Coming out is the process of discovering that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) and then telling others. If you call LGBT Ireland’s National Helpline, our volunteers are trained to listen and provide support to people who are coming out and to those who are questioning if they might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
About Coming Out
Coming Out is the term used by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people to describe their experience of discovery, self-acceptance, openness and honesty about their LGBT identity and their decision to disclose, i.e. to share this with others when and how they choose. While coming out can be a challenging time most people get a positive and supportive response from family and friends and feel happy that they made the decision to come out. You can read more online about coming out by clicking on the links on the right hand side of this page or you can download one of the useful documents listed.
People come out at all ages and in different ways. We can be out to a few people in our lives, everybody in our lives or somewhere in-between. Throughout our lives who we are out to may change depending on our circumstances. The families of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people often feel that they too must come out and this can cause stress and worry. If you are a family member of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender person and you feel you need support, please see our section on families.
People in straight presenting relationships may also come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. This can be a very difficult and confusing time for them and they may have concerns about the impact this can have on their spouse/partner and/or children. LGBT Ireland helpline volunteers are trained to listen and provide support to people dealing with this situation.
Stages of Coming Out
- Stage 1 Discovery – this is where you start to question if you might be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender because of feelings you’re having.
- Stage 2 Acceptance – this is when you start to accept that you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Telling the first person is a sign of acceptance.
- Stage 3 Integration – this is when you begin to get comfortable expressing your lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender identity and living your life accordingly.
Everyone’s experience of discovering their LGBT identity is different as is their experience of the stages of coming out. It is normal to experience feelings of anxiety and worry especially in relation to how people might react when you tell them. Having someone to talk to and getting emotional support can help you deal with the stresses of coming out. Most people tell a friend before telling their family but some people call a helpline or a professional like their GP before telling friends and family. Most people feel a weight is lifted off their shoulders after they come out and feel relieved.
Whoever you are or whatever your circumstances, coming out can be both challenging and rewarding. Research has shown that regardless of how well the experience of coming out goes for people, the period prior to coming out can be a time of significant stress. But research also shows that despite the stress and worry people can experience before telling someone for the first time, most people say that telling people went well for them and that they are happier after coming out to family, friends and colleagues. What seems to make a difference is having support from someone who you feel you can confide in – whether it’s a trusted friend or family member, a helpline volunteer or a professional.
There is a lot of support available across Ireland for LGBT+ people who are coming out. You can see what is available in your area here.
If you’d like to speak to someone about coming out you can freephone the National LGBT Helpline on 1800 929 539 and speak to one of our volunteers in confidence. Our service is available 7 days a week: Mon – Thur (6.30pm to 10pm), Friday’s (4pm to 10pm) and Sat-Sun (4pm to 6pm). Out-Of-Hours: freephone the Samaritans on 116-123 24/7 and 365 days a year.