Coming out to Family

Family relationships are significant for many of us, regardless of our sexual orientation or gender identity. Reasons for wanting to come out to family members may differ for everyone. For many, it may be because they want to share an important and personal part of their lives with their loved ones.  

If you decide to come out to your family members, you may wish to consider the following issues:

Understanding of sexuality

Coming out to family members, especially older members like parents and grandparents, may challenge their own long-held concept of sexuality, their role as parents, as well as their understanding of you as their child. In most Asian cultures, there may emphasis placed on conservative values that include heteronormativity, patriarchy and filial piety. For some families, religion and close-knit communities may also play a key role. Many parents and grandparents may not understand or accept what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Many parents may have the expectation that their children would be straight.

It may be useful to consider giving family members time to respond to and hopefully come to terms with the disclosure. Although they may react in ways that hurt, their initial reaction may not reflect their feelings over time. Assure them that they have not failed in bringing you up. You are still the same person as before you came out to them, with the same values and aspirations. Provide them with information and resources  and encourage them to explore, ask questions and seek support.  

Anxieties, fears and worries

Some family members may respond with fears regarding your sexual and mental health, studies, career, personal safety and relationships. Some of these fears may stem from inaccurate information as well as genuine concerns for you as their loved one.

Assure them that you are aware of their concerns and have taken measures to keep yourself safe in these areas. Be prepared with information and resources to address their feelings with empathy, and answer their questions confidently and factually using credible sources.  

Possible adverse reactions

Sometimes, coming out to family members may result in adverse reactions from them. Be prepared for these reactions - who might react the most negatively? What might they say? Is there any risk of violence or harm?  In such instances, your safety is priority. You may wish to consider changing or postponing your plans to come out to them. 

Getting support

The coming out process may take an emotional toll on you, especially if family members respond with a range of emotions and questions, which can be unexpected and overwhelming. Seek out your own supportive resources: perhaps an understanding relative (sibling, cousin, aunt, uncle, or grandparent?) , friends or a professional counsellor to help you with the coming out process. You need not go through this alone.