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Coming Out Tips for Queer Teens

I realized I was bisexual when I was about 13 and started to be attracted to other girls. When I came out at school, at the beginning of freshman year, I was amazed at how accepting and supportive everyone around me was.1 

Some of us have always known that we are attracted to women. Some of us discover that we are attracted to women as we get older. The ways we figure this out can vary, and can be very confusing: You may recognize your attraction to a close female friend, or maybe have romantic relationships with other young women; the list can go on and on.

High school can be a very stressful time for figuring out your sexuality with all these messages about our “emerging sexuality.’’ Figuring this out is different for each of us. You may be exploring your sexuality in different ways: by yourself, with a boyfriend, or with a girlfriend. Wondering if your sexuality falls outside heterosexuality is often called ``questioning.’’ Many of us go through a period of questioning before we come out. Usually, questioning is not easy. It can especially be hard to find friends who will listen to you without judging you or freaking out. Look for LGBTQ groups in your area, or get online. It’s totally normal to feel confused, depressed, or angry about being different, but it’s important to find people who will understand and relate to you. Don’t go it alone!

When I was 16, I told my boyfriend that I thought I might be attracted to girls. He said, ``Great! Now we can have a threesome!’’ I was really pissed off because he didn’t understand that it was about me, and not about him at all.

An 18-year-old who is transgender had this experience with coming out about his gender identity:

I started telling teachers by putting a letter in their mailboxes. They were all OK with it. They changed my name in the grade book and they now call me Chriss in class. I am having a lot of problems with the administration at my school right now though, but it's normal, I guess. I know I at least have friends who will stand by me.” 2

As you question and maybe even make the choice to “come out” with your gender identity or sexual orientation, you may encounter negative messages about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.  The important thing to remember is that everyone should be free to express their gender and explore their sexuality however they choose—free from judgments and violence. Unfortunately, much of the world is homophobic, and these messages come from stereotypes of LGBTQ people. Being different from the perceived majority—whether it’s because of your sexuality or your gender identity, your background or your personality—can be a hard path to walk. It can be hard to stand up for who you are—especially when you just want to fit in!  Something to look forward to: It often gets easier as you get older and gain more control over your life.

If you decide to come out to family or friends, think about what to expect before making your decision. Be strong, and don’t set yourself up to get completely squashed. You might want to come out to people who are really close to you and who you think will accept you first before you take on the rest of the world. Here are some things to think about.

  1. Think about your family. Are your parents generally supportive and judgment-free? If your family is usually loving and accepting, they can probably handle this information. If not, you may not want to tell them, or not right away. It’s definitely not easy to make your way as a teen if your parents throw you out of the house, so make sure to keep this in mind before you decide to come out to them. Unfortunately, your safety may have to come before your true colors. If you get thrown out or you have to leave for your own protection, stay with another family member or a friend you trust. You can also call a hotline for information and support (see Resources).

  2. Is there someone supportive that you could tell at school? A teacher, a mentor, or a guidance counselor? Is there a gay/straight alliance at school or a teen group in your area? Finding support is probably the best thing you can do for yourself. Many resources are listed below.
If you have questions or if you are depressed or suicidal, ask for help! If you feel you cannot ask an adult you know, reach out to the organizations below.

I can hear the tension in my parents’ voices when they ask if the person I’m dating is a man or a woman. If I’m dating a man, they breathe a mental sigh of relief....But if I’m dating a woman, they really don’t know what to say.

Many parents react to their children’s coming out with anger, guilt, shame, hurt, and fear. Some react with violence. Even parents who are queer themselves may have difficulty coming to terms with their child’s coming out—for fear of the struggles they may have to endure. LGBT people with disabilities who come out to their families may risk losing their family’s care and much-needed emotional and financial support. For LGBT people of color, lack of family support can overflow into loss of community as questions of racial ``loyalty’’ rise to the surface. The pressure to prioritize our identities can create additional stress.

Thankfully, some parents are accepting and supportive of their children who do come out.

My mother’s reaction was exceptional. She said, ``I don’t understand it at all, but I’m glad you’re happy.’’

My father is afraid that I’ll get hurt in a homophobic world, but he’s trying hard to understand and support me. This year, he gave me two books on bisexuality for Christmas!

Coming out to family is often a process that takes several years. We change and grow as we come out, and our family often changes with us, sometimes with us and sometimes away from us. Some parents come to an understanding, even if they refuse any contact at first; some do not. Coming out can make family relationships more honest and sometimes more close than they would be if we kept living a lie. We may even be pleasantly surprised.

When we experience unsupportive, abusive or homophobic family or friends, we can feel isolated, depressed, or even suicidal. We may want to run away and leave our parent or guardian’s home. If a parent or guardian threatens to throw you out of your home because you’re queer, make sure to take care of yourself, and connect with an adult you can trust (like a friend’s parent), a therapist, a guidance counselor, or a counselor at an organization that can help you during this very rough time. Believe it or not, it is easy to find organizations online or in the phone book.


1 From the article Kaitlyn's Story [back to text]

2 From an article on Outpath.com [back to text]

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