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Coming Out as a LGBT Teen

Should you come out as a LGBT teen? Whom might you tell, and how?

Get Comfortable with Yourself First.

“You need to be firm in your own identity and work through some of the issues you might have with your sexuality first,” says Regina Hund, PhD, a clinical psychologist at the Pace University Counseling Center in New York. “It’ll be easier to allow other people to go through their process of understanding if you are comfortable with yourself first. You’ll be less vulnerable to rejection.”

Find a Safe Person.

“We want you to have a success early on,” Logan says. With “That’s so gay,” and “That’s so queer” as common expletives, you’re probably hearing lots of negative messages, no matter how accepting a community you live in. “So if the first time you come out can be a successful, welcoming experience, that’s huge, Logan says.

Like Erin Oliveri, many teens come out first to someone they already know is gay, Logan says. “Think about who’s safe. A school counselor? A trusted friend? A cool aunt or cousin?”

Take Your Time.

Don’t feel forced or pressured. Erin Oliveri waited about two years from the time she told a gay friend until she finally came out to her parents. “Your sexuality isn’t a choice, but the when, how, and who of coming out is,” Logan says.

And if you don’t feel safe, sometimes it’s best to wait to come out either at home or at school, or both, says Kathy Belge, former director of the Sexual Minority Youth Resource Center, Oregon's largest program for LGBT teens and the author of Queer: the Ultimate LGBT Guide for Teens. “You may want to hold off until you are out of the house and not financially dependent on your parents," or if your school is not supportive, Belge says.

Choose Your Moment.

You may be tempted to respond angrily to someone’s anti-gay slur with “Oh yeah? Well, I’m gay, so shut up!” But that’s not likely to get a good reaction. 

Pick your time and place carefully. “I don’t recommend giving a monumental dissertation at a holiday dinner. It tends not to go well,” Logan says. “Instead, try for a relaxed afternoon that doesn’t have a holiday or a big event tied to it.” 

She suggests writing down what you’re going to say first, and role-playing with someone else who already knows.

Choose Your Person.

Logan says that most LGBT teens choose to come out first to their mom, but her research shows that coming out to the opposite-gender parent is often most successful. “Boys coming out to their moms tend to get a better reaction than boys coming out to dads, and girls coming out tend to be more successful with their dads,” she says. “It may be because the same gender feels like you’re rejecting their parenting.”

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