By Jackie James

Revealing your sexual preference to anyone can be nerve-racking, but telling your parents that you are gay takes things to a whole different level. You are probably peppering yourself with questions and reveling in self-doubt about even sharing this news with them. It’s an important step in your relationship with your parents, and it’s a very personal conversation—one that should be based on your unique circumstances. Remember, parents are human, and they may not be understanding or accepting at first. Through honest communication and a foundation of love and respect, you can be true to yourself while also acknowledging your parents’ feelings.

Since there is no set “playbook” on how to come out to your parents, you will have to assess your situation and proceed based on your family dynamic. No doubt your mind is swimming with questions like “will they still love me?” and “how will this change our relationship?”While no one can tell you exactly how they will react, you can expect them to experience one or many different stages of emotions. Recognize this may be a total surprise to them, and they may take the news very personally. While it is decidedly not about them, the initial reaction to your announcement may be one of shock, denial, or even guilt. Even if your parents are very liberal in their beliefs, they may still express some feelings you may not initially anticipate. Let them know they are not to “blame”, that they did nothing to “turn you gay” and most importantly, that you are the same person you were yesterday, and hopefully they will love you accordingly. However, you should prepare yourself for every conceivable outcome, from your parents’ complete acceptance to their utter disappointment and rejection. While you may not be able to control their reaction to your coming out news, you can control your reaction. Don’t become angry if they are not understanding or supportive; it may just take time.

Prepare for the conversation in advance—don’t just “spring the news” on them or worse yet, post your sexual preferences on social media before you have had a chance to discuss your sexuality with them. Give yourself ample time together, in a place where you feel comfortable and safe. Make sure you have emotional support from friends, other adults or other family members so that after you confide in your parents, you have someone to turn to, especially if your parents are less than welcoming. Remember to believe in yourself and to validate your own feelings; you are entitled to love who you want to love, regardless of what they or anyone else thinks.

Recognize that your parents may have thought that your life might evolve in a different way, and they may have trouble letting go of those traditional beliefs. Just remember to be patient and loving, even if they are not. They may say hurtful and inappropriate things to you; you will need to prepare yourself just in case. Tell yourself it may just be the initial shock, and their reaction may just be temporary. If it is not, and they cannot come to terms with your sexual preference, you may have to consider a life where your parents play a minor role, or possibly none at all. As hurtful as that prospect may seem, it will be the result of your parents’ choices, to accept you for who you are or to not.

Coming out to your parents is going to be emotional, and it may be very difficult. Don’t rush the conversation if you’re not ready or present it in a hurtful manner just to get a reaction. Trust the process and your close circle of confidants to get you through. Most importantly, remember that you are a unique, valuable person with lots of love to share. You will get through this!