Coming out to your parents as a homosexual or bisexual can be overwhelming, exciting, confusing and uncomfortable all at the same time. Our cultures, communities, religions, political views, personal values, morals and emotions all contain a myriad of different messages about sexual orientation. Unfairly and unfortunately, many do not add up to respect or acceptance of homosexuality. Coming out can be a weight off your shoulders or a long road full of anxieties, confusion and many questions. Being prepared for any reactions you may receive is a good way to help build a mutually respectful conversation between you and your parents about your sexual identity.
Before you decide whether or not share your sexual orientation with your parents, take a moment and examine what you know about their ideas about homosexuality. This can give you a clue as to how they may react. Think about their friends and the communities they may be a part of and how those might influence their reactions. Find resources for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) teenagers that discuss coming out, take books out of the library, talk to supportive friends or adults and find support groups on the Internet.
The next step is deciding whether or not to tell your parents at all. Only share this information if it is safe to do so. If you think this decision may cause you physical or emotional pain or hardship, you may want to reconsider. You have the right to come out to whomever you want in whatever order you choose. You also have the right to keep that information to yourself for as long as you want. You have the right to be entirely in control of your coming out process.
If you do decide to share this information make sure you both set aside a good amount of time to talk. Be prepared for shock, but don't mistake it for disapproval right away. Your parents may simply be surprised or feel like they have been left out of a part of your life. Ask your parents to allow you to speak uninterrupted at first. Once you are finished, allow your parents to react. Be respectful and hear them out before you respond.
If your parents have a positive reaction, congratulations! You will probably feel relieved and this may even help you forge a closer relationship with your parents. You parents can now be your allies, if you choose. They can tell other relatives who you might not be comfortable talking to or help you deal with any prejudice you may encounter. If there are still people you haven't come out to and don't want to yet, let you parents know so they don't accidentally tell Grandpa how happy they are about your new boyfriend without your permission. Celebrate because an accepting family is a great asset no matter what your sexual identity.
Not all coming out stories have such a happy ending. There are ways to deal with your parents' negative reactions to your coming out though. The first step is to simply define what their reaction is. Ask them. Are they uncomfortable with homosexuality in general? Are there rumors about homosexual behavior that make them worried? Are they worried about you being discriminated against? Take a break and come back to the conversation later if you feel like either of you could use some time to calm down and process the conversation. If at any point in the conversation you feel demeaned, upset or guilty, stop immediately. Be very clear that you are feeling disrespected and inform them that you will only continue the conversation when you feel ready. Never let anyone , even your parents, make you feel bad or defensive about your identity. Again, it can be useful to recruit other adults that your parents respect to be your allies if your parents continue to react negatively. Maybe you have a doctor, therapist, teacher, family member or friend who know your parents and can talk to them about their reactions to your news. While you may not be able to change your parents' minds about homosexuality, you should try to avoid making their beliefs lower your self-esteem. Find other resources, support groups, friends and allies that can support you. Also keep talking. Even if it's just in passing, make sure your parents know that while your sexual identity doesn't change your personality or who you are, it is an important part of your life and that you deserve respect and acceptance.