How to Come Out to Your Parents

Four Parts:Creating a Plan to Come Out to Your ParentsChoosing What to Say to Your ParentsComing Out to Your ParentsContinuing Support After Coming Out

Coming out to your parents seems intimidating and daunting for many gay men, lesbian women, and bisexual or transgender individuals. For many people, your parents have spent more time around you than any other person, and coming out may shatter their perception of you. However, it is also important to be true to yourself and honest with your parents. Creating a plan to come out to them will make the process easier to handle.[1]

Part 1
Creating a Plan to Come Out to Your Parents

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    Consider how receptive you think your parents will be to the news. If you think that your parents might already suspect your sexual orientation and that they will likely be supportive, then move forward with making a plan. If you think this will be a complete shock to your parents, then consider how they might react.
    • If you think your parents might react negatively, you should wait to tell them. Consider questions such as whether your parents make homophobic comments, whether you would be crushed if they reacted negatively, or whether you are financially dependent upon them. If any of these thoughts leads to a "yes," then it is probably better to wait until you are independently living and supporting yourself or until you feel more prepared with a stronger support system.[2]
    • Listen to your instinct when deciding whether to tell them. There is a difference between feeling nervous to tell supportive parents and feeling afraid to tell reactionary parents.
    • Remember that your parents think they know everything about you because they raised you. If they are unsuspecting, then take this into account as you consider how to tell them.
    • Drop hints if you want to get a better sense of how they might respond.
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    Decide how you want to tell them. There are different ways that you can go about doing this, such as a face-to-face conversation or with a letter.
    • Consider your family dynamic as you contemplate how to tell them, and consider how you feel most comfortable communicating. Explaining everything in a letter might feel easier for you and might give them more time to digest the news. On the contrary, perhaps your family likes to talk things through, or perhaps you express yourself better verbally.
    • Stick to your decision once you make it. This will prevent you from delaying telling them or being disorganized when you do so.
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    Gather the support you need to go through with telling them. Once you have decided how you will tell them, the next step is to build a support system of people who will always be there for you.
    • If you have relatives, friends, teachers, or counselors who already know that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, establish a support system with them. Make sure that they are okay with you coming to them for advice and in the event that coming out to your parents goes negatively.[3]
    • Ask the parents of other gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender individuals to act as a support system for your parents. Being able to send your parents to another set of parents who have gone through the same experience can help them accept your sexuality. Have another set of parents prepared to meet with your parents prior to coming out.[4]
    • Make sure that you are mentally prepared to have this conversation and that you are open to answering your parents' questions. Also consider being open to going to therapy, if they suggest it, because it will likely confirm for them that you are, in fact, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.[5]
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    Find books, pamphlets, or websites about the LGBT community to provide to your parents. Giving them information to help them better understand your perspective will help them through the stages of loss.[6]
    • Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG)
    • Advocates for Youth
    • Trans-Youth Family Allies
    • National Resource Center on LGBT Aging
    • Movement Advancement Project
    • The National LGBT Health Education Center
    • American Psychological Association
    • Center Link: The Community of LGBT Centers
    • Books recommended by the Gay-Straight Alliance Network[7]
    • Living Out: Gay and Lesbian Autobiographies[8]
    • Books recommended by UWSP[9]
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    Research questions you anticipate that they might ask. Being well-informed while having this conversation with them will further assure them that you are serious about this and that it is not just a "phase" or something that can be "cured."[10] Be prepared with answers to any of the following questions or comments:[11]
    • "Are you sure?"
    • "Why are you gay?"
    • "I heard that all gay people have HIV/AIDS."
    • "Isn't being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender unnatural?"
    • "Why did you wait so long to tell me?
    • "Will you be able to get a job?"
    • "How will you have a family?"
    • "My religion says that homosexuality is wrong."
    • "What are the statistics of a gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender person being physically attacked?"
    • "Will you be able to lead a happy life?"
    • "Will you be different now?"
    • "Will you flaunt your sexuality? That will make me uncomfortable."
    • "How can I support you?"
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    Have a back-up plan if the conversation goes badly and you live with your parents. For example, if your parents cut you off financially or ask you to leave the house, you need to have somewhere to go and someone to help support you through this time.[12]
    • Reach out to a friend, relative, teacher, or counselor to whom you have already come out. Ask them if you can stay with them, or if they can help you find somewhere safe to stay, in the event that your parents kick you out of their house. This is also a good place to go in the event that you do have your own housing but need someone to talk to and to support you after a negative experience coming out to your parents.
    • Take time to save some money so that you have a means for supporting yourself. This could mean getting a part-time job, if you are of legal working age, or savings another means of income.
    • If you do not have your own transportation, figure out a means for how you will get around to where you need to go. This could involve getting rides from the person or family with whom you are staying, getting rides from another friend or supportive person, or using the public transportation system in your city.
    • Figure out a way to thank the person or family with whom you would stay during this time. This could look like paying them "rent," if you are able, or helping to pick up some chores and errands to make things easier for them.
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    Have a back-up plan if the conversation goes badly and you are independent of your parents. You will still need support in the event that the conversation does not go well.
    • Reach out to friends, relatives, or counselors to whom you have already come out and who support you. Make arrangements to meet with one of them at their home or in a place that you enjoy in the event that the conversation with your parents goes poorly.
    • If you live independently from your parents but they still financially support you, and you think there is a chance that they may cut you off financially, get a part-time or full-time job so that you can support yourself.
    • Think about how you will give your parents time and space. You might want to try occasionally reaching out to them via phone, email, or in-person, or you may want to wait for them to reach out to you. Go with what feels best for your family dynamic.
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    Choose an appropriate time and place to come out. There is often never a "right time" to do things like this, but you do need to put thought into when you will tell them.
    • Avoid coming out during an argument, a large family gathering, a celebration, or a family crisis. This could cause your parents to think that you are coming out because of anger or because you want to show up another person.[13]
    • Find or create a time when it will be only you and your parents. Then, there will be no other distractions or interruptions.
    • Be sure to come out at home rather than in a public place. Your parents might react badly, which would cause a scene in a public place. They could also think you are joking, or they might think you are trying to embarrass them.

