Coming Out Handbook | Coming Out | Homosexuality

Coming Out

How do I know if I’m a lesbian/bisexual or not? Lesbians are women who are attracted to other women. This can be a physical attraction, emotional attraction or sexual attraction. If you’re a woman attracted to women, you might be a lesbian. Or you might be bisexual or you might simply be a straight woman who is attracted to a friend. It may take you some time to determine which one you are. Some women claim to have known from a very early age that they were lesbian, or at least knew that there was something ―different‖ about themselves. Others don’t come out until their forties, fifties and even later, after having spent years in a heterosexual marriage. Whatever your situation, what is most important is that you’re taking the time now to try and figure it out and get to know yourself better. A study of human sexuality in the 1950s determined that most people have some degree of attraction to both sexes. The generally accepted figure is that ten percent of the population is gay,lesbian or bisexual. Is lesbianism normal? Lesbianism is normal for lesbians. You cannot determine who you are attracted to any more than you can determine the color of your eyes. In the 1970s, the American Psychological Association and the American Psychiatric Association revised their positions on homosexuality. Both determined that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. In 1994, the American Medical Association released a statement saying, ―Most of the emotional disturbance experienced by gay men and lesbians around their sexual identity is not based on physiological causes but rather is due more to a sense of alienation in an unaccepting environment.‖ Nonetheless, some people might try to tell you that you are sick and that you need professional help to ―change.‖ No scientifically valid evidence exists that shows that people can change their sexual orientation, although some people do repress it. The most reputable medical and psychotherapeutic groups say you should not try to change your sexual orientation- psychologists who offer such services will be struck off from their professional register COMING OUT TO OTHERS Some people come out when someone asks them if they’re gay, lesbian or bisexual. Others make a point of pulling people aside and saying, ―There’s something I have to tell you.‖ If you choose the latter option, ask yourself: “Who is the most open-minded and caring person I know who is also the least likely to be shocked, threatened or put off?‖ This might be a friend, a relative or a teacher. Tell that person that you’d like to talk to them about your sexual orientation or that you’re trying to be more honest and you’d like to talk. Say you’ve come to them because you trust them.

You can sometimes get a sense of how accepting your friends and family are by the things they say, or don’t say, when LGBT issues come up. You might try to bring it up yourself by talking about such issues in the news, in films, on radio or television shows, or in debates over equal rights. If the reactions from your friends or members of your family are positive, the chances are that they’ll be more accepting of you. But keep in mind that it’s easier for most people to accept LGBT people in the abstract. It’s a bit different when it’s ―my son‖ or ―my daughter‖ or even ―my best friend.” COMING OUT TO YOUR CHILDREN. Children always want to know the truth about their parents’ sexual orientation and may already know before being told. But children are not always happy about the news. It’s a tremendous change to have a parent come out —particularly if it accompanies a divorce. Emotions such as anger, sadness and confusion may emerge. Most of all, children have lots of questions. You (and, potentially, your partner) need to make a judgment about whether and when to tell your children. Here are some helpful hints: • Tell your children in a private space where the conversation will be entirely confidential. • Allow for plenty of time to continue the conversation over the next few days and weeks —and years. • Explain your sexuality shift in an age-appropriate way. • Reassure your children that you love them and that they are your top priority. • Connect them with other children of LGBT parents (LINC has a parent group). Let them know that they are part of a caring community. Coming out to yourself, your friends and families is a huge part of the journey toward being honest about your sexual orientation. But coming out is more than just telling those close to you. It is a challenging process that continues throughout your life and across all of its facets, as the following sections indicate. Many opportunities will arise where you will need to choose whether to come out as a lesbian or bisexual person. Almost daily, you will face having to make decisions about when and where to come out. Take as much time as you need — this is your journey. And be sure to find help via local support groups or online contacts. Finally, a brief summary of tips and ways to keep yourself as safe as possible when you decide to come out…

knowing and accepting yourself. A good way to start this process – if you haven’t already – is to talk to people who’ve already been through this process, who can talk to you, suggest books to read etc.

