you don’t feel comfortable coming out in person.
Don’t worry if the first person you come out to doesn’t react the way you’d hoped. You will find people who will respond positively and be supportive — just keep looking. And sometimes it takes a while for people to adjust — what you’ve told them might be surprising or unexpected for them. They might just need some time to process it before they give you their support.