For many people, coming out of the closet to their family can be hard. Unfortunately, many parents assume their children are straight and cisgender (not trans). Some parents have trouble accepting kids who aren’t straight or cis, or understanding what that can mean for their kid. For some, coming out goes very smoothly. Folks can be surprised by how accepting their parents are.
On the other hand, hearing that your family doesn’t accept you can be a hard situation. But, many people have gotten through it to have happy lives! In this time, you may form stronger bonds with old or new friends. You will know they are there for support, and you may find out they’ve gone through similar things. You might also meet new people who have been through the same thing.
A lot of the time, families also adjust days or weeks after someone comes out of the closet. With time, they could be your strongest supporters.
How do I know how my parents might feel?
Coming out can be scary, and this can lead people to worry about the worst. Sometimes, coming out doesn’t go well, but it often does.
You can figure out how your parents might react by noticing how they talk about LGBTQIA+ people they know, or people on TV or the news. You can also bring up things like gay, asexual, or trans rights and ask them what they think. While it can be different when it comes to their child, noticing how they feel about these issues can let you know how they might react.
What if my family is homophobic or transphobic?
If your parents have made it clear that they would not accept you for being queer, asexual, or trans, there are a lot of things to think about for your safety before coming out of the closet. Coming out can mean your parents will cry, be angry, or say hurtful things.
If you’re sure your parents won’t accept an LGBTQIA+ child, you can prepare for a bad reaction. Keep in mind that this is only their first reaction. It doesn’t mean you’ve done anything wrong by being who you are. In many cases, people who react badly just need time to adjust.
If you depend on your parents for food, housing, money, or education, it is absolutely okay to keep your sexuality or gender from them. Losing these would add to the problems you are already facing. Many people wait until they can move out before coming out, and this could make your life safer or easier.
How can I be safer when I’m coming out?
If you choose to come out and you’re worried your family might say hurtful things or be violent, you can prepare for the worst. This way, you can be safe either way. You can…
- Ask someone to call you partway through, to see if you’re ok and give you an excuse to leave or take a break if you need to.
- Have a plan to leave if you need to. This can mean having a bike or car nearby, having money for a cab or metro trip, or asking a friend to be ready to pick you up.
- Find a place to stay in case you’re not comfortable staying there. You can talk to friends or other family, or find an LGBTQIA+-friendly shelter near you. You can even leave a bag there with everything you need.
- Have a helpline like Gai Ecoute or Tel-Jeunes in your phone, or ask a friend if they can talk after. Coming out can be intense, and knowing that you’ll have someone to talk to after can help.
Everyone’s coming out is different
There can be a lot of pressure to come out once you know you’re queer, asexual, or trans. Know that coming out is a very personal process. Only you know the best time and place to do it.
Coming out also doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a process of coming to terms with your identity and explaining it to others. Every coming out experience is different, and has personal challenges and risks.
Coming out can be easier if you’re ready to listen to what your parents have to say, while you stay confident in who you are. No one can force you to pretend to be something you’re not, and your identity is something that belongs only to you. Even if your parents react badly, it doesn’t make it bad or wrong to be LGBTQIA or any other letter.
Check out the resources below for community organizations who can help you.
Interligne (Previously called Gai Écoute)
A bilingual listening line for LGBTQ people in Canada, offering a phone line, texting, online chat, and email 24/7.
LGBTQ Info Booth
LGBT Info from the Kid’s Help Phone
Offers various services (listening line, counseling, drop-in, advocacy, and workshops) to help maintain the personal, social and sexual well-being of LGBTQ people.
Coming out to your parents
A resource on coming out as gay, bi, transgender or queer to your parents.
LGBTQ Youth Centre
A safe and welcoming environment where lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people can meet up, get to know each other, and generally understand themselves better as queer-identified people.
Coming Out – Scarleteen
This article talks about a few dos and don’ts for coming out to friends, family, other LGBTQ+ people, or just about anyone.
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) offers information and support for the family and friends of LGBTQ people.