This can help if:
- Your teen is in the process of coming out about their sexuality
- Your teen wants to come out at school
- Your teen is unsure about coming out at school
Things to consider around your teenager coming out at school
For your teen, coming out to you was probably one of the many times they’ll want to disclose their sexuality to others. They may or may not have already come out to their closest friends, other family, or other adults they trust. Regardless, chances are that your teen has been thinking about it for a while.
Coming out can be pretty exhausting and stressful however positive the response. Your teen may want to wait a while before telling ‘the whole world’. Or they may be keen to get it out there and be open about themselves in every area of their life. It’s a very individual and personal decision, but whatever they decide you can help.
Don't assume your teen will want to come out at school
Talk to your teen and find out where they are in the process of coming out to others:
- Ask them how they feel about coming out at school. What are their hopes and concerns?
- Put them in the driving seat – only they can decide when the time is right.
- Tell them that you’ve got their back and will support them in whatever they decide.
Try not to 'protect' your teen by suggesting they don't come out at school
Wanting to protect your teen is a natural reaction; you love them and don’t want them to get hurt. But hiding their sexualalityisn’t better for your teen’s mental health:
- LGBTQI teens that come out at school go on to enjoy better mental health as young adults than those that don’t. Being true to their identity is good for your teen’s self esteem and wellbeing.
- 75% of LGBTQI teens experience abuse or discrimination and 80% of this happens in school. However homophobic and biphobic bullying can happen to teens even if they’re not out. Many teens are bullied for just being perceived to be queer, regardless of whether they are or not.
- If your teen decides to come out to their classmates and teachers, they’re more likely to be able to develop an aware support system to help protect them against bullying.
Find out what support your teen's school offers for LGBTQI students
A program to support LGBTQI students in schools, the Safe Schools Alliance, has been replaced by a broader anti-bullying approach supported by a Safe Schools Hub. Knowing the overall school, teacher and student attitude towards LGBTQI students will help your teen decide if, when and to whom they come out. It will also help you know what action you can take if your teen experiences abuse.
- Find out what active anti bullying policy your teen’s school has in place. Some states and schools continue to have specific protection for LGBTQI students.
- Does the school have an organised group where straight teens ally with their LGBTQI classmates to spread a message of diversity, inclusivity and tolerance? If they do, suggest your teen join.
- Do teachers let casual homophobic slurs like ‘that’s so gay’ pass, or do they pull students up on them? LGBTQI supportive teachers set a great example to students.
- Are there other students who are out that your teen could talk to? Knowing they’re not alone in their experience will give your teen more confidence.
- The most important thing is that your teen feels safe. If they don’t, then they should wait to come out at school.
Coming out is a process, and this applies at school too
Reassure your teen that they don’t have to come out to the whole school at once, just to those they feel comfortable telling
- Suggest that they could start by coming out to school friends they trust, to build up a strong support group around themselves first. But make them think about how they’d feel if word spread, because sometimes you just can’t control who tells who.
- Suggest that your teen speaks to the school’s wellbeing co-ordinator or counsellor, so someone on the staff is aware that they’re coming out.
- If they’re comfortable with the principle and teachers knowing, then offer to go with your teen to tell them.
- If, and when, your teen feels comfortable with being out to the whole school, they could tell their friends it’s no longer a secret, and even post on social media. It’s a lot less exhausting than them having to tell everyone themselves!