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Coming out is telling other people you're gay, lesbian or bisexual. Because most people you'll come across in your life will presume you're straight (so: heterosexual), you'll often have to explain you're not a hetero. Some people refer to a coming-out to the first time you a single person you talk with about your homosexual feelings. You may have to do a lot of 'coming-outs', like to your parents, to your friends, to your fellow students, to your colleagues. Of course you can chose yourself if you want to come out or not and when.
There are gays, lesbians and bisexuals in all sorts and shapes. Hetero's as well as homosexuals themselves can have a wrong idea about this. There is, for instance, the misunderstanding that all gay men are feminine and all lesbians are masculine. That's true for some individuals, but the majority of the gay population doesn't come up to this expectations (bye the way, what is masculinity or femininity? That's subjective). Most gays, lesbians and bisexuals are not recognisable as such and the gay community consists of a diversity of people with different looks, different attitudes, different ways of living, different interests, age, etcetera. Just like in the heterosexual community.
For people with homosexual feelings the way they think about the gay world can give problems with the accepting of themselves.
Start by telling someone you really trust, and who you know will be supportive
People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) may 'come out' many times throughout their lives, whenever they meet new people. But the first time you consciously tell people you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can be daunting, especially if it's close friends or family members.
Remember, you don't have to tell anyone you're gay or bi if you don't want to but you might feel better if you can be honest about who you really are.
When you're as ready as you can be, start by telling someone you really trust, and who you know will be supportive. Then you can gradually tell more people as you become more comfortable about saying it. It's a good idea to suss out people's attitudes on sexuality before you talk to them.
As with all 'announcements', the circumstances in which you choose to tell people can have a big impact so be sure to tell people somewhere where everyone (including you) is comfortable and can be talk freely.
Whatever your reasons for coming out to your parents, be prepared for a little bit of shock, maybe a bit of outrage, or any emotion you might not expect. Like it or not, this may be quite a big deal for your parents at first. But hopefully they will accept and support you. Likewise, they may know already, and be completely supportive.
Planting ideas ahead of time could help lessen the surprise factor. It might not be possible for you to do it face to face; in which case think about writing an honest letter and allowing them time to respond.
Think about whether they may already have an idea what you're about to tell them.
If you feel a bit awkward about saying "I'm gay" maybe go for, "I have a boy/girlfriend" or "I'm not really into guys/girls". They may have just been waiting for you to feel comfortable enough to tell them.
Warn a friend in advance that you're about to tell them, so you have somewhere to go if you need to give your parents (and you) a bit of space. This hopefully will not be necessary, but it's good for you to have someone to talk it over with afterwards.
Give your parents time - they may need a while to get used to the idea. And remember, their initial reaction won't necessarily be their long-term one.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to come out. Whatever the response, it's likely you'll feel better about it being in the open so that you can be yourself. There are many organisations where you can read about other people's coming out stories - have a look at the links on the right.
Unfortunately homophobia (fear or negative attitude towards gay people) is all too common, but remember you have nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to your sexuality.