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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How do I tell my friends about my sexual identity?

    I am a 23 year old male. All my life I have dated girls but inside I always knew I liked boys. After 23 years, everyone has accepted me for being heterosexual. I am terrified of informing people (friends and family) that I am not who they think I am. Advice?
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  • Michelle Linmore

    Counselling Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Sex Therapist

    Specializing in couples counselling, infertility, gay and lesbian counselling, sex therapy and relationship workshops. Based in Canberra. View Profile

    My top three tips for telling would be:

    1. Don't rush, it makes sense to let yourself get used to the idea first, then start with just one or two trusted people in your life so you can have some support to tackle the more tricky disclosures.  Many people first tell a counsellor, someone who is already out, or someone who is not in their day to day networks.
    2. Think through how and where to tell -sometimes it is really useful to be on neutral territory so you can choose how long to keep talking or when to end the conversation for the day.  Many people test the water first eg mentioning having gay friends in order to guage the likely reaction.
    Some people go with a third party disclosure eg asking Mum to tell Dad, or they might use letters or email.  Others feel it is important to have the conversation face to face or via telephone.  Try to avoid situations where coming out could cause difficulties eg distracting someone who is driving.
    3. Rehearse, but not endlessly.  There comes a time when it's best to just jump in and get the job done in order to end the uncertainty.  There is no one “right”way to do this.  Know that whatever the intial reaction is, it may well change over time as the other person gets a chance to think things through.  Be prepared for some silly questions or odd reactions initially and try to be patient as those around you catch up with your news.

    Good luck!   

  • Dr Cristina Musso

    Counsellor, Sex Therapist

    Sexuality Education and Counselling ACT is run by a specialist in Sexual Health to help individuals and couples address their sexual concerns and improve their … View Profile

    Your fears remind me of a large numbers of young men who have been brought up believing that there is shame attached to being homosexual. For some people, it just takes a long time to understand their sexuality and become comfortable with it, overcoming their own internalised homophobia. Sexual orientation and gender is not something we can choose to be and it’s great to see that you would like to be totally honest about who you are.

    However, talking to the family can be difficult. In some families, coming out may not be helpful. If you believe this might be the case, it could be better to gradually provide small hints first giving your parents time to process the idea before talking openly about your sexual orientation. Decide if there is a friend or relative it would be better to talk to first. Who do you trust/approach when you need support?

    It is very important for you to be confident about yourself and absolutely sure that you want to inform them, before talking to your family.

    You may find these tips provided by the online community of gays and lesbians ‘Qnet’ to be useful.
    http://www.qnet.org.au/content/faqs_and_articles/coming_out/how_can_i_tell_my_parents.php

  • Ash Rehn

    Counsellor, Psychotherapist, Sex Therapist, Social Worker

    Mental Health Medicare Provider of focussed psychological strategies, Counsellor & Therapist specialising in ‘sex addiction’, pornography issues, gay counselling, online therapy. For more information: www.ForwardTherapy.com View Profile

    There is an expression that holds particularly true when it comes to sexuality: ‘Knowledge is Power’. What I mean by this is, the more you know about yourself and the opinions of those around you, the stronger your position might feel. So take your time and share your life on your terms, when you are ready.

    In our ‘heteronormative’ society, it can be a difficult for LGBT people to navigate a way through being accused of ‘keeping secrets’ on one hand and ‘pushing it down our throats’ on another (perhaps you have heard others use these expressions in relation to disclosures of gay sexuality?). Those around us make assumptions about our sexuality all the time, for example- assuming we are heterosexual or assuming our sexual identity is fixed and unchanging. Gently clarifying with someone when they make an assumption about you can be one way of ‘inviting people in’ to your life (an alternative to ‘coming out’).

    Keep in mind also that having the support of others can also give you knowledge and strength. There is a lot of talk about ‘Coming Out’ as if it is something critical for every gay person. But ‘Coming IN’ to LGBT networks and communities is perhaps even more helpful for many people. Experiencing yourself as one of many can reassure you in the identity you are developing and in the way you relate to others who don't identify as other than heterosexual. Consider contacting supportive gay organisations in your city or state and developing some connections with others who will relate to what you are experiencing and are more likely to stand by you if you do receive any negative responses.

  • Pamela Hoy

    Counsellor, Hypnotherapist

    Offering both Hypnotherapy and Counselling for my clients is a double opportunity to change unwanted feelings, thoughts, behaviours and reactions. Accessing both the conscious and … View Profile

    As a counsellor and clinical hypnotherapist, I have had several people come to discuss their uncertainty regarding disclosing their sexual identity.  I would suggest you take some time to think about who, why and when you want to tell others.  Is it for you or do you believe others “should” know? Sexuality is personal, heterosexual people do not approach others and tell them of the sexual identity, homosexual people are not obligated to disclose their identity…….. unless they wish to.  It is your right of choice who, why and when you discuss your sexuality.  Talk to the people first,  who you believe will support you.  If you feel there are people who would be judgemental, then it remains your choice as to whether you disclose or not. Bear in mind some people enjoy passing on information of others, so be prepared! If any one is non-supportive, they have the issue……. not you.  Timing is also important, speak to people at the appropriate time when there are no distractions. Be prepared for some questions to be asked and remember, you do not need to validate yourself. You may be pleasantly surprised how family and/or friends respond.  You may like to consider having an appointment with a counsellor to gain some ideas on how to approach the subject, some role play may be helpful.  Best Wishes,  Pam

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