Guest blog: Coming out as gay, lesbian or bi at university

29 Jan 2018

All issues relating to coming out as gay, lesbian, or bisexual can be difficult for LGBT people to deal with, and the anxiety experienced whilst in the closet or prior to coming out is equally difficult to deal with. Most people who are closeted experience feelings of isolation, emotional distance, frustration and anxiety, because they feel unable to tell close family and friends who they are, and to live their own life.


However, most people have really positive experiences with coming out and often regret not doing it sooner. It’s really important, though, that you take the time to consider your own personal circumstances when making the decision to tell people close to you, that you are gay, lesbian or bisexual. What may be right for one person, may not be right for you. Your safety and wellbeing should always come first.


These tips are designed to help you to think about different ways you can approach coming out, and help you to do so, with the least amount of stress. So before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to be sure of a few things first before we start coming out to others.


Before Coming Out


Tip 1: Coming out to yourself is a big deal and coming out to others is much easier once you have first come out to yourself, and accepted your sexualityThe most important person you will ever come out to is yourself. Many people can and do spend years denying or suppressing their sexuality to themselves. This is not uncommon in older generations, but as acceptance of LGBT people has increased, this is becoming less of an issue. Most people are not ready to start talking about their sexuality to others, whilst they are still dealing with it themselves. A lot of anxiety can come from fighting yourself, and once you find self acceptance and make peace with yourself, you will start to feel much better and more confident. Some of the common thoughts that hold people back from self acceptance might be:


"I don’t fit the stereotypes so I won’t fit in."


"I’m religious and it’s against my faith."


"I don’t have many close friends and family and don’t want to lose them."


"I’m scared."


Tip 2: Forget the stereotypesWhen gay people first started to appear on TV and in the media, the stereotypes that were common were those of effeminate camp men and butch women. Some people still think that every gay man and woman have to fit those stereotypes. Some people are a lot like the stereotypes and others are totally different. One of the greatest attributes of the LGBT community is our diversity. Being lesbian, gay or bi does not have to define you. It doesn’t mean you have to wear certain clothes, have a particular haircut, or listen to certain music. Just be you. Discovering your sexuality is all about finding out who you are, what you like and how you want to be. You don’t have to change who you are in order to try and fit in.


Tip 3: You don’t have to choose between your faith and your sexualityMost religious groups have LGBT followers. There are also some faiths that are especially welcoming to the LGBT community. You don’t have to choose between faith and your sexuality.


Tip 4: You gain more than you losePeople often have anxieties over losing friends and family after coming out. It is unlikely that you will lose the people closest to you, but you can and most likely will lose a few other people from your life. Some friendships are lifelong, but a lot of friendships are shorter, and most people in our lives don’t stay forever for lots of reasons. In the end, ”those who matter don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter.” More important, is that coming out will open the door to a whole new life and friendships and people who you cannot even imagine right now. People like you.


Tip 5: It’s ok to be scared. Everyone is. Any big changes in life always come with a degree of uncertainty and that can be scary. Being scared is a natural reaction to leaping into the unknown. That is what this guide is for, to help to make the unknown a bit less scary.


Tip 6: If you have any unresolved anxieties which may or may not relate to your sexuality, think about obtaining counselling before coming outSome people may have unresolved issues, other than their sexuality, which is causing them additional anxieties and possibly depression. If this sounds like you, try and arrange for counselling to help you overcome or understand any wider issues first, so that you are more confident when coming out. This will make the experience easier. Your GP or local health care centre will be able to arrange this for you. Alternatively your local LGBT group should be able to signpost you to a counsellor. 


Tip 7: You don’t have to come outWhile many people find coming out a great relief and a weight off their shoulders, some don’t want to come out, seeing their sexuality as their own private business. It really is up to you. You should only come out when you feel confident and comfortable doing so.


Tip 8: Your personal safety should come firstSome LGBT people have a very difficult time coming out, as they are located in areas or are part of a community which has yet to understand about LGBT issues and may even be very homophobic. If coming out is likely to put your life or wellbeing in danger, the