"I've been so stressed out. I've had nightmares about it in the past month."

Question

I have recently come out to three of my friends as pansexual and they've been really accepting (two of them are bi), but I'm scared of coming out to my parents. They aren't homophobic, but I don't know how they would react if I came out since I think they never even considered it. I always had crushes on boys and I even had a boyfriend a while ago. Throughout the last year I've been questioning my sexuality and I stopped questioning it when I fell in love with a girl. I've always shared everything with my mum and I've been so close to telling her so many times but I just couldn't get the words out of my mouth. I mostly stopped myself by thinking "this isn't the right situation" or "I shouldn't come out to her while we are doing this". I've been so stressed out. I've had nightmares about it in the past month or so. How and when should I come out to her? I don't want her to think it's "just a phase".

Answer from counsellor

Thank you for reaching out – coming out to people (especially family) can be difficult for sure, especially if you don't know how they are going to react. It sounds like you have a few questions that you want answered before you decide to come out to your family, and I hope I can help you to work through them. :) I can’t tell you exactly what to do (because only you have the right to make decisions like that) but I can talk through some of the options you have. Is that okay? How did it feel to be able to come out to your friends, I wonder? What feelings went through your body and what thoughts when through your mind before, during and after telling them? Do you think telling your parents will bring up the same thoughts and feelings? One question that is on my mind is how your parents feel about people who identify as LGBTQ… Does your family have any friends or other family members who are out? Have you ever heard your parents talk about LGBTQ people, and if so what did they say? Sometimes it can be helpful to feel out people’s opinions on LGBTQ people before coming out to them… Asking them their opinion on LGBTQ musicians or actors, or even asking something like: “A friend came out to me as __ recently and I didn’t know what to say… What do you think I should do?” This can help you to get a bit of a feel for if the response from your parents might be safe or accepting. The most important thing to keep in mind through all of this is your safety – sometimes there is a very real risk of harm for people when they come out, so if there is any risk or any worries that it might not be taken well then I want to gently let you know it’s okay to put off coming out to someone until you feel safer. Speaking of choosing when to come out to people, what is it that has you feeling now is the time you want to come out to your parents? I’m not saying this to push you into putting it off or not coming out to them, but I wonder what you feel would be different for you now if you came out to them about your sexuality… This is one of those times I wish we were talking on the phone, so you could share more about this thought with me. In general there are a few tips I like to share with people when they are thinking of coming out: - Choose who you want to come out to. Do you want to come out to both of your parents at once? Is there one parent who you think would be more accepting who you would like to come out to first so they can support you in coming out to your other parent? - Choose where you want to be when you tell them. Would it be safer and more comfortable to tell them at home where it is private, or in public somewhere where their reaction will be impacted by the fact there are other people around? - Choose when you want to tell them. Generally it’s best to have emotional conversations when everyone is calm, possibly in that period between dinner ending and everyone going to bed. If someone has had a rough day at work or school it might not be the best day to tell them, as they might be reacting with emotions from that other event. - Choose how you want to tell them. Do you want to tell them face-to-face? Do you want to write it in a letter? Do you want to keep it short, or would you rather talk to them for a longer period of time and share more details about how you’re feeling? Do you want to bring a friend or other support with you when you tell your parents, so you don’t have to do it alone? - Think about how you want them to react, and if you want them to say or do anything differently after you tell them. If so, how could you communicate to them that you want these changes to happen? You might also find some of the tips and information on these pages about coming out helpful: - Sexuality and U > Sexual Orientation and Coming Out: sexualityandu.ca/sexual-health/sexual-orientation-and-coming-out - Teen Health Source > Coming Out: teenhealthsource.com/sgd/sexuality-coming-out - Kids Help Phone > Coming Out: kidshelpphone.ca/Teens/InfoBooth/LGBTQ/SexualOrientation/Coming-Out.aspx One other thing I want to encourage you to consider is if you’re ready for their response no matter what it is (positive or negative). If their response isn’t what you are hoping for, how will you cope with that? Who could support you? Is there any risk of you being forced to leave home, or to protect yourself physically or emotionally from any type of abuse? These can be hard questions to think about, but I want to encourage you to be as prepared as you can be, even in the worst-case scenario. :( In general whatever feels the most comfortable for you is the way to go. Give all of these options some thought and decide what feels best, okay? And if you want to talk more about any of this please don’t hesitate to reach out to us again. Remember our phone lines are open 24/7 at 1-800-668-6868.