Coming Out To Family Members

Coming Out To Family Members – The idea of telling your family members that you are gay or lesbian can be very anxiety producing.  You may have no idea how to tell them and may be concerned how they will react to you.  As a result, you may even consider keeping that part of you a secret.  However, keeping the secret from your family members can be as painful as not coming out at all.  How can you prepare yourself for telling them?  And, how do you even go about telling them?

Preparing Yourself

At this point, you hopefully have a support system (straight friends, gay and lesbian friends) that knows you are gay and are affirming of that part of you.  It would be helpful to share with them that you are planning on coming out to some family members and that you need their support.  Good friends will likely be more than willing to help you through this process.  You may also have a therapist or mentor that will also support you.

You likely will feel anxious about telling your family.  It is very normal and to be expected.  Remember to continue breathing and taking deep breaths.  Consider seeing a therapist if the anxiety becomes overwhelming or if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks.

Think about which family members you want to tell first.  Telling your parents is a good start, especially if you have regular contact with them.

Think about and practice what you are going to say, but don’t have it come across as rehearsed.  You may find that writing it down can be helpful in figuring out what you want to say. If you are telling your parents, try to tell them at the same time or as close together as possible.  It is also a good idea to tell other immediate family members (siblings or other family members that are like immediate family) soon after.

Having the Discussion

Have the discussion with your parents in a comfortable, private atmosphere such as your home.  If the discussion is difficult, it will be much easier on everyone if it is in a place that is already comfortable for everyone.

Stay as positive and as confident as you can.  Your parents and family have a certain idea of who you are and likely have certain expectations of your behavior, more so than anyone else in your life.  As a result, no matter how liberal and accepting they may be about homosexuality, it is likely that there will be some shock, confusion and even anger or sadness about your news.  Change is difficult for all of us and this is a big change.  Remember, you probably had similar feelings when you came to terms with being gay or lesbian.  Try to remember that they will need time to adjust and that their initial reaction will likely change.

If your parents react poorly, it is advisable to give them the space that they need to respond to the news.  By giving them space and being nonreactive, it will help them to fully express and deal with their feelings.    Giving them space may mean leaving them alone to deal with it.

Be prepared for many questions.  You can share with them what you have learned and even bring them some books you have if you think that it would be helpful.

After the Discussion

One talk about you being gay or lesbian is likely not going to be enough.  Your family members have an adjustment period to this new big news about you.  They will need to keep talking about it and you will likely need to keep talking about it as well both for them and for yourself.

Family members may be resistant to continuing discussion about it and may even appear to ignore that you disclosed that you are gay or lesbian.  Allowing your family to ignore it will likely feel like you are back where you started – like that large part of your life does not exist.   Continue the discussion and share your life with them – gay activities that you are a part of, discussion about gay friends, partners, etc.  If they change the subject frequently, ask them if you can talk to them about your life and how you would really like to share this part of yourself with them.

If after some time, your family continues to struggle with your news and/or you find yourself having difficulty coping with your family’s reaction, it can be very helpful to see a therapist.  A professional can help you express the feelings that you are having and help you cope with them.

Coming out to family can be difficult and scary.  While the path may be rocky, the benefits of living an authentic life and sharing it with your family are worthwhile.