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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    When is the right time to tell people about my sexual orientation?

    I am 24 years old and only recently realised that I am definitely a lesbian. It started when I began exploring relationships with girls and I realised that my previous relationships when guys were nothing in comparison. When should I tell people? I feel as though I will never feel fully comfortable.
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Family Therapy is my passion, I worked at Redbank House for 10 years, working intensely with families, primarily with children with behaviour difficulties. Then and … View Profile

    It is different for everyone, it took me a long time, but in the end I realised real friends don't really
    care. I guess you have taken the biggest step, that is recognising yourself.
    Tell the friends who you think will be most accepting first and then it just gets easier and easier.
    Mary Jane

  • Dr Louise Shepherd

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    I am a clinical psychologist with 15 years experience working with all sorts of goals and issues. I love working with people, helping them to … View Profile

    I agree with Mary Jane that it is different for everyone - and I guess the main thing I would want to say is that there is no right or wrong time. I have worked with a lot of gay and lesbian clients over the years and I've heard so many stories - mostly positive and some negative. I have no scientific evidence to back these comments up though I'll just make some observations:
    - it is OK to tell or not to tell. Try not to pressure yourself that it has to be done by some certain date
    - some people you may choose to tell very soon and others might be ages away! Your great aunt who has very narrow ideas about relationships may not be the best place to start!
    - you probably never will feel comfortable - and it is likely that you will feel nervous telling some people, some a lot more than others. The anxiety is not neccessarily a reason to tell or not tell……it is just natural when we step out of our comfort zone that we feel uncomfortable :-)
    - think about what you expect from the person / people you choose to tell. Some people may be totally happy and think very little of it and others may be a bit shocked or find it hard to get used to. Sometimes the news can be confronting for people. 
    - if someone you really love doesn't respond well initially it doesn't mean they don't love you or that they won't hopefully soon accept the news. For example a parent may be upset about what this might mean in terms of a family / grandchildren and so on. Of course plenty of lesbian couples have babies - and it is still not the most common or expected way to have a baby and this may take time for some people to digest
    - think about how you go about it - turning up on the doorstep at granny's with your girlfriend and saying like “this is my girlfriend and we love each other and you just have to deal with it” is likely to be a bit confronting :-)
    - some people choose to not disclose their sexuality in certain places e.g. at work unless they are fairly sure that there won't be any nasty consequences. Sadly even in 2012 some people still discriminate - this is an unfortunate fact of life and so it can be wise to think through consequences before opening your mouth. 

    I can't think of much more for now - I wish you all the very best with this and hope that it goes really well. Please keep us posted if you would like to :-).

    Best wishes, Louise

  • Dr Margaret Redelman

    GP (General Practitioner)

    I come from a general practice background and have over 30 years experience in sexual health. I am an accredited Clinical Psychosexual Therapist with the … View Profile

    There is no standard answer and nobody can really answer this for you.

    Some people will accept what you tell them without any qualms because ultimately it is about you and not them, and they will understand that you are still the same person they liked and respected. Some people may respond with a mixture of surprise and withdrawal or anger. here it is very important that you hold onto yourself and not take their belirfs and feelings as being true for you.  Sometimes the people you think will be most supportive won't be and those that tyou think will not be supportive, will surprise you and be amazing. So it is hard to tell how people will react and so it has to be a really personal decision about when you feel ready to tell people about something as personal as your sexual orientation. Remember, they are not entitled to this information, it is for your sense of self  and your decision.
    Some people wait to come out publically when they have a partner while others want to know who will be a friend knowing who they are. It is also important to understand that you never just come out once, it often needs to be repeated. You will be ‘out’ but every time you meet someone new you will have to ask the question again, “do I tell them?” and “how?”
    So it is not as simple as when is the right time to tell people as you are constantly telling people. For some people that gets easier and they get more at ease with it and for others it becomes a reason not to meet new people. So in short there is no short answer. It is about when it feels right for you, when you feel you have something to say to someone and when you feel ‘safe’ in telling them.

  • Kristen Ross

    Counsellor, Kinesiologist

    Kristen Ross is a qualified Kinesiologist, Counsellor and Sports Therapist.Affinity Wellness is her holistic wellness practice offering a holistic wellness experience by focusing on all … View Profile

    It sounds as though perhaps you are fearful of what people are going to think or feel about your new understanding of who you are and what that means for your future. 

    There's no joy to be found in hiding aspects of your true self or in pretending to be someone you are not. If you feel as though you want to express this to friends and family (which it seems you do) then listen to that gut urge and start the process.

    It doesn't have to be a big deal (unless you want it to make it one). If you want to keep it low key then try a casual conversation with friends or family members. 
    If you start putting it out there casually, word will spread (especially within families) and before you know it it's just something they know about you. 

    Remember that those who have a problem with who you have the problem … it's not you, it's them.  

  • AlexGrace

    HealthShare Member

    I run a support group for women called ‘Your Place- a coming out support group for women’ run from the Thornbury Women's Neighbourhood House. If you would like more information contact TWNH or email mmcounselling@gmail.com

  • Mary Matthews

    Psychotherapist

    Mary Matthews aims to empower people through authentic connection. Mary specialises in counselling for adults, adolescents, children and families.​Areas of speciality include depression, anxiety, grief … View Profile

    If you would like to join a support group ‘Your Place’ - a coming out support group for women please email me mmcounselling@gmail.com. The support group is offically supported by the Thornbury Women's Neighbourhood House and is based there. It is a great oopportunity to connect with other women experiencing the same issues. Mary

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