If you’re part of the incredible and diverse LGBTQIA+ community, it feels amazing to be able to be your authentic self. A big part of this is having people around you who know who you are.
Talking with others about your identity can bring up all sorts of feelings. There may be relief and celebration. There can also be anxiety, stress, and fear.
Remember that you don’t have to share your identity with everyone. You might still be figuring out exactly who you are, and that’s natural.
You don’t owe anyone information about your identity. Connecting with others and finding spaces where you feel safe sharing more of yourself is crucial.
Many people who have come out recognize that coming out is never just a one-time thing. It’s a constant, ongoing process of deciding who to tell and how much.
You may wonder how to have these conversations. Here are some ideas to support you in the journey.
One thing to consider is who you want to tell. If you haven’t yet shared your LGBTQIA+ identity with anyone, think about how you might want to start.
It can be helpful if the first person you come out to is involved in many parts of your life. This person can be an important ally if you choose to tell more people.
Since the world often makes the assumption that everyone is straight and identifies as the gender they were assigned at birth, coming out is never just one moment. You may want to think about how to share these details about yourself the first few times.
Julie Mason (she/they) is a queer mental health counselor with the Guelph Family Health Team in Guelph, Ontario, Canada. “You’re allowed to set your expectations for the conversation before you make the disclosure,” they say.
“For example, you could lead into the discussion by sharing: ‘I have something I want to tell you about, and I’m looking for support and encouragement with this thing. It’s kind of vulnerable and new, so I might be sensitive about it.’ This gives your person the opportunity to prepare for the disclosure.”
Everyone has different networks of people in their life. You may have family, friends, classmates, and co-workers. There are also healthcare professionals to whom you may consider disclosing your LGBTQIA+ identity.
There are no rules about who to tell or when to talk about it.
Many people start by telling one person they feel most safe with. This person can be an important ally as you navigate whether or not to share your identity with others.
Coming out to a family member doesn’t mean that you have to be out to everyone. It can be a process, depending on what feels comfortable to you.
Research shows that coming out to supportive friends and family creates an improved sense of well-being.
If you do share your identity with a family member, be clear about how they can support you. Would it be helpful for this person to correct another family member if they don’t use your correct name and pronouns? Do you want this family ally to stand up to any homophobic or transphobic comments?
If your family includes both safe and unsafe people, it’s important to establish clear boundaries. Make sure that the people in your family who you tell are aware if other family members don’t know your identity.
Many people consider friends as a sort of chosen family. It’s a sign of deep trust to tell someone about your LGBTQIA+ identity. You can decide who, when, and if you share these details about yourself.
If you disclose to a friend, be clear about how this person can be an ally for you. It’s important to let your friend know if you’re out to anyone else. That way, you don’t accidentally get “outed” to someone who you’re not ready to tell.
Classmates and co-workers
Workplaces and schools can be very diverse spaces. If you’re still in school, find out whether there’s an LGBTQIA+ group. This can be a supportive community to connect with. These groups can help you find the language to talk with others. It also means you’ll be around people who’re less likely to make assumptions about your gender and sexuality.
Workplaces will vary when it comes to their size and culture. It will likely feel easier to share your identity in a place where others share their pronouns or where there are visible signs of support for the LGBTQIA+ community around the office.
Even so, it’s always your decision to disclose or not. If you have a few allies at work, consider whether you want to be part of making your workplace a more LGBTQIA+-friendly place.
If you’re comfortable doing so, you could wear a pronoun pin or add your pronouns to your email signature. Add a pride flag to the office lunch room. Some of these things can help establish a workplace where everyone can feel welcome to share who they are.
Deciding how and when to talk about your LGBTQIA+ identity with healthcare professionals can be complicated. For many transgender people, doctors are some of the first people they come out to as part of seeking gender-affirming healthcare, according to
On the other hand, a survey of LGBTQ adults showed that
It can be exhausting and triggering when the name and pronouns you use don’t match those of your health records. Ask your doctor’s office if they can change your name and pronouns in their database.
It’s not OK if you’re misgendered or if the doctors and office staff don’t use your correct name. You deserve affirming and safe care. If it’s an option for you, consider finding a new healthcare professional.
Ask at LGBTQIA+ community centers or events for recommendations.
The world we live in tends to make the assumption that everyone is cisgender and heterosexual. That may be far from the truth, but it can feel lonely if you’re surrounded by those ideas.
Mason likes to view a person’s disclosure about their LGBTQIA+ identity as a gift. “It’s a privilege to receive sensitive information about someone’s identity,” Mason says. “Any person you trust with this disclosure is receiving the gift of your authentic truth.”
They go on to say, “By offering this gift, you’re also offering an opportunity for them to know you in a closer way. If your chosen person’s reaction is different than what you’d hoped for, in a bad way, or even hurtful, remember that you’ve done nothing wrong and nothing to deserve being hurt.”
Connecting with other LGBTQIA+ folks helps to normalize diversity when it comes to sexual identity and gender. Mason notes that it might be helpful to first connect with others in the LGBTQIA+ community.
“Consider connecting with an LGBTQIA+ peer support organization or meeting with an LGBTQIA+ affirming counselor,” they suggest. “You can also find literature written by queer people about coming out or disclosing your identity.”
Steeping yourself in queer culture can help give you the language and confidence to share your identity with others. Remember that there’s no timeline and no rush. You can disclose when you’re ready. You also have the right to not share personal details with others.
What if the conversation doesn’t go well?
While talking with others about your LGBTQIA+ identity can be an empowering moment, we recognize that it can also be stressful and highly emotional. Some people may not respond in a supportive way.
So, it’s important to create a safety plan that puts your physical and mental health safety first. For guidelines and resources on safely navigating your coming out, check out Coming Out: A Handbook
for LGBTQ Young People from The Trevor Project.
Surround yourself with others who can remind you that being part of the LGBTQIA+ is something to celebrate.
Here are some affirming and supportive spaces to explore:
The Trevor Project
This Trevor Project offers a 24/7 counseling service either over the phone or through text or online chat. The mission of The Trevor Project is to create a safe and welcoming space for all. It’s full of information about gender and sexuality. The Trevor Project also hosts TrevorSpace, an online place to connect with other LGBTQ+ youth.
If you’re looking to meet other local LGBTQ+ folks, you can find out about local groups on CenterLink. You can enter your location and find community centers in your area. You can also check their events calendar for in-person or virtual events to learn more about LGBTQ+ identities or connect with others.
Q Chat Space
Q Chat Space is a virtual space to connect with other LGBTQ+ teens. Once you’re registered, you can attend a variety of group chats. All chat sessions are facilitated to ensure they’re structured and safe. Discussions cover a range of sexual health, gender diversity, and mental health topics.
Human Rights Campaign
This organization has been fighting for equal rights for LGBTQ+ communities since 1980. You can find out more about how they’re working toward this goal on their website. You can also get involved by attending or volunteering at local events. You can see the calendar of upcoming events on their events page.
The It Gets Better Project
If you’re having trouble and need some reassurance that you’re not alone, explore the It Gets Better Project. They have more than 60,000 videos with the purpose of empowering and connecting LGBTQ+ youth.
Deciding how and when to share your identity with others is an ongoing process. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s up to you. Your approach may be different depending on who you are with and where you are in your journey.
It’s helpful to surround yourself with allies and support people. There are many resources out there to empower you and remind you that you’re not alone. The more connected you feel with others, the better it is for your health. Being able to be yourself with the people in your life is something to celebrate.