There are a lot of things that we find hard to reveal to our parents, family and friends. Coming out as gay is probably the biggest one, right up there with teen pregnancy and any other lifechanging event. It’s undoubtedly a difficult discussion to have, and one that many gay teens put off because they are afraid how their loved ones will react. But if it’s something that you’re contemplating, we have some advice on how to approach it.
Brianna, 26, was a senior in high school when she came out to her parents. Bri was lucky enough to have a therapist at the time — her parents had sent her to see someone to deal with panic attacks — something many teens may not have. Bri came out to her therapist and the doctor coached her through coming out to her family and friends. “The most important thing she told me was that the people who know me will pretty much know I’m gay,” she said. “It’s not going to be as much of a shock to them as you think.”
Bri’s therapist also told her that when her parents were ready to know whether or not she was gay, they would ask her. And ultimately, that was exactly what happened. One night, Bri was in the middle of a fight with her mom, “which happened frequently in high school,” she said. Bri recalled that they were fighting over something relating to Boo, Bri’s best friend who she was also dating, although her parents didn’t know about the initimate side of their relationship. “My mom just came out and asked me, ‘Are you gay?’ And I said, ‘Mom, I am. I’m gay,’” she said. Bri’s mom stormed out of the room, not knowing how to handle the situation. Her dad later came in to talk to her. He was comforting and reassured her that both her parents would love her no matter what. “He said all the things you want your dad to say in that situation,” Bri told us.
While traumatic, Bri’s coming out was ultimately a good experience, and her mother has come around over the years to accept Bri for who she is. Bri said she saw a change several years after she came out, when she was graduating college and considering breaking up with her longterm girlfriend, Boo. “My mom realized that even if I wasn’t with Boo, I was still going to be with women,” she said. “She finally got me. Our relationship got a lot stronger from that point on.”
Having gone through it herself, and talked about the process with her friends and girlfriends who also had to come out to family and friends, Bri has some tips for anyone thinking of tackling this delicate topic:
Start with people close to you
“If you’re not comfortable with telling certain people or if you’re really afraid of the way that certain people will react to you, maybe you’re not ready to come out to those people,” Bri said. Practice by coming out to your really close friends, the ones who you know will never judge you or treat you differently. Then move on to the people who you think should know, like your parents.
If you’re sure about what you’re saying, the people who you’re telling will be more ready to accept your decision. Frequently, parents who are not ready to accept that their child is gay will think it’s “just a phase,” and if you’re wishy-washy about how you present it and yourself, they’ll be more apt to feel that way.
Although you may not be lucky enough to get help from a personal therapist, there are lots of places to seek help. Schools offer counselors and many are setting up support groups for gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and questioning teens and young people. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support or answers to your questions.
Are you thinking of coming out? Do you have a story about how you came out to family and friends? Do you have any advice for those who are thinking about it? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or send your first person accounts to submissions AT crushable.com.