Ready to come out?
OK, Here are Some Facts About Coming Out at Home Before You are 18
If you come out at home before you are 18, you have a one in four chance of being told to leave the house. That means for every 4 youth who come out, 1 will be homeless.
OK, before we even start to talk about coming out, we’re going to list a few things you need to consider before you come out to anyone. After that, we’ll talk about what it’s like to come out to yourself, to your family and to the world.
Are you sure about your sexual orientation?
Don’t raise the issue unless you’re able to respond with confidence to the question “Are you sure?” Confusion on your part will increase your parent’s confusion and decrease their confidence in your conclusion.
Are you comfortable with your LGBT sexuality?
If you’re wrestling with guilt and periods of depression, you’ll be better off waiting to tell your parents. Coming out to them may require tremendous energy on your part; it will require a reserve of positive self-image.
Do you have support?
In the event that your parent’s reaction devastates you, there should be someone or a group that you can confidently turn to for emotional support and strength. Maintaining your sense of self-worth is critical.
Are you knowledgeable about homosexuality / bisexuality / transgenderism?
Your parents will probably respond based on a lifetime of information from a homophobic society. If you’ve done some serious reading on the subject, you’ll be able to assist them by sharing reliable information and research.
What’s the emotional climate at home?
If you have the choice of when to tell, consider the timing. Choose a time when they’re not dealing with such matters as the death of a close friend, pending surgery or the loss of a job.
Can you be patient?
Your parents will require time to deal with this information if they haven’t considered it prior to your sharing. The process may last from six months to two years.
What’s your motive for coming out now?
Hopefully it is because you love them and are uncomfortable with the distance you feel. Never come out in anger or during an argument, using your sexual orientation as a weapon.
Do you have available resources?
Homosexuality is a subject most non-gay people know little about. Have available at least one of the following: a book addressed to parents, a contact for the local or national PFLAG group, the name of a non-gay counselor who can deal fairly with the issue.
Are you financially dependent on your parents?
If you suspect they are capable of withdrawing college finances or forcing you out of the house, you may choose to wait until they do not have this weapon to hold over you.
What is your general relationship with your parents?
If you’ve gotten along well and have always known their love – and shared your love for them in return – chances are they’ll be able to deal with the issue in a positive way.
What is their moral societal view?
If they tend to see social issues in clear terms of good/bad or holy/sinful, you may anticipate that they will have serious problems dealing with your sexuality. If, however, they’ve evidenced a degree of flexibility when dealing with other changing societal matters, you may be able to anticipate a willingness to work this through with you.
Is this your decision?
Not everyone should come out to his or her parents. Don’t’ be pressured into it if you’re not sure you’ll be better off by doing so, no matter what their response.
Like so many things, there are all kinds of theories about what coming out looks like. What we’ve done here is taken several of these theories and put together a model that suits many of us. Don’t worry if this doesn’t look exactly like you, we’re not exactly alike. We hope this covers most steps for most people.
A feeling of being different:
At a very young age, we may realize we are different from other kids. We don’t have a name for it yet, and that can make us feel confused or feel shame. The feelings of confusion and shame can make us hide ourselves. If we are unable to hide (‘effeminate’ boy, ‘butch’ girls) we are often rejected.
Recognizing the difference as sexual:
Until now, we might have experienced our gayness as wanting someone as our best friend. Now, those fantasies, crushes and dreams take on a romantic or erotic tone. At the same time, we realize that homophobia (hate of gay people) and heterosexist norms (the world acts like everyone is straight) are deep and powerful. We see this power everywhere, at home, in school, with friends, in church and in the community.
Changing, sublimating, self-destructing:
This can be a very scary time. We might try to change from being gay. We might make promises to God. We might be thinking about suicide, using drugs, drinking alcohol, having trouble in school, keeping ourselves away from our friends and our family, having unsafe sex, hurting ourselves and committing crimes. None of these behaviors is healthy.
‘Passing’ as straight:
Even though we may know we are LGBT, we keep that secret. This lying is often done to keep us safe. Lying is hard; one of the consequences is that it keeps us emotionally distant from other people.
Calling oneself gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender:
This can be a crisis or a relief. We think of it as the death of the heterosexual self and the birth of the gay self. Once we do this, some of our beliefs, attitudes and values have to change if we are going to feel good about ourselves. At the same time, our basic beliefs, attitudes and values (the ones that define our character) stay the same.
Learning to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender:
calling ourselves one of these words means we know gay culture is out there. Getting a place in gay life and gay culture requires we hang out with others like us.
Coming out to family and others:
this process never really ends. Telling others can make us closer to others BUT when we do so, we risk ending the relationship. Parents are usually the hardest people to come out to, we all fear disapproval, rejection, and abandonment by our parents.
Becoming whole and building community:
We may not be out to everyone, everywhere, all of the time. That doesn’t mean we have to make apologies for being ourselves. That doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to be safe and comfortable. That doesn’t mean we don’t get to experience life.
Unless your parents are abusing or neglecting you, we want you to stay at home. Here is what you need to think about before you ‘run to the street.’
Joe decides his parents are hassling him too much and he doesn’t want to live at home anymore. His friend says Joe can stay with his family. After a few days, the friend’s family tells Joe he must leave and go home. Joe decides there is no way he is going back and listening to his parents yell. Joe thinks he knows a safe place to sleep in the park, but it rains, and he doesn’t have any dry clothes. He finds a dry place with more people, and wakes up to find someone robbing him. The robber then beats him. Joe still thinks he will be OK on the street. Joe decides to panhandle for some money, but decides it is too hard; everyone is being mean to him. He takes the little money he begged and gets a hamburger, that is all he will have to eat that day. While he is eating his burger, he runs into some kids his own age, they are on the street and offer to ‘hook him up.’ They buy some meth, that way they can stay up all night and sleep during the day when it is safer. Joe becomes addicted to meth, and finds the easiest way to get money to pay for it is to have sex for money. One problem, the tricks don’t want to use condoms, and Joe can’t really say no. Three months later, Joe notices he might have a STI. He hears about a health van, goes to them, and gets a check up. The results aren’t good. Not only does Joe have syphilis, he has been infected with HIV. A caseworker in the van helps Joe get into rehab. Joe is lucky, rehab is working for him. Right before his release date, he realizes he has no place to go, no money, not even a GED and is HIV positive. Now he wants to go home. He is over 18, and his parents tell him no. Joe dies, all alone, three miserable years later.
Wouldn’t you rather be hassled at home for a couple of years than be Joe?
If you are being abused or neglected, tell an adult you can trust. They can get you the help you need.