people around who care about you and will be there for you, whether it's just to talk or to give you a hug when you need one - or to give you a place to stay, if you need that. If you don't feel that you already have people like that, then it is a really good idea to get to know other lgbt people and form a network of

friends who have the knowledge and resources to offer you some support, before you come out to those who may possibly give you a hard time. people you tell first should be the ones you trust the most. You need to be able to trust them not to hurt you, to accept you for who you are, and to respect your privacy and not tell anyone you don't want told. Think about what you could lose by telling a particular person. If it's a parent, might they kick you out of the house? Cut you off from your friends? Think also about what you could lose by not telling a particular person. Is your relationship with your parents or your friends strained because you're keeping a secret from them? Would you be closer with them, and be able to get more support from them, if they understood why you were acting withdrawn? Think about what kinds of things you've been able to share with them in the past and how they reacted. If there's someone to whom you want to come out, and you aren't sure how they'll react, try to feel them out first. We can help you with suggestions on how to do this.

relationship with their parents was much closer after they came out because it was more honest. They say it was a relief to feel like they weren't keeping a secret any more. But it doesn't always work that way. Some young people who come out to their parents are forced to leave home. Some parents become abusive. Before you come out to your parents, there are some things for you to consider. Think about your parents' general reaction to gay and Lesbian/bisexual people. Find out as much as you can, by observing your parents or asking indirect questions. Think about your relationship with your parents. Have they shown that they love you even when they're upset with you? Have they stuck by you even when you've done something they didn't like? Be prepared. If you had to leave home, do you have a place to stay? If your parents cut off financial support, do you have someone else to whom you can turn until you get yourself independently established? If your answer to these questions is "no" and you are unsure about how your parents will react don't come out to your parents until you have a safe place to go to and a way to support yourself. You'll probably be better off waiting until you're on your own. You might, in extreme circumstances, decide never to tell them, because they wouldn't understand. If your answer to these questions is "yes", then it's probably safe to tell them. That said many parents may appear to be resistant to the notion of homosexuality yet when their child comes out to them change their stance – prejudice about the unknown is often far outweighed by their love for you.

if you're terrified about it, you should pay attention to that. Not all parents will be accepting. If you decide you can and want to tell your parents, think about how you can make it easiest on them - and on yourself. Try to think about how they're going to feel, and the questions they may have, so that you're ready for them.

ones time. Your parents and close friends and family need some time to accept this new way of seeing you - just as you probably needed some time yourself. Even if they don't have a negative reaction, your parents are probably going to feel worried about you - about whether this will put you in danger, about whether your life will be happy, about whether you'll have a family of your own. That can make them want to ignore or deny what you've told them. They may worry also about how they're going to tell their parents and friends. They'll be starting a coming-out process of their own. - or suggest people with whom they can talk. The more homework you've done, and the more self-assured you seem, the more you'll convince your parents that you're ready to take responsibility for yourself. Then they won't worry so much about you. Most importantly, make sure that you have other people with whom to talk, to ―debrief‖ and get support afterwards. How to access support for you and your family. In Cork we are fortunate to have the only centre which caters solely for lesbian and bisexual women. LINC operates at both local and national level and offers a listening and referral service for lesbian and bisexual women who are coming out or in crisis. We also provide a range of information on events and groups run by or through LINC. Call LINC on 0214808600 or email info@linc.ie. LINC has a website linc.ie and a FaceBook page. One of our primary functions is to provide support and information to people who are in the process of coming out. Give LINC a ring if you have ANY questions or if you would like to drop in for a cup of tea or coffee and a casual chat or make an appointment for a confidential chat with one of our staff. LINC is open to women from 11-3 from Monday to Wednesdays and from 11-8 on Thursdays. We run a wide range of activities from movie nights and book clubs to soccer and badminton. We have a vibrant youth group and have a number of groups for all ages. LINC also has an extensive library of LB factual books as well as fiction, so feel free to come in and browse.

