Developing Professional Response For Someone Who “Comes Out” To You

 Don’t be surprised when a youth “comes out” to you.
Most will have tested you with a series of “trial balloons” over a period of
time. Based on your previous responses they’ve decided you can be trusted
and helpful.
 Find a way to deal with issues of confidentiality.
A breach of confidence in confidentiality has led some to suicide, denial, or
other unhealthy responses. Work within your agency to find a way for youth
to feel comfortable with their “secret”.
 Be informed and examine your own biases.
Do whatever is necessary to find a way to accept and affirm the young
person’s disclosure. This task will be different for different staff person’s
and foster parents
 Know when and where to seek help.
Familiarize yourself with agency and/or community resources to help the
young person.
 Maintain a balanced perspective.
Sexual thoughts and feelings are only a part of person’s personality,
although an important part. Don’t lose sight of the whole person.
 Understand the meaning of sexual orientation.
The feelings and attraction are natural for that particular young person.
 Deal with feelings first.
Most gay, lesbian and transgendered youth feel alone, afraid, and guilty, and
fear rejection and loss from people they love. You can help by listening and
allowing them to release feelings and thoughts that are often in conflict.
 Be supportive
Explain that many people have struggled with this issue in the past. Admit
that dealing with one’s sexuality can be difficult, and there are not always
easy and fast answers to one’s questions. Keep the door open for more
conversation.

 Anticipate some confusion
Most young people are fairly sure of their sexual orientation early in
adolescence but others are confused and unsure. Let them know they to work
through their own feelings and insights and can’t be talked into or out of
their feelings.
 Help but do not force
If you are heterosexual you probably do not understand what it means to be
different in this manner. Take your clues about what help is needed from the
young person. Don’t try to force him/her into your frame or reference to
make it easier for you to understand.
 Don’t try to guess who’s gay or lesbian
Do not use stereotypes to decide if someone is gay or straight
 Challenge homophobic remarks and jokes
Make sure the environment is free of slurs or disparaging remarks that
would perpetuate injustice for this population by keeping them silent,
 Support the positive reasons for coming out
Positive reasons to disclose include: to develop a healthy LGBT identity; it’s
honest and real; to end the stress of living a double life; to reduce isolation
and alienation; to get increased support from other LGBT people; to live a
fuller live.
(Adapted from PFLAGG)