Let me tell you, coming out to my parents as "pansexual non-binary" was more confusing than trying to do my taxes for the first time (which, BTW, I gravely messed up). No matter how close you are with your folks, talking to them about your gender and sexuality can be hard. Whether you've never discussed anything in this realm or you've lightly touched on gender, these tips for coming out to your parents may help you get the LGBTQ ball rolling.
"Coming out, or 'inviting in,' looks different for everyone as we all have our unique paths to understand and to accept ourselves with relation to our gender and sexual identities," Jor-El Caraballo, co-creator of holistic wellness center Viva Wellness and a therapist specializing in LGBTQ clients tells Elite Daily. "Coming out to parents can be tough, no matter what your age is, especially if you're not sure that they'll be 100% accepting of your identity."
Whether you're not ready or just not interested in talking to your parents about your queer identity, you never need to feel any pressure.
But if you're feeling ready to express yourself to your folks, here are seven tips for coming out to your parents.
1. Think about your specific situation and make a plan.
Deciding to come out to your parents can be a big flippin' deal! Expressing who you are to the people who raised you requires bravery, strength, and some major vulnerability. Still, it can be important to think about your specific situation (i.e., where you live, how your parents may react, how to ensure your safety), before coming out to your parents.
"Before coming out, many young people need to consider their specific situation, especially those who may be thrown out of their homes or lose financial support from their parents," Michael Kaye, global communications manager at OkCupid and volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign tells Elite Daily. "The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has a ton of resources available to help you come out to your parents and other family members so that you can live openly in every part of your life."
As Kaye shares, reaching out to queer rights organizations, like The HRC or The Trevor Project, can help you feel supported and guided as you come out to your parents. "The journey to discovering your true self can feel so lonely at times, but figuring out how to come out to people doesn't have to be," Kaye says.
2. Prioritize your own safety and wellbeing.
You are amazing, and the world is better with you in it. Still, when coming out to your parents, it's imperative to prioritize your safety and wellbeing. If you're afraid that coming out to your family may not be safe for you or could jeopardize your housing or financial stability, it's important to protect yourself as you move forward.
"Coming out to family can be really challenging, as there is often a lot at stake," Caraballo says. "The risks to emotional and psychological safety are high, and in some extreme cases, even physical safety."
Though everyone is different, if you're thinking about sharing your identity with your folks, it may be helpful to make arrangements to ensure your safety. "If you suspect that things could go really negatively for you, have an 'escape plan,'" Marissa LaRocca, award-winning writer, speaker, and LGBTQ activist, tells Elite Daily. "Make arrangements in advance to stay at a trusted friend's house for a few days if needed. Prioritize your own peace, safety, and sanity. Be safe. Never, ever put yourself in harm's way."
You deserve to be loved and celebrated for who you are, and it's not OK for anyone to make you feel uncomfortable or ashamed of being you. Still, if you're thinking about coming out to your parents, having a plan that prioritizes your physical and emotional well-being is crucial.
3. Reach out to another adult that you trust first.
Expressing yourself to other adults in your family or community may help you figure out everything you want to say when you talk to your parents. If you're not sure how your parents are going to react, or you're afraid they won't respond well, Caraballo suggests reaching out to someone you know will be supportive.
"If someone who is waiting to come out has doubts about their parents' response, it's great to reach out to another affirming adult or queer-affirming licensed therapist first," Caraballo says. "They can help support you in figuring out your best next steps."
Though you may want to tell your parents right away, Kaye shares that speaking to trusted friends and family before speaking to your parents may help you figure out exactly what you want to say.
"A lot of people are scared to come out to their parents. I actually came out to a couple of friends first, and my aunt was the first family member I told," Kaye says. "I wanted to have a few conversations with people beforehand, to get me more comfortable with talking about my sexual identity with my parents."
4. Express how you feel, rather than defining what you are.
Take it from a non-binary babe: Gender and sexuality can be fluid and ever-evolving. Knowing what words and labels feel right for you can be hard enough, but trying to pin down exactly what you want to say to your parents? Now that can feel dang near impossible (spoiler: It's not, and you're flawless). Maybe you're not sure what words or labels feel right for you or you're unclear about how to articulate your identity to your parents. If that's the case, you don't need to feel any pressure to define yourself for others. As Kaye shares, expressing what you feel may be more comfortable than trying to pinpoint what exactly you are.
"This is your moment, and you choose what to say or not to say," Kaye says. "You can talk about how you feel, whether that's being attracted to someone of the same sex or identifying as a gender that's different from the one assigned to you at birth."
5. Choose a time and place that feels right for you.
You get to come out on your own terms. Whether you prefer to do it at your parents' house, in the diner down the street, or in a moving car, you get to choose the time and place to express your identity to your folks. "Coming out on your own terms is a way of establishing control and walking in one's power," Caraballo says. "Being able to be the captain of that ship is an empowering first step in a lifetime of owning who you are and walking with self-acceptance and profound confidence."
If you're a more private person or you're not sure how your parents are going to react, Kaye suggests speaking to your parents in place that makes you all feel comfortable. "When I was ready to come out, I chose to have a conversation with people in a relaxed and quiet place," Kaye says. "It lessened my nerves because we weren't in a public area, but it also showed them that this is a safe space and they could react however they want. In my experience, that resulted in more laughs than cries."
6. Give yourself time to prepare.
Though you may feel ready to tell your parents right away, you can always take time before talking to them. Coming out looks different for everyone, and claiming all the time and space you need can help you feel comfortable as you move forward. As Kaye shares, giving yourself time to prepare what you're going to say to parents and really thinking about what you want to share with them can be crucial.
You get to decide when you tell them, but you also get to decide what to share and how much you share. "One's gender identity and sexuality are really personal things, and no one should ever feel obligated to share with others anything they do not feel comfortable (or safe) sharing," LaRocca says.
7. Enter the conversation feeling centered and confident.
It's totally natural to be stressed, scared, anxious, angry, or any other feeling about taking this big step. Remember: You are not alone with any of your feelings. If you're thinking about coming out to your parents, try taking some time and space for yourself to really get in tune with your mind and body.
"Build yourself up as much as possible before you come out to anyone," LaRocca says "Listen to your favorite music, journal, make a list of all your strengths and all the things you love about yourself, and spend time with people who accept you for who you authentically are." As LaRocca shares, entering the conversation with your parents feeling confident and strong can help you stay calm and centered as you move forward.
Though everyone is different, if you're thinking about sharing your identity with your folks, it may be helpful to make a plan specific to you. It's never OK for anyone to make you feel bad or ashamed for being who you are, and prioritizing your safety and wellbeing is super important. If you're not sure what to say or you're feeling confused, taking some time and space for yourself can help you think about the best way to move forward. Whether you tell them in a car or at the diner down the street, you get to do what feels right for you.
For more stories like this one, visit Elite Daily's Coming Out page.