The Lesbian Line runs on Wednesday from 7-9 021 4318318 or the LGBT helpline runs Monday to Friday 7-9 and Saturday/Sunday from 3-6.
Ber Nolan heads up parent support for those who have LGBT children (of all ages). Contact Ber on 0877902230. LINC has a wide range of services that women can be referred to from counselling to dating websites to joining groups to casual social events, contact LINC for more details. Most of all LINC is your centre and provides a space for women to meet, chill and socialise.

Stages of Coming Out Here's a handy reference that examines the common stages that a person typically goes through when coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual. It is important to realize that everyone is unique and not everyone will follow these stages exactly how they are presented here. It is perfectly normal for a person to go through these stages in a different order or to even skip entire stages. It is also very common for a person to be going through multiple stages at one time. Everyone's situation is different and, therefore, everyone's process of coming out will be equally individual. The stages listed here are offered as a guide so that you may know what to expect when coming out of the closet. The trick is to take this guide and apply it to your situation and your life. Again, everyone's coming out process will be different, and you should only do what seems best for you. STAGE ONE - IDENTITY QUESTION At the beginning of every person's coming out process is a period where that person begins to question his or hers heterosexual identity. This typically happens when a person realizes that he/she is attracted to members of the same sex. They begin to ask themselves the question, "Am I really straight?" It takes some people years to answer that question, where others take less time. Most people are shocked and scared to think that they are not be straight and, therefore, many people deny that they might be lesbian, gay or bisexual. Some people never move on from this stage and live their lives as heterosexuals. Most people keep their identity question to themselves during this stage, while some confide in close friends or other people who are out as lesbian or gay. Many look for other resources that might help them determine if they are actually homosexual or bisexual. Eventually, most people will move from this stage of identity question to a state of internal identity acceptance, which is the next stage. STAGE TWO - INTERNAL IDENTITY ACCEPTANCE AND EDUCATION At some point, anyone moving on from stage 1 will accept the fact that they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. A person in this stage stops asking the question "Am I gay?" and instead accepts the fact that they are gay. This does not mean that a person in this stage is happy or proud of being gay, only that they realize it. It is common to feel scared or nervous during this stage. Accepting your sexuality is a big step that will most likely mean many changes in your life. Feeling scared of how society, family, friends, co-workers, and members of your religious community will react to your sexuality is a natural reaction. Just remember that coming out of the closet is a process that is not always smooth, but it usually works out for the better. This stage is also typically where a person in the process of coming out will begin to educate themselves about what it means to be lesbian, gay or bisexual. There are many excellent resources on the internet and in your local bookstore that can help you learn about lesbian, gay or bisexual life. It is important to

educate yourself during this stage so that you know what to expect as you come out further. Be sure to visit the "Resources" section of this website for links to other sites and information about books.

STAGE THREE - SUPPORT Supporting friends are very importing things to have while coming out. Typically people begin to first come out to a very selective group of extremely close friends. It is important to think carefully about who would be best to come out to first. It would probably be a good idea to pick a close friend that you know will be supportive of you. If you do not feel comfortable coming out to any of your close friends at first, another good way to start out is by telling someone you know who is lesbian, gay or bisexual. Their advice and support can really be helpful down the road. In either case, it is extremely important that you build an open relationship with a few individuals. As you begin to come out further, such as to your family, and begin to develop relationships this group of supportive friends will be an invaluable asset to you. Often people first come out during a verbal fight. Coming out during high stress situations is definitely not preferable to well-planed scenarios. If you feel that you are currently in this stage, do not feel obligated to come out to everyone yet. Take your time and think before you tell. Throughout your coming out process some people will take the news well and some will take it harshly. During the first few stages of coming out harsh reactions to your news will hurt worse than if you waited until later. Again, this site is just a set of general guidelines. It is important that you listen to your intuition and only do what feels comfortable to you. Play it safe, but be sure to find support somehow. STAGE FOUR - PRIDE Once you begin to develop an open relationship with a group of supporting friends, you will feel relieved. Many people comment that they feel happier than they have ever felt once they have the freedom to talk openly about their sexuality with someone. In stage 2, identity acceptance, a person says to themselves "yes, I am a lesbian." In this stage, pride, a person says to themselves "yes, I am a lesbian, and I like it." It may seem like a small difference between the two stages, but really it is a big step. Depression, sadness, fear, etc. are common in the earlier stages, however, this is the stage where those feelings start to disappear. Being happy about who you are, sexuality included, is so important in order to lead a happy and fulfilled life. Developing a sense of pride in yourself can be so powerful and beneficial to your mental health. Once you feel a sense of pride, you will most likely be empowered to continue your coming out process. Also during the Pride stage, you will most likely be less shy about your sexuality. You will start to notice more clearly how society is programmed to assume everyone is heterosexual. You will begin to feel more comfortable talking about your sexuality and will most likely come out to more of your friends. In this

