Expressing who you are to the people you grew up with is no small feat. Whether you're super close with your hippie little sister or you only talk to your tech-bro brother at mandatory family gatherings, dropping, "Hi, I'm queer!" isn't always easy. So, no matter who you are or where you're at in your queer journey, consider these tips for coming out to your siblings like an old family recipe for living your truth.
"Coming out to family can be really challenging, as there is often a lot at stake," Jor-El Caraballo, co-creator of holistic wellness center Viva Wellness and a therapist specializing in LGBTQ clients, tells Elite Daily. "The risks to emotional and psychological safety are high — and in some extreme cases, even physical safety."
Of course, you and your identity are valid no matter who "knows" about it. Though you may love your siblings, opening up to them about your gender identity and sexuality isn't for everyone. If you're not ready, comfortable, or simply not interested in sharing your identity with your siblings, you never need to feel pressured.
If you're gearing up to come out to the people that you grew up with, here are seven tips.
1. Talk to supportive people.
If you're super close to your sibling(s) and you're all on the same queer-people-are-iconic page, you may be confident that they'll affirm your identity. Of course, if you have no idea how they are going to react, speaking to a friend or family member who you know will be supportive can be a good first step.
"I think it's important to start with someone who you know has been open and accepting of LGBTQ folks in the past, or someone who knows a bit about sexuality and gender identity as they're likely to be affirming of your identity," Caraballo says. "They might even be helpful to support you in coming out to other important people in your life when you're ready."
Maybe you're super tight with your cousin, but your sister doesn't really get it. Or maybe you have a bunch of siblings, and some of them are accepting, and others aren't. Whatever the case, speaking the people that you know are supportive may help you feel more secure and confident as you come out to your siblings.
2. Pump yourself up.
Coming out to your siblings can be intimidating. Though everyone is different, doing things that make you feel centered and confident before opening the conversation may help you feel confident and collected as you talk to your siblings.
"Build yourself up as much as possible before you come out to anyone," Marissa LaRocca, award-winning writer, speaker, and LGBTQ activist, tells Elite Daily. "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."
If you're feeling a little nervous or unsettled before speaking to your sibling(s), try listening to your favorite song on repeat or wearing an outfit that makes you feel amazing. Pumping yourself up and getting in the zone can help you feel composed and secure as you talk to your family.
3. Use whatever words feel good to you.
Take it from someone who thinks gender is a literal #scam: Articulating fluid identities or umbrella terms to your siblings can be hard. If you're feeling intimidated by trying to find the right words or struggling to make them understand, just use whatever feels right to you.
"This is your moment, and you choose what to say or not to say," Michael Kaye, global communications manager at OkCupid and volunteer for the Human Rights Campaign tells Elite Daily. "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."
As Kaye attests, telling your siblings how you feel may be more comfortable than trying to define or quantify what you are. Maybe you skip the, "I'm a lesbian" talk and just say, "I'm dating someone new, her name is Sara." Or maybe you drop, "I've changed my name, and I'm going by Kai now," into the mix. Regardless, you can "come out" to your sibling by using whatever words or sentiments feel right to you. Additionally, writing down some notes about what points you want to get across may help you feel more collected as you talk to your siblings.
4. They may not "get" it and that's OK.
If you need a reminder: Your queerness is not a burden, and you don't need to change or hide who you are for someone else's approval. If your siblings don't really get it, or they're not supportive, you don't need to feel bad or ashamed about being open about who you are. "Not everyone will jump for joy when you come out, and that's OK," Kaye says. "Try to be understanding of those around you."
While it's never OK for your siblings to make you feel bad or ashamed for being who you are, giving them a little time and space may help them process the best ways to support you after coming out. Kaye also shares that the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) has some amazing educational resources for straight family members, which can help your siblings better understand what you're trying to communicate.
5. They may tell your parents or other family members.
Let's get one thing straight: Telling someone else about a person's gender and/or sexual identity without their consent is called "outing" and is never OK. Your identity is yours, and you get to decide who knows what and when. Outing is incredibly painful and totally unacceptable. However, Caraballo shares that your siblings may feel pressured to tell your parents or other family members.
"While you might expect outright secrecy from your siblings, just know that it's possible that the truth may come out either through a slip of the tongue or if parents or other adults seek out a sibling for information," Caraballo says. "That's an incredibly hard position for them to be in, so it's important to take that into consideration throughout your coming out process."
6. You may want to think about your living situation.
As Caraballo shares, while outing someone is not OK, news about a family member coming out can sometimes spread. While expressing who you are can be amazing (go you!), it may be helpful to consider your living situation (i.e., how to ensure your safety) before coming out to your siblings.
"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," Kaye says. "The 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."
If you're worried about coming out or afraid of how your sibling or family will react, queer rights organizations like The HRC or The Trevor Project are here to help. "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.
7. Above all: You get to call the shots.
Whether you tell your sister via text or let your brother know over dinner, it's your story, and you get to call the shots. Like choosing toppings at a fro-yo place, coming out to your siblings is whatever you want it to be: Big or small, detailed or concise, sentimental or cavalier, or some mixture.
"Coming out doesn't have to be one large moment, you can do it on your own schedule," Kaye says. "You have the freedom to choose when and where you tell your siblings, but you don't have to figure it all out by yourself."
Maybe you want to tell your older brother, but you're not ready to tell your younger brother. Or maybe your sibling is also queer and while you love them deeply, you want to affirm that this is your moment. Whether you say, "I am telling you this in confidence, you cannot tell Kyle," or start the conversation with, "Love you the most, but this is about me and my journey," when it comes to coming out, you get to do what's right for you.
"Your identity is valid if you create a billboard in Times Square that says, 'I'm gay' with your picture on it. And your identity is also valid if you never tell a single soul how you identify," LaRocca says.
No matter who you are, coming out to your siblings can be a huge flipping deal. Though it's unacceptable for them to share your identity with anyone else in your family, it may be crucial to consider your specific living dynamic. You are a flawless angel. You deserve to be every version of yourself in every space you enter, but prioritizing your safety and well-being is the most important thing. If you're ready to open up to your family, remember that it can be as big or as small as you want it to be. You may not be able to choose your literal siblings, but you sure as heck can choose if, how, and when you come out to them.
For more stories like this one, visit Elite Daily's Coming Out page.