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Teen Health

Coming Out as a LGBT Teen

Should you come out as a LGBT teen? Whom might you tell, and how?
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Erin instinctively took a wise approach in many ways, says Colleen Logan, PhD, coordinator of Walden University's Master's degree program in marriage, couple, and family counseling. Logan specializes in gay, lesbian, and transgender issues. “Everyone’s coming-out experience is different, but there are a few common things that can make the process of coming out easier for teens.”

So if you’ve spent the past few months or years figuring out that you’re gay, bisexual, or transgender, you may want to tell someone else. You want to be true to who you are. How can you do that safely and with support?

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.

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