When Someone Comes Out

gay men embracing


Towards Understanding

If you are reading this, someone you care about may have just come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, questioning, two-spirit, intersex, asexual, pansexual, genderqueer, etc. (LGBTQ2S+), or you may be anticipating that they might. You may have suspected for years and it is no surprise. Or it might be a shock. You might be angry, worried, or grieving.  You might be relieved, hopeful and proud. A range of feelings is normal - as are questions. Consider the following as you begin your journey:

Parents don't 'make' their child LGBTQ2S+

Sexual orientation is not a choice. People do not choose to be heterosexual or straight, they just are and the same holds true with LGBTQ2S+ people. Gender identity is not a choice either - it is our authentic self. It is not something that can be changed. If you are a parent, choose to be proud that your child has figured out who they are and feels safe to share that with you. While nothing you did as a parent 'made' your child LGBTQ2S+, how you respond will have a long-lasting impact on the quality of their life and your relationship moving forward.

Having a LGBTQ2S+ child is not a reflection of your parenting skills. Having a child who feels that they can come to you and be accepted and loved when they tell you something that is not always accepted in society is a reflection of your parenting skills.

Your support can make the biggest difference

Strong support from family, friends, coworkers and community is the most significant factor in improving and sustaining a person's physical and mental health.  If you are a parent, remember your role is to nurture someone into becoming the person they are meant to be - not the person society or we as parents hope them to be.  Your love and acceptance as a family member or friend is crucial - and if you cannot accept them, you may lose them.

One member may be ahead of others in accepting someone in their family as LGBTQ2S+ - this is common and realistic as everyone has their own process. However, as quickly or slowly as each of you are coming to terms with it, present a united front to your family member.  Let them know you are behind them and will do what you need to in order to get to a place of equal support for them.  Let your family member know it will get to the point where it is okay. They know you aren't perfect and will forgive mistakes if they know you are all trying.

Words matter

Many people, even those who are well meaning and want to support their family or friend, can jump to "oh no...this is going to be hard". If possible, let that feeling ride over you and remember that this is someone you care about - and they need to hear something positive right now. Saying "I'll still love you even if you're gay" implies that this is a choice - and a negative one. Instead, say something about how positive this is:

  • I'm proud of you for being able to talk to me about this.
  • What a great thing for you and a great thing for our family.
  • It must have been hard for you to share this with me and I am proud and happy that you did.
  • This is a lot for me to take in but I know we can get through it together and I love you.

Ask questions and listen

When you hear words like 'gay' or 'transgender' for example, certain images may come to your mind. However, every person and path is different and instead of making assumptions, ask questions about how they identify, what it means to them, what they need to be themselves. They may be still deciding and sorting things out, but they will have ideas - perhaps about what makes them comfortable, how they want to look, what they want to be called, the kind of support they need. So ask questions, and listen to what they say.

Allow them to set the pace

Your loved one has probably been thinking about this for longer than you have, and have likely waited a long time before telling you about this, and may have done so now because it has become too difficult to hide who they truly are. As much as possible, let them set the pace. Discuss with this person what to share with friends and family. You may need to talk to others for support but you also need to respect this person's privacy. Ask them if it is ok to disclose, or tell others, their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Your loved one may have told you but are not ready to tell others.

Trust that this will lead to a happier and healthier life

You may not notice it right away, but as time passes, you will see your loved one become happier, more comfortable, and more at ease. Just because you now know their sexual orientation and/or gender identity - it doesn't mean they are a different person. Supported by their family and friends to explore who they are, a person has the chance to find their true gifts and develop into an authentic adult. If someone is forced to live an unnatural, unauthentic life, it destroys their sense of self and withers their spirit. Family rejection lowers self-esteem and can drive a person to self-harm, poverty, homelessness, drugs, alcohol, prostitution, and suicide.

Take care of yourself

This journey may be confusing and disorienting for you. You may be afraid for your loved one's safety, and worry about bullying and discrimination. You may be angry and confused and upset. You may feel guilty and disappointed. You may fear that you have lost your son or daughter; your brother or sister. These feelings are common.

Be patient with yourself as you move through them. Trust that how you feel today will not be how you will feel in the future. Try not to overwhelm your loved one with negative feelings as this may damage your relationship. And know that all dreams are still possible - finishing school, getting a good job, finding someone to love, having a family, being happy.

You'll find helpful information and support

There are many people and sources of information that can support you and your family in this journey. Seek out allies  and support people in your life to understand how to be an ally for your loved one and your family. 

If your loved one is a child or youth, find out what kind of support, services and education are in place at their school - do they have a non-discrimination policy? Is there a Gay-Straight Alliance support group? Get educated, read books, go to websiteslearn new language and the right terminology, connect with other parents of LGBTQ2S+ children and youth and do what is needed to be an informed, effective parent for your child.

The truth is, it is great for the person you care about that they have figured out who they are, and what they want and love. Trust that the more they live openly as themselves with your love, encouragement and acceptance, the more they will thrive.

More information on coming out

North Bay

345 Oak Street West

Parry Sound

70 Joseph Street Unit #302

Burk's Falls

17 Copeland Street (by appointment only)