stage you will also begin to meet and become friends with other lesbians, gays and bisexuals. You will most likely begin to explore gay and lesbian culture by visiting bars, clubs and other hangouts.

STAGE FIVE - RELATIONSHIPS At some point, you will want to begin dating and forming romantic relationships. Many people, when they come out of the closet, experience a type of sexual revolution. After living in the heterosexual closet for so many years sexual tension builds up strongly. Once you feel pride in your sexuality, you may suddenly feel like letting all of those tensions loose. It is not the purpose of this website to tell you what to do with your love life, but rather to give some incite into what you might go through as you come out. However, it is important that you think clearly before acting on your sexual desires. Sexual responsibility is so important in today's world, not just for lesbians, gays and bisexuals but for everyone. Again, play it safe and trust your judgment. Whether or not you go through a sexual exploration phase, you will eventually find yourself in a more purposeful and meaningful relationship. Love between same sex partners is real and just like love between heterosexuals. Same sex couples have the desire for commitment and families, despite what you may have been taught. In today's society, however, you will run into many places where being in a same sex relationship is made difficult by a patriarchal and heterosexist society. STAGE SIX - TELLING THE FAMILY Coming out to your family may be the hardest thing for you to do in your coming out process. Your parents most likely raised you assuming that you would be heterosexual. They probably have given some thought to you getting married and having children. When parents first learn of a child's homosexuality they often feel a loss. It generally takes some time for them to realize that they haven't lost anything and having a fulfilling, committed relationship children are all still possible. If you have not yet come out to your parents, you probably feel distanced from them. A large part of your life does, or will, relate to you identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual. You most likely miss having an open relationship with your family and are tired of keeping secrets from them. If you are in a serious romantic relationship, you probably feel even more distanced from your family. Holidays and family events are probably rough because you either can not spend those events with your partner or your partner is forced to masquerade as your "roommate." Plan carefully how you are going to come out to your parents and prepare yourself any reaction they might have. All parents react differently to their child's sexuality. Some react harshly by cutting off communication and support between themselves and their children, while other parents are understanding and supportive. In most cases, parents need time to deal with the news. It may take them days, weeks or years to come to terms with your sexuality. During that time, some refuse to talk to their children, while others just want to

ignore the sexuality issue hoping that it will go away. Before you come out to your parents, carefully consider any reaction they might have. If you are financially dependant on your parents, be prepared to support yourself for a while. In any case, remember that your first priority should always be protecting yourself. Timing and the way in which you tell your parents and family are extremely important things to consider. It is a good idea not to come out when the family is gathered for a holiday or a death. Remember that you want your parents to respect you for who you are. Therefore, the way in which you come out should be respectable. E-mails, postcards, telephone calls are generally not the best way to go. Trusting your judgment is so important when coming out to your parents. You know you parents better than almost anyone. Like anything related to coming out, listen to your intuition and play it safe. It is a good idea to educate yourself about how your parents might react to your sexuality and to prepare yourself for any questions they might have. There are a number of good books related to this issue STAGE SEVEN - BALANCE The last stage of coming out that most people experience is a final state of life balance. In this stage, being lesbian, gay or bisexual becomes just another part of who you are. There will always be new people in your life that you will have to come out to, so in a since the process of coming out never really ends. However, in this final stage coming out becomes less of an issue and more of a part of life.

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