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University of Bath

Coming out: talking about your sexual orientation and gender identity

Find information here about coming out at University and where to get advice and support if you need it.

Introduction

Coming to understand your sexual orientation and gender identity, can be seen as a gradual process or journey. Typically, this realisation can be coined as “Coming out”. We will use “Coming out” as an umbrella term on this page, but you do not need to name the process for yourself, if you don’t want to.

Regardless of how you identify your sexuality, Student Services are here to support you. Every individual has different experiences and support needs. However, statistically the largest population in the LGBT+ community identify as bisexual. Research shows that people who identify as bisexual are the least likely to seek support. Student Services would encourage ALL students to approach us for support, whatever your concern.

This page is about disclosing sexuality. Some of it might be helpful to those who identify as trans, you may also find our page on supporting trans students useful.

There is no right way to come out

Whilst at university, you may have space to explore your own sexual orientation and gender identity, which can be positive. However, you may also worry about how your friends, family and university may respond. Telling people about your sexual orientation or gender identity can feel daunting.

Don't feel under pressure to come out, take your time with it

When considering sharing your sexual orientation and gender identity, do it in your own time and only when you are ready. Some people have groups of friends that know and others that don’t. It is really important to do what feels right for you. You don’t have to come out to people if you don’t want to. You might choose to only come out to yourself or talk about it with a support service and not tell anyone else.

You may have already told someone about your sexual orientation and gender identity or be in a relationship and are questioning your thoughts and feelings around this. It is okay if you do not know how to define yourself or your identity. For some people, sexuality is fluid and may change over time or switch back and forth as you progress on your journey. Don’t feel rushed into choosing a description that you are not comfortable with. Allow yourself time to explore and find the sexual orientation and gender identity that feels right for you.

Seeking support and telling someone

Sometimes telling people about your sexual orientation and gender identity is not necessarily a onetime thing and you may need support at various points of your journey. If this is the case, please do approach the supportive groups listed below.

Maybe you have come to terms with your sexual orientation or gender identity, or you’re still thinking about it. Either way, it can helpful to talk to someone rather than coping on your own. If you do decide to come out, but are unsure how others might react, making contact with a LGBT+ student group at university or another local supportive group might be helpful. Have a look at the ones listed below:

The Wellbeing Service run daily non-judgemental and confidential sessions. This can be a safe space to talk about your feelings, explore your orientation or identity in the knowledge that the advisor will not pass any of the information on to your tutors, lecturers, parents etc.

Telling friends

Many people worry about how their friends will react when they come out. Friends might be surprised, have lots of questions, not know how to react, and some may have even guessed already. It can be a good idea to choose one friend who you think will be supportive and who you trust to confide in. Before you have the conversation try to think about some questions your friend might have and how you might answer them.

If a friend doesn’t react how you would wish them to, they might just need some time to process what you’ve told them. It may not be how they feel overall in the long run. The chances are, if you choose a friend you trust and know well, they’ll be happy you chose to confide and were able to share something personal with them.

Telling family

As with your friends there is no one way to tell your family. Being away at university can provide you time to consider your options and think about how you would like to them. You might choose to tell them face to face. Another option could be to write a letter or to email them. As with your friends it can take time for them to take in the information, so their first reaction may not be how they feel forever. This can be a particularly emotional time even when family respond positively. Talking to supportive services/groups about how you are feeling about telling family members can be really helpful.

Many families will be highly supportive of you. If this is not the case for you, please come and talk to us. In some cases, a formal estrangement might be in place and this could entitle you to additional support and funding.

Discrimination and harassment

Sadly, we know that some people can experience discrimination as a result of coming out. If this does happen, please know that you can talk to the Wellbeing Service. We will listen and you will be believed.

You can also report hate crime and harassment via our Report and Support tool.

Or here:

Other resources

Intersectional diversity

Being from a BAME community can sometimes make it more complicated to come out. Here are a few resources that might be helpful:

Faith and sexuality

For some people of faith exploring your sexuality or gender identity may be difficult. Here are some resources and places where you can talk in confidence:

The Wellbeing Service can listen and support you to find specific help.

Student Services also welcomes suggestions for other support agencies that we might not be aware of.

Other supportive services

A word about Conversion therapy: In the UK, all major counselling and psychotherapy bodies, as well as the NHS, concluded that conversion therapy is dangerous and have condemned it by signing a Memorandum of Understanding to say that they will not provide it. University of Bath counsellors are registered to professional bodies that adhere to this.

Key things to remember:

  • take your time
  • people’s experiences differ
  • there is no right way
  • remember you can talk to supportive services – who are confidential and non-judgemental