"Coming out" is the term used by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people to describe their experience of discovery, self-acceptance, openness and honesty about their LGBT+ identity and their decision to disclose, i.e. to share this with others when and how they choose.
About Coming Out
Whoever you are or whatever your circumstances, coming out can be a challenging time. It is common for LGBT+ people to be afraid that family and friends might reject them when they find out they are LGBT+. This can put a strain on your mental health. But coming out can also be an exhilarating and rewarding experience which in itself can improve your mental health. Most people get a positive and supportive response from family and friends and feel happy that they made the decision to come out.
How people "come out"
People come out at all ages and in different ways. We can "be out" to a few people in our lives, everybody in our lives or somewhere in-between. Throughout our lives who we are out to may change depending on our circumstances. The families of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people often feel that they too must come out and this can cause stress and worry. You may feel comfortable going through this process by yourself or you may like to draw on the experiences of other people. Either way, it is a good idea to prepare before coming out to a family member, friend or colleague. You may want to consider some of the following:
Think about who you want to come out to. Why are you coming out to this particular person? It should be someone that you trust and that you have a good reason for sharing with them.
Think about the location and timing of where and when you are going to come out. Will you have a private space to talk uninterrupted? If you are fearful of a negative reaction, choose a location where you feel safe.
Time to digest – people will react in different ways to you coming out. Give them some time to take in the news and let them ask you questions or think about it for a while.
No matter the reason, harassment or abuse, whether verbal or physical, should not be tolerated. Factors like your own safety and wellbeing need to be considered. Being harassed or fearing that someone could give you a hard time can be isolating and at times terrifying. But it is very important to remember that you don't have to take it on yourself and you don’t need to deal with it on your own. Everyone have the right to feel and be safe. Nobody deserves violence or harassment; you are not responsible for other people’s attitudes.
Some suggestions for dealing with harassment:
Tell friends or someone responsible you trust
Report it to someone in authority
If you are in college or school, talk to a Welfare Officer or Teacher
Contact an LGBT+ support organisation below
Talk to a local Garda LGBT Liaison Officer - you can find out who this is, by simply asking at your local Garda station.
Supports for LGBT+ people and family
- LGBT Helpline - 1890 929 539
The LGBT Helpline is a non-judgmental and confidential service providing listening, support and information to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) people, their family and friends, and to those who are questioning if they might be LGBT+. In addition, they facilitate instant support messaging and peer support groups around the country.
- Young people
BeLonGTo Youth Services provide a wide variety of nationwide supports, groups and information for young LGBT+ people and their parents.
- Transgender support
The Transgender Equality Network Ireland provides lots of helpful information and support for transgender people. They seek to improve the conditions and advance the rights and equality of trans people and their families.
- General Information
There are very helpful libraries of information, personal stories and good advice for LGBT+ people and their families, available on Reachout.com and Spunout.ie.