Part 2
Choosing What to Say to Your Parents

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    Think about how you want to start the conversation.[14] This will likely be the hardest part, because taking the first step always feels the most challenging.
    • “I have something that I need to tell you, because I've felt like I needed to keep it a secret for a long time. I feel ready to talk to you about it now.”
    • “I've had something on my mind for a long time now that I find hard to talk about.”
    • “I need to talk to you about something that's important to me. It's important to me that I'm honest with you.”
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    Come out to your parents by explaining your sexual orientation. There is no right or wrong way to say it, so choose what feels comfortable for you.[15]
    • "I'm gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender. I've known this about myself for a long time."
    • "I think I might be gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender. I feel attracted to people of the same sex, and I'm not sure what to think about that." OR "I feel like I was born in the wrong body. I think I might feel more comfortable as a boy/girl, doing the types of things that boys/girls do.”
    • “Ever since I was ___ years old, I've known that I'm gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender.”
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    Explain your perspective in the moment to help your parents understand. The more you can do to help them understand you, the better.
    • “This feels natural for me, just like it feels natural to you to be heterosexual. I'm not choosing to be this way; I just am.”
    • “I'm still the same person I was before. I'm choosing to outwardly identify now as gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender, because I've inwardly identified that way for so long.”
    • “I'm attracted to both boys and girls. I'm coming out to you because I feel like I'm punishing myself when I push those feelings down, and I want to be honest about who I am.”
    • “I want to do the types of activities that boys/girls do. They interest me more and feel more natural to me, but it seems unnatural do them right now because I'm a boy/girl.”
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    Explain to your parents why you have not come out to them before now.[16] This will be a big assistance in helping them to understand you.
    • “I was afraid that you would reject me.”
    • “Our society is so homophobic, and I was afraid of how others might view me.”
    • “I was afraid that it would ruin our relationship, and I value our relationship very much.”
    • “Our religion teaches that being gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender is a sin, and I didn't know how to come to terms with that.”
    • “I felt like I had to keep it a secret because society tells us that this is wrong.”
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    Share with your parents what they can do to support you. You will still have others to come out to in your life, and their support will help you do that.
    • “I would like it if you took the time to learn more about what it means to be gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender.”
    • “I would love it if you would allow me to tell you more about my friends and how important they are to me. When you feel ready, it would be great if you would meet them.”
    • “I got this book for you to read so that you can learn more. It should answer any questions you have, so I hope that you will read it.”
    • “I came up with this list of websites that you can browse to get more information. It would mean a lot to me if you took the time to do that.”
    • “There is a support group for LGBT individuals and their families. I have the information about when it meets, so we can go when you feel ready.”
    • “I need you to tell me what I can do to support you, because I want to do that for you, too.”
    • “I need you to stand up for me and for the LGBT community when you hear us being attacked. Our community becomes stronger when we have allies.”

