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Pride: Coming Out

Ahead of the Anna Freud Centre team marching in the London Pride Parade, one of our Young Champions shares her coming out story and some tips for other LGBTQI+ people thinking about coming out. 

When I was 14, I came out to my mum.

It was her that invoked my coming out. We had been discussing gender and sexuality, and she had asked me how I identified.

Normally, I wouldn’t particularly like being forced to come out. However, I know my mum. I know her intentions. And the way she phrased it was an open invitation, not a demand.

I told her I was bisexual through humour and my favourite male and female artists, just like a true 14-year-old, slightly emo kid!

And that was that.

Coming out to my dad was harder.

It’s not that my dad doesn’t love me. Of course he does, and very much so. It’s just that he doesn’t always understand that things can take me some time.

At that age, the onset of my mental illness was well underway, including anxiety. So, having a far more formal, ‘I need to tell you something’ conversation had me pacing round the living room.

It was time for him to drop me back to mum’s before I knew it, and so I ended up finally saying what I felt I needed to, after much prompting. From what I remember, it was pretty much silent for a while, aside from a few awkward mutters.

I had told my friends before I came out to either of my parents. A few of them had already told me they were queer or gender non-conforming, meaning I had a safe space to do so that wasn’t guaranteed at home. I knew my family wouldn’t kick me out or anything drastic, but at the same time, they weren’t in the community and it was hard for me to gauge their degree of acceptance.

Two years later, at 16, I attended my first pride.

By this point I knew, with more information, that I was pansexual, not bi. So this time I decided, rather than to tell everyone all over again, I would simply attend pride with my pan flag and sign and let my family see the photos on Facebook afterwards. I didn’t mind if they asked later what it meant, I just didn’t want to have to feel that stress again.

Now 19, I have been happily ‘out’ for five years. I’ve attended four prides so far, with two more coming up this year. I feel comfortable in my identity, with the people around me, and I’m so glad I’m open about how I feel.

Top tips for coming out:

  • You don’t have to do it face-to-face. It can be side-on, or even by call or text. Whatever alleviates any nerves you may be experiencing.
  • You don’t have to tell everyone at once, or family first. Do things in the order you feel most comfortable with. 
  • You’ll probably have to keep telling people, when you meet new folks for example. This gets less scary.
  • Read up. The internet is a huge source of information about LGBTQ+ identities, and you may find that, if your current term doesn’t feel quite right, there is a better fit for you.
  • It’s okay to use generic terms, rather than immovable titles. For example, I often call myself ‘queer’ when feeling out how well people will understand ‘pansexual’. Queer, gender-queer, gender non-conforming – all are fine.
  • Your terminology and how you identity is not wrong. From pronouns to lesser-known identities, you may come across people who don’t understand. Even within the LGBTQ+ community, this can happen. But you are perfectly okay. You are yourself. Nobody else gets to tell you who you are, who you love, what your gender is, what your sexual identity is... you get that right, not them. 
  • Even if your family or friends don’t understand right away, it doesn’t mean they never will. Sometimes people need time to adapt when the people they are close to tell them something they previously didn’t know. They might think ‘How didn’t I guess? Why wasn’t I there?’ They might just think ‘I don’t know what that is!’ 
  • If people don’t accept you, there are always others who will. Find your people. If you need to, seek out groups, events, or perhaps an understanding counsellor if you feel you need it.
  • You do not have to explain if you don’t want to.

And finally...

  • Your own acceptance is the most important. You are worthy of your own love.

On My Mind is a free website co-producded by young people to help others with their mental health. It includes a Youth Wellbeing Directory, where you can find free local support, including LGBTQI+ services. Our Urgent Help page features organisations that offer help and support for young LGBTQI+ people.