Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people find it important to disclose their sexual orientation to those close to them. Known as coming out, this is often a very positive experience but it can also be challenging.
When the time feels right, choose one person to come out to first – someone you trust and think will be supportive. This will make it easier to tell other people later.
If you’re questioning your sexual orientation, one of the best things you can do is work out your feelings for yourself. It’s important to remember that sexual and romantic orientation is a spectrum – your preferences may not align with the traditional definitions, but that’s okay.
Perhaps you’re attracted to women more than men and have a deep fascination with their sex. Or maybe you’ve dated both women and men, but find that when it comes to intimate sex with other people, you feel most excited by female bodies. Maybe you notice that your sexual fantasies tend to revolve around women, or that you’re drawn to a group of lesbian friends.
You might have watched TikTok lesbian content or binged every episode of The L Word, read articles and memoirs by queer people, or started following lesbian couples on Instagram. You may even have the urge to try lesbian sex. It’s not that you’re a lesbian just because of these things, but it could be an indication that you are.
Once you’ve worked out your feelings, it’s time to decide if you’re ready to come out as lesbian. It’s not necessary to tell anyone immediately, but it’s a good idea to have a support network in place. You can call a support line, talk to a friend, or speak with your GP for emotional and practical help.
Know Your Support Network
Many people come out to their family and friends at different times and in different ways. It’s important to take time to consider how people might react and to choose those you feel are the most supportive. It’s often easier to tell close friends at first, and to build up trust before telling parents/guardians. You may need to talk to a counselor or other support service before you decide who to tell.
Many LGBT youths experience prejudice and discrimination, based on the presumption that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Heterosexual people can help reduce this by considering their own response to anti-gay prejudice and by encouraging schools and work places to adopt nondiscrimination policies that include sexual orientation.
You can find lots of resources and information to help you prepare for coming out as a lesbian on the Stonewall Ireland website. There are also a range of online counselling and peer-to-peer support services that can be accessed via the LiveChat facility on their website.
Most people are aware of their sexual orientation by middle childhood or early adolescence, though some people take longer to work out who they are attracted to. It’s not uncommon for sexual orientation to change throughout life, and it’s perfectly normal to be unsure of your identity at some point. If you are unsure of your sexual orientation, remember that there is no right or wrong way to be.
Know the Law
Some young people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual experience prejudice and discrimination at school. This can happen because some schools have a negative cultural climate that allows homophobic and transphobic language to be used. Supportive families, friends and schools can help prevent this from happening.
It is important to remember that sexual orientation and gender identity are personal matters. The law protects your right to keep these private, and you can legally protect yourself by not disclosing your sexual orientation or gender identity to anyone without their consent unless it is necessary for them to know in order to prevent harm to you or others.
You can find out more about your rights and how to protect yourself by visiting the LGBT Ireland website and downloading the relevant document.
Many young people are unsure whether they have a lesbian, gay or bisexual orientation or gender identity and may not be ready to disclose it to family, friends or colleagues. The phrase “coming out” describes a person’s journey through the discovery, self-acceptance and disclosure of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. This can be a long process and can involve several stages. The final stage involves telling others and can be a very challenging time for some. For some it is the most important step, as it can lead to acceptance and freedom from prejudice and discrimination.
Know Your Rights
People explore their same-sex attraction and identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual at different times in their lives. The core attractions that form a person’s sexual orientation usually emerge during childhood or early adolescence. People can be celibate or have never had sex and still know their sexual orientation.
Some people begin to realize their sexual orientation during the process of coming out, which is the process of revealing and accepting one’s sexual orientation to family, friends and acquaintances. This is a difficult but healthy step that can lead to greater psychological well-being and a sense of community.
Many people who are LGBT have concerns about how their families and other people will react when they come out as lesbian, gay or bisexual. They also worry about the effects of prejudice, discrimination and antigay attitudes on their personal life, relationships and work life.
Everyone’s experiences are different, and the decision to come out is a very personal one. Some people choose to tell only close friends and others choose to wait until they are in a stable, supportive relationship. The most important thing is to make a decision that is right for you.