Even though there are many more out LGBT people in today’s society, most of us still grow up in a world where being straight or having a gender identity that matches our physical body is seen as the norm. For people who this is the case, they very rarely need to come out, as who they are and who they are attracted to is seen as ‘normal’. These people may not even consider themselves to have a sexual orientation or gender identity because it’s not labelled as different.
LGBT Plus people, however, have to make the choice to either publicly hide how they feel or tell people they are attracted to people of the same or both genders, or about their true gender identity. LGBT Plus people come out at all stages of their lives and to varying degrees. For some it will be essential to live fully as themselves, whereas for others it might be that they only come out to themselves.
The following sections here look at the coming out process in detail.
‘Coming Out’ describes the process of admitting that you might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. LGBT Plus people have to first come out to themselves before they think of coming out to anyone else!
Many people have the misconception that every LGBT Plus person ‘comes out’ when they are young. This, as we know, is not always the case and people can struggle with their sexuality and gender identity for a number of years and in fact many LGBT Plus people will have been married to a person of the opposite sex in an effort to conform and only come out later in life. This is also more common in a rural place like Dumfries & Galloway where people have historically found it harder to come out.
You might be flicking through this site because you are one of these people who have found it hard to talk about what you might be feeling.
We’re not suggesting that you suddenly leap out of the closet making some huge declaration, but what you’ll find below are some helpful tips about coming out safely if it is something you feel you are ready to do.
If you need more information or would like to discuss the issues face to face then contact a member of our trained and friendly staff to arrange a meeting, which can be out with the LGBT Centre if you feel more comfortable. See our support section for more information on how to do this.
You can also contact other organisations outwith our opening hours, again see the support section for details.
So, to come out or not to come out … that is the question!
- try to come to terms with your sexuality/gender identity yourself first
- prepare yourself for the questions, practice what you want to say
- don’t expect too much too soon
- be happy in yourself first and love who you are – don’t try to be what other people want you to be
- if in doubt, wait until you feel right about it
- if you are comfortable doing so, make some hints and people might guess for themselves
- think about the setting and environment (best not to do it at a family gathering)
- do it on neutral ground
- do it somewhere you feel safe
- when YOU’RE ready
- pick the right occasion where you’ll have time to talk
- don’t feel pressured into it – make sure it’s the right time for you
- don’t come out in an argument
- someone open-minded
- don’t feel obliged to tell everyone
- tell people you trust
- don’t tell people that you know like to gossip
- if you have any LGBT Plus friends, tell them first as they are more likely to understand
- be discreet
- do it in a way that is right for YOU
- take it at your own pace
- if you can-t do it face to face, send a letter, e-mail or recording
- get back-up for after – talk to friends
- don’t let anyone force labels on you – you’re still the same person
- don’t pigeonhole yourself, allow yourself to grow and change
- don’t take homophobia to heart
- get in contact with the LGBT Centre or other organisations (see the Web Link section on the right side of this page)
- look for support information for families and friends
- give people time to come to terms with it, you’ve had you’re whole life remember
- keep communicating with those important to you – let them know that nothing has really changed
- try to stay positive, it’s the beginning of the rest of your life!
This page provides some tips on Coming Out safely at work at also some of the legislation which is in place to protect LGBT Plus people in the workplace.
Coming out can be difficult at any time in a person’s life and it is not something people will only do once. It is a continual process and many people find that there is an expectation that they need to come out to everyone they meet.
This is also true in the workplace, where the assumption that everyone is heterosexual can make it difficult for some LGBT Plus people. Coming out at work can sometimes be a difficult time for people as they don’t know what the reaction from colleagues might be. If you are reading this and are worried about this or, in fact about how coming out might affect your career prospects, then don’t worry as there is protection in law against discriminating because of sexual orientation.
- Only come out if you are comfortable and you feel ready to do so
- Come out to someone you trust
- Don’t do it drunk at a staff night out
- Don’t do it in anger or as a response to a discriminatory comment
- Read up on the legislation/protection you have – links below
For more information regarding your rights see the Equality Act 2010
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003
The legislation bans discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in employment and vocational training. This legislation specifically bans direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of sexual orientation. That means the law protects all people from sexual orientation discrimination: lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and heterosexuals/straight people. More info here.
Protection for those who identify as transgender comes from the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
Under the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act it’s unlawful for an employer to discriminate against you because of your sex or because you are married. It’s also unlawful to discriminate against you because you’ve had, are having or intend to have gender reassignment. This means someone, supervised by a doctor, who changes their gender.
More often than not, being a parent comes with its own challenges – there is no manual that people are given when they decide to have children. Also, there is no right our wrong way for parents to raise their children.
This is also the case when it comes to gay parents coming out to their families. We would never dream of trying to tell parents what to do, many of the tips in the ‘General Tips’ section would apply in this situation too.
Important points to consider when coming out to your kids include:
- Make sure that you are ready to come out
- Show your child that you are comfortable with who you are. This will, in turn, help your child deal with the situation. If you are embarrassed about it or have feelings of guilt, then you can rest assured this will be worse for them and it is important for you to address this.
- Don’t assume that your sexuality is automatically going to be an issue for your child. Children are learning more and more about diverse families (though maybe not as much as we’d like) and so will already have some ideas about LGBT Plus parents. Also, remember that children are resilient and will sometimes cope better than their adult counterparts as they have less prejudice.
- Only tell your children if you feel that they are mature enough to understand what you are telling them. Don’t feel that just because you know and are comfortable with who you are they will be able to understand. If you are unsure as to whether they will understand or not, then have a discussion with them about different family set-ups to see how much understanding they have.
If you are able to tell your child and they have fully understood, it is also important to ensure that they have support should they need it. The LGBT Plus Center has resources for children of all ages and the staff are available to chat to you and your family if you need them. We can also signpost to relevant agencies if we cannot answer the questions being asked.
These organisations include: