How Do I Come Out to My Parents?

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Many LGB individuals say that the hardest thing they feel they will have to do is come out to their parents. This article may be able to help the process.

Afterwards

Photo: Aliza Saraco-Polner

Coming out reactions are not always what you might expect

Recent studies have shown that lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals are coming out at earlier and earlier ages. According to one poll, the average age for an individual to come out is 16, which is a dramatic decrease from 1991, in which the average coming out age was around 25. Many researchers are saying that the decrease in the age is due to general overall increase of acceptance as well as the availability of more information through the media. While this is very promising, many LGB individuals say that the hardest problem they have faced is to come out to their parents. While everyone hopes to be accepted by their parents, many fear that they will be rejected.

How Will My Parents React?

Unfortunately, there is no universal way in which parents will respond. Some parents may say they already be immediately accepting while others many have no idea and react negatively. On average, parents may react with shock and possibly denial with eventual partial or full acceptance. This is not the case for all parents, however. Some parents may never have the ability to do so. It is best to go with your gut, because you know your parents. Think about how your current relationship with your parents, is it good? Are you comfortable discussing more intimate matters with them? What are their reactions to gay people?

If you can answer these questions, you may get a better idea of how you think they will react. Though your parents’ initial reaction may be negative, in time they may come to accept you, and your relationship with them may grow even stronger than it was before.

What Can I Do to Prepare?

First, you should ask yourself: is this something you want to do? Is this your choice? Coming out to others is personal, and it is your choice to tell whomever you choose. If you have decided that you would like to share your sexuality with your parents, it is important to be prepared for any reaction, even if it is a negative one. Many parents will ask questions, and you must be prepared to answer them patiently and knowledgeably. Though the questions may seem annoying and intrusive at times, chances are your parents are asking because they care about your well-being. It is important that you stay calm (even if your parents aren’t) and answer their questions the best you can in a way that makes you comfortable.

When you decide to tell your parents, keep the timing in mind. Do not come out to your parents out of spite if you are currently upset with them. In addition, it is important to choose what you would like to say carefully, and even practice it if you would like. Make sure you choose your words carefully, and do not feel that you have to draw out the conversation. You parents may need to process what you are telling them, and it may take some time.

What Happens Afterwards?

The most important thing to remember is to be patient with your parents. Though it can be frustrating and upsetting, a majority of parents with good relationships with their children will eventually reach out and want to reconnect. Your parents may feel alone and confused at first, and joining support groups could be very helpful. There are a variety of organizations that could help you as well as your parents through the coming out process. PFLAG is a group that promotes equality and support for LGBT individuals as well as their families. The Family Equality Council also provides a website in which you can search for support groups within your community. In addition, Advocates for Youth also provides a list of helpful tips for parents that have just learned that their child is gay and are not quite sure what to do.

Above all, it is important to remember that sharing your sexuality with your parents is very admirable and courageous. Even if you do not get the result you wanted from your parents, you will be okay, and there are plenty of people that you can connect with to get the support that you need. You are not alone.

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