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Tips for Coming Out to Family and Friends


The decision to come out is a very personal one. With the 2011 repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, lesbian and gay service members may be thinking about coming out to friends or family. If you have decided that you want to talk to friends and family about your sexual orientation, the following tips can help you begin the conversation:

  • Don't let anyone pressure you into coming out. Coming out to your family and friends can be more complicated than some realize. Remember that it's your decision to make, if and when you are ready.
  • Be prepared. Consider different possible case scenarios before you decide to talk with your family or friends. Think about your ability to handle their reaction, whatever it may be.
  • Pick a private place and keep your conversation confidential. If possible, you may want to talk with your family in person. If you cannot speak with them in person, be sure your family members or friends are in a private place where they can speak freely.
  • Have a support system in place. If you're not sure how your family or friends will react, be sure that you've got someone to talk with if things do not go as well as you hope. If the situation goes better than anticipated, the support of your friend would not have been wasted.
  • Plan what you will say. It may help to rehearse what you will say ahead of time. This way, you'll have a better chance of sharing everything you want to say in a sincere way without getting side-tracked.
  • Give them time. If your friends or relatives don't have the reaction you had hoped for, give them time to let the information sink in. They will need to come to terms with this new reality. The initial and subsequent conversations may take place over several weeks or months as they become more comfortable talking with you.
  • Don't presume to know how someone else will react. The social norms you're familiar with may not be the same for your parents, your grandparents or other family members. Be prepared for their reactions and don't dismiss their feelings or concerns as irrelevant.
  • Remind your family or friends that you are still the same person. Your sexual orientation doesn't change who you are or the fact that you love them.
  • Explain why you have decided to come out now. You may want to tell them that you love them and value your relationship with them too much to be dishonest or not open about your feelings.
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Your family or friends may have questions that will be difficult to answer. Prepare yourself ahead of time by anticipating what they might ask.
  • Balance information sharing with privacy needs. Don't feel obligated to answer any and all questions. Let family and friends know that you are uncomfortable if their questioning becomes overly-intrusive or too personal.
  • Use social support networks. Find information and support through local support groups and online communities.
  • Seek professional support. Contact the installation Family Advocacy Program or Military OneSource (800-342-9647) for information and supportive services.

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