Tips from an LGBTQ+ Doctor on Coming Out
Written by Dr Mark Perera
, 5 min read
Coming out is the first part of trying to be your authentic self - trust me, it’s an ongoing journey for many of us! On International Coming Out Day 2021, I want to share essential information I wish I had known. If you want to learn more about my personal story and the importance of being an LGBTQ+ inclusive practice, please read this blog.
3 Truths To Always Remember
(1) You are normal no matter what sexual orientation you are
(2) It gets better
(3) There is no one-size-fits-all approach, follow what feels right
For various reasons, I came out later than the average age of 16-17 years. Everyone’s experience is different and I love now being able to support patients to live their best lives. From my journey, I have a few personal tips:
- The definition of being out is personal. The most important part of being out is that you feel comfortable being yourself around people you care about.
- Coming out is a spectrum too. Depending on your circumstances, you may choose to slowly tell people over the course of your life or in bursts.
- Don’t let anyone tell you to wait until you find a partner before coming out to wider groups. I was told this and I regret listening, don’t let this hold you back from being your true self for years.
- Avoid letting anyone make you feel pressured into telling more people than you are comfortable with. This is particularly true for work colleagues - remember you are not legally obliged to tell anyone unless you wish to.
- If you feel certain people may be intolerant (including some families), you do not have to tell them. Instead, you may choose to surround yourself with friends “chosen family” who will support you with unconditional love.
- Explore more groups during annual Pride Month (usually in June globally). From local government to employers, lots of events are hosted to celebrate LGBTQ+ diversity. You’d be surprised how many like-minded people there are around you. They can really help you be proud and confident in who you are, no matter what stage of being out you are.
From consulting LGBTQ+ patients in the clinic, I know how difficult it can be to come out to others. Therefore, I have a few practical tips for coming out:
- How to pick the first person to tell:
- Always go with what feels natural, someone you want to tell rather than someone you feel obligated to tell.
- Consider a supportive friend or family member. We know that not all families are tolerant so don’t feel you have to start there. If you have any doubt about their views on LGBTQ+ people, discuss any LGBTQ+ themed news/films to gauge their response.
- Whoever you choose, they will then likely be able to assist you when you tell other people.
- When to come out:
- Your sexuality is a completely private matter. You should only come out when you feel completely comfortable and confident to do so. The timing is up to you.
- You’ve probably had a long time to consider it but the person you’re telling will be hearing it for the first time. It’s worth acknowledging that coming out could be a bit of a surprise to some people in your life.
- Consider telling them at a time when you will be able to talk things through properly. For instance, coming out to someone before you leave or have low battery probably isn’t the best time.
- How to come out:
- Again, always go with what feels natural to you. There is no right or wrong.
- The most obvious way is a face-to-face meeting. The benefits of coming out this way are that you’ll be able to process the news together and appreciate non-verbal communication.
- If face-to-face is too intimidating, a phone call can allow more pauses as the conversation flows.
- Others choose to send a text, email or letter as this will give the person time to process what you’re telling them before they respond. A non-response is not negative, they may not know how to respond in the moment. Therefore a follow up face-to-face meeting or phone call can be considered.
- Some people have used social media to come out. Although this method of coming out means you’ll probably only need to do it once, it also takes away the opportunity to have those personal conversations with those who are close to you.
- A suggestion for how to start the conversation: “You’re important to me, so I want to share something with you. I’ve been thinking about my sexual orientation a lot and have realised that I’m … It would mean a lot if you could support me”
- Resources for coming out:
- If you decide you want to come out but you are unsure how others might react, you could consider contacting a support group first. There are many free national resources to help
- Stonewall have a great leaflet with more guidance: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/s...
- If you have any concerns about your coming out journey, there are national resources that can help such as:
- In the US - The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
- In the UK - Switchboard LGBT+ Helpline: 0300 330 0630.
- Alternatively, you can always make an appointment in the Babylon app 24/7. If you would prefer to speak to an experienced LGBTQ+ Clinician ally, please contact our support team and request this.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of a doctor with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never delay seeking or disregard professional medical advice because of something you have read here.