What is coming out?
Coming out is the phrase used to describe the process of someone who is gay, lesbian or bisexual being open with the people around them about their sexuality.
This can be a difficult process for people and they may be worried that others will treat them differently once they know.
Even though it can be scary, most people feel coming out is important as it means they can be honest about how they feel and not keep an important part of their life hidden.
Getting to know yourself
One of the first steps of coming out is acknowledging to yourself what your sexual preference or gender identity is. This may sound really obvious, but for lots of people admitting to themselves that they are gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgender can be hard for many reasons.
It could be because they have been brought up to think that being gay is wrong, or because they are worried about being teased or bullied. If you're not sure if you're gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you may find it helpful to talk to someone you trust about your feelings.
Who to tell?
When you're first coming out the most sensible option is to tell someone who you trust and who will be supportive and understanding. This is important because you may not want other people finding out about your sexuality or gender identity until you feel comfortable with it.
This person could be a close friend or relative. Or if you're younger, it could be a trusted adult, such as a teacher or youth worker.
Will it change things?
Hopefully, coming out will change your life for the better, as you won't feel there's a big part of you that people don't know about. Many people say they feel relieved that they can be open about how they feel.
However, there can be a downside to coming out. You may come across people, including friends and family, who are homophobic (prejudiced against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people). They might make you feel angry, upset or scared. You might experience discrimination.
This is why it can be helpful to tell a small group of trusted people first. That way you will feel supported and have people to talk to about the reactions you may face.
Take your time
Remember, if you're not sure how you feel about your sexuality or gender identity, there's no hurry to make your mind up or tell people.
Coming out is an individual decision and it's important to do it in your own way and in your own time.
You'll find more information about coming out at the following websites: