10 tips for coming out

Jan 16 / Rene Luisman
Whether you are 15 or 55 years old, the moment you tell others about your sexual orientation or gender identity for the first time is a vulnerable and impactful moment for many boys and men. These ten tips will help you with this.
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Tip 1: Examine your sex, gender and sexual orientation
Many people grow up with traditional beliefs about men and women. Often influenced by the culture and religion in which you grow up. That sometimes makes it complicated to understand and accept your own sex, gender and sexual orientation. That is why it makes sense to find out your sex, gender and sexual orientation before coming out.

Below I explain the difference between gender identity, sex, sexual orientation and gender expression.
Gender identity
Biological sex
Seksual attraction
Gender expression
Your gender identity is about how you identify. Do you feel male, female or something in between? Instead of two boxes, it is a spectrum in which you can move between woman and man. For example, you may feel more like a man or a woman in a certain phase of your life. Non-binary means you don't identify with either gender.
Your biological sex is about your birth gender. Most people have biological characteristics of either a man or a woman. But about 1 in 200 people are born with both male and female physical characteristics. We then speak of an intersex person. Usually this is not visible on the outside. Think of a man who also has a uterus or a woman who also carries male chromosomes. There are currently about 48 known variations.
Expression is about what you show about yourself to others. How do you dress, do you wear make-up or not, how do you move, etc. Just like the other three categories, this is also a spectrum within which you can move.
Your sexual attraction is about who you fall in love with. This says nothing about your own gender, but it does say something about the gender(s) you like. You can also distinguish between romantic and sexual attraction. Do you like women, men, both or are you attracted to someone's character and is the gender less important to you.

Tip 2: Give yourself time to get used to it

When you discover that you like men, it is sometimes accompanied by different feelings and questions. Am I gay or bi, or is it a phase that will pass? Why is this happening to me? What if my environment finds out?

Take time for self-examination. Search (online) for information, join a local support group or talk about it with other LGBT people. And know that there is nothing wrong with you no matter what you feel. Make sure you are comfortable with your sexuality or gender identity before sharing it with others.

Tip 3: Pick your own moment 

Nobody decides if, where and when you have to come out. That is entirely up to you. There are boys who come out at the age of 11. And there are men aged 70 who, after years of being married to a woman, discover that they like moons. It is important that you are ready and that you do it your way.

Tip 4: Test the waters

You don't have to share your sexuality with the whole world right away. First, choose someone you trust. For example, a friend who talks positively about LGBT people or with whom you feel safe. And there is no such thing as the right time. Often you create this moment yourself by choosing a time and place that feels right for you. And if you share it with one person first, it usually goes easier the second time.

Tip 5: Decide for yourself how you want to share it

You might like to tell it in person. At your or the other person's house, in a neutral place, or while you are taking a walk together. Choose a place where you and the other person feel relaxed and/or safe. You may also prefer to write a letter or record a video message. How you say it is up to you, but be clear so that the other person does not have to guess what you mean.

Tip 6: You don't have to justify yourself

Your sexual orientation and gender identity is not a choice. You are therefore accountable to no one. Avoid apologizing or defending yourself. And you decide how much you share. What your sexual role or preferences are and who you share the bed with is none of your mother's business.

Tip 7: Give the other time

Don't worry if the person you're coming out to doesn't immediately respond the way you'd hoped. Perhaps the other already suspected. But it may also come unexpectedly. They may need some time to process it before giving you their support.

Tip 8: Make a back-up plan

Coming out doesn't always go exactly as expected. Hopefully your environment will respond positively and supportively. But if this is not the case, it is useful to have a backup plan. Can you stay with a friend if tension arises at home? Do you have a brother or sister who can talk to your parents to get them to reason?

Tip 9: You also lose people sometimes

Unfortunately, there are still people who have difficulty with homosexuality. Sometimes your coming out means the end of a friendship or relationship. This says more about the other than about you. Know that you will also make new friends who will accept you for who you are.

Tip 10: take care of yourself and find support

Telling that first person can sometimes be the biggest and most exciting step. A friend or family member who is there for you can make it easier. Do you have anyone in your area with whom you can share this? With our coming out mentor program you will be supported before, during or after your coming out by another bi or gay man who knows what it's like to come out.

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