Part 3
Coming Out to Your Parents

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    Come out to your parents according to the plan that you created. Use your plan as your guide to have the conversation or to give them the letter.
    • Be prepared to answer their questions.
    • Have the book, pamphlet, and other resources you found with you to give to them so that they can learn more.
    • Remember your back-up plan if the experience does not go well.
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    Be clear in your decision to tell them and in your self-awareness that you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Having a firm stance in this self-awareness will lessen confusion for your parents.
    • Show your parents that you are certain about your sexuality and that you have sound judgment by remaining firm in your stance.[17]
    • Share with them why you are coming out to them, which should be that you want to be honest with them and further build your relationship with them.[18]
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    Understand that parents will go through a similar series of stages as if they have just suffered a loss. This will be their path to acceptance, but remember that some parents might skip some stages, and some parents may never reach true acceptance.[19] This could be a particularly challenging time as they work through the first few stages.
    • Shock
    • Denial
    • Guilt
    • Expression of feelings
    • Personal decision-making
    • True acceptance
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    Remain calm as you talk with them. This shows your parents your maturity, and it shows them that you are taking this conversation seriously.
    • Remember to avoid getting angry and turning the conversation into an argument.
    • Take time to teach them. For a while, your role may be reversed with your parents as they work through understanding your sexuality. You may find yourself having to teach them and guide them through accepting this.[20]
    • Answer all questions they have to the best of your ability, and when you cannot answer a question, direct them to a resource where they can find an answer.
    • Avoid getting annoyed, frustrated, or exasperated in the event that they seem slow to understand what is going on. They will need time to adjust.[21]
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    Reassure your parents that you love them and that you are doing this for the betterment of your relationship with them.[22] This reassurance will go a long way in maintaining a strong relationship with your parents.
    • It is also helpful to reassure your parents that you love and accept yourself. They will want to know that you are happy.[23]
    • Remind your parents that you are healthy.[24] They may find themselves coming to acceptance more quickly when comforted with this thought.
    • Be their support system during this time. The ultimate act of showing them that you love them and want to help them through this period of understanding is to support them. Do whatever you can to help them learn and understand why you came out and more about the LGBT community.

Part 4
Continuing Support After Coming Out

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    Remember that this will take them time. Life will not simply go back to "normal" immediately after the conversation.[25]
    • Remind yourself of the stages above that parents will go through as they work through accepting your coming out.
    • Consider the emotions that parents will likely experience while they process your coming out: guilt, self-blame, fear, confusion, doubt, denial.[26] Your parents will very likely blame themselves and think that they have done something wrong in raising you. This will be a challenging time for them.
    • One of your parents may make their way to true acceptance more quickly than the other. Although you think of your parents as a single unit, remember that they are individual people who process things in different ways and have different personalities.[27]
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    Accept your parents' emotions. While your parents work through your coming out, it is important that you accept whatever emotions they feel and project.
    • Be strong even if your parents project anger, hurt, or sadness. In time, they will stop feeling controlled by their emotions and will begin to think about your coming out more rationally.[28]
    • Avoid projecting negative emotions back on your parents. Just like you should avoid anger when coming out to them, you should avoid projecting negative emotions back on your parents while they come to grips with this. Becoming angry or spiteful with them will slow down their process of accepting.
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    Encourage your parents to "come out" to others. Part of their acceptance process could include sharing this news with other relatives or close family friends.[29]
    • Refer your parents to the other set of parents who have already gone through accepting their child's coming out for support.
    • Encourage them to seek out support networks like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).[30]
    • Have a mutual relative who supports you who can be a point of contact for both you and your parents. It will help your parents to have someone close and trusted to talk to about your coming out.[31]
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    Learn to accept how far your parents go on the path to true acceptance. Not all parents will be able to truly accept that their son or daughter is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and you will need to learn how to respect that and learn how to interact with your parent(s) in that scenario.[32]
    • If your parents are willing to learn more, take time to introduce them to your friends who are also gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. This might help them confront stereotypes they hold.
    • If your parents do not want to talk about the matter, then take care in how you approach your sexual orientation with them. They may still need time to accept, so do not force the issue on them repeatedly.
    • If one or both of your parents is unwilling to accept it, reach out to your support system for help on how to handle that. Your parent(s) may come around in time with continued support and positivity.[33]


  • There is no particular right or wrong way to come out to your parents. Do what feels most comfortable for you and your family.[34]
  • Be prepared for adverse reactions.
  • Have confidence in yourself that you can do this and that you will get through it.
  • Always have an external support system for yourself, a person or a group of people to whom you can turn for advice and comfort.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Telling Parents Important Things | Coming Out as LGBT