What is it?

“Coming Out” is typically referred to as the process of telling others about your sexual orientation or sexuality. Coming out is not necessarily a one-off event either – gay, bisexual and all men who have sex with men (MSM) may have to come out several times during the course of their lives.

How do I successfully come out?

There is no right way to come out as gay or bisexual. You might feel comfortable being open about your sexual orientation with some people, but not with others.

Coming out to certain people, such as family, friends or work colleagues may be difficult and takes courage. However, the reality is that reactions to someone coming out can vary from very positive to very negative. Once you have decided to tell people about your sexual orientation, you may want to consider how you go about telling them.

Whether you've come to terms with your sexual orientation, or are still thinking about it, it can be difficult dealing with it on your own. Talking about it with someone, to get support or simply get it off your chest, can often make you feel better and more resourceful when anticipating that important conversation.

Ultimately, there is no pressure to come out – you have the right to take your time and only you will know when you feel comfortable and ready to do it.

What are the benefits of coming out?

Hiding your sexual orientation from other people can mean choosing to lie and pretend to yourself and to them. You may need to decide whether hiding your sexual orientation is more or less stressful than being totally open and honest about it. Many men report great relief once they’ve come out, as if a weight has been lifted off their shoulders.

Where men feel safe being out and honest about their sexual orientation, they may challenge the stereotypes and prejudice others might have about being gay. It may help others revise their attitudes towards gay people and in the long term it will help to tackle homophobia (irrational hatred or prejudice against gay people).

If you decide to come out, but are unsure about how others might react, you could contact an LGBT support organisation first. There are various helplines, community groups and agencies across Scotland who are there to support and advise you. Another tip is to start by telling one or two trusted friends first, before coming out to other people.

However, you may be surprised by how positive the experience of coming out can be. Very few men regret coming out, even if it is a difficult experience at the time.