Coming out isn't easy. Choosing to live as your truest self is bold and pure and courageous. It's the greatest form of resistance. And, unfortunately, it can also be extremely turbulent — both emotionally and physically.
That's why I asked LGBTQ+ members of the BuzzFeed Community to share what helped them during their process — so that, together, their responses would create one powerful survival kit for anyone navigating their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
The building blocks for your kit:
III. TV & Movies
IV. The Internet
Wherever you are in your process, you can bookmark this page, so you always know comfort, advice, and a good laugh are just a click away.
1. Tegan & Sara
"As you can imagine, coming out, especially as a pan-romantic non-binary person, was not so easy. I didn't want to come out to my family because they're super homophobic/transphobic. But, as time went on and I started being out it was harder for me to hide it from my family. It's around that time that Tegan and Sara came along in my life. Tegan and Sara are the most out-and-proud women I'd ever witnessed. So, one day, after having a meltdown, I jammed out to some Tegan and Sara, female/LGBTQIA empowering music, got so much adrenaline, and actually came out. Sure, I got thrown out of the house, but today, everything is going A-OK. Living as my true self is amazing in every way possible. And Tegan and Sara are still my biggest role models. ❤️"
2. Lady Gaga and Sia
"This sounds so cliché, but when I came out to my best friend and she walked away, I turned to music, specifically artists that have spoken about LGBT rights, like Lady Gaga and Sia. I could lose myself in their lyrics and melodies because I knew to them I belonged. That is how I made it out."
3. Britney Spears
"My biggest issue with coming out, wasn't acceptance from family/friends, it was self-acceptance. I grew up in foster care. I have a birth defect on my hand that didn't allow my hand to fully develop. I had a lot of emotional stuff I was trying to deal with and come to terms with, and then add all the anxieties of trying to figure out what being gay means. It was overwhelming.
Britney Spears was something that really helped me deal with everything. My coming out sort of coincided with the 2007 Britney dark ages. I would sit and tell myself, 'Britney is the most famous person in the world. She can't do anything without it being splashed on the pages of magazines. I wonder if she ever feels alone? I wonder if ever feels like she will belong? Or if she ever feels like she can live a normal life?'
Putting Britney's life into perspective is kind of what helped me deal with everything. Then you add in that Britney went through what she did and was able to make fierce music and get back on the world stage without fear of judgement. If she can do it, then what I am afraid of? Why am I afraid or shamed of who I am? No gawd. Not today.
I am stronger than yesterday."
4. Kacey Musgraves
"The song 'Follow Your Arrow' by Kacey Musgraves came out the same year I did and it resonated so perfectly with me."
5. Tyler Glenn
"Tyler Glenn's song 'G.D.M.M.L. GRLS' really helped me. He released it last year, right as I was figuring out my sexuality, and it became my coming out anthem. It reflected how I was feeling and it made me feel more confident and proud of my sexuality. Singing along to it just soothes my anxiety."
6. Panic! at the Disco
"When I was growing up I always knew I liked guys and girls, and when I got into college I wanted to tell people that I was bi since it had been a secret I'd kept for years. I was too afraid until I heard 'Girls/Girls/Boys' by Panic! at the Disco. The quote that got me was 'girls love girls and boys, love is not a choice,' which is exactly what I told my friends and family when coming out. That little phrase made me feel more confident in who I was and comfortable in telling other people with a 'you like it or you don't' attitude."
7. Troye Sivan and Hayley Kiyoko
"I listened to the Blue Neighbourhood album on repeat. I didn't care whether or not people are going to accept me — I knew that I couldn't stay in the closet. I couldn't take it anymore. My friends were so supportive and Troye Sivan and Hayley Kiyoko definitely helped."
8. Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys
"I came out to my closest girlfriends first, and after doing so, I went to the local suburban library and found myself in the LGBT section (with just four books in the collection). Girls Who Like Boys Who Like Boys helped me understand the importance of so many relationships in my life: my girlfriends, my grandmothers, my stepmother, all of the strong women in my life who helped shape me and support me in everything I do. The stories in this book made me laugh, cry, and see examples of beautiful and supportive relationships."
9. Percy Jackson Series
"Rick Riordan, with all of his characters that are part of the LGBTQ spectrum, helped me accept myself as a bisexual girl. Nico, Alex, Will — they all helped. They gave me confidence that my friends and family would really accept me."
10. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
"I recently read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli and it spoke to me on so many levels. It was so honest and heartfelt, and a book never resonated with me before."
12. Tomboy, Boys Don't Cry, Any Day Now, and Holding The Man
"I came out as trans at 14. My parents were not supportive. Living in a household that didn't accept me, and at the time having no LGBT friends or resources, was isolating and lonely. I spent my time watching movies like Tomboy, Boys Don't Cry, Any Day Now, and my all-time favourite, Holding The Man. Until I met the wonderful queer folk I know now, films and the internet were all I had."
13. Steven Universe
Watching LGBT TV and movies made things easier to come out for me, especially Steven Universe."
14. RuPaul's Drag Race
"I had a fucking horrible time coming out. Or, really, I had fucking horrible times coming out. I'm an effeminate gay man, and had been called 'faggot' long before I knew what it meant.
Initially when I came out, I thought that to be accepted into this new community I needed to look a certain way, act a certain way, etc. It wasn't until I watched RuPaul's Drag Race that I realised I can be feminine, I can reject social norms, and I don't have to give a damn what other people think. It honestly changed my life and in reality it probably saved my life. And I will never look back. Thank you, Mama Ru."
15. Everybody's Fine and Prayers for Bobby
"Two movies in particular: Everybody's Fine and Prayers for Bobby. Watch them with your family or just send them a letter with the DVDs. I promise they will not be able to live with themselves if they don't accept who you are. And even if they don't, remember you have the right to live and love just as much as those who tell you the opposite!"
16. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
"Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer and seeing Willow and Tara together was what helped me come out. They were so sweet together, and none of their friends thought it was a big deal that they were both girls. It meant so much to me."
17. Imagine Me and You
"Most of my friends weren't surprised when I came out, but my family wasn't the most supportive. When things got tough at home, my friends and I would lock ourselves away in some room and watch lesbian movies with happy endings. We watched Imagine Me and You so many times we can all quote the entire film word for word."
18. South of Nowhere
"Watching South of Nowhere helped me. I felt sort of like watching Spencer's process of self-understanding and self-acceptance, and finally coming out, helped me visualize my own process."
—Jamie Zaccaria, Facebook
"The film Lilting is about a man helping his deceased boyfriend's mother adapt to life without him. In the film, the son never had the opportunity to come out, and because of it his mother never got the opportunity to know him for who he really was. I felt like I, too, was depriving my mother of knowing who I truly am. As soon as the movie ended, I asked my mom to meet me in the living room so that we could talk. Our conversation then lasted over an hour and it was one of the best ones I've ever had. To this day, I thank Lilting for giving the courage to be true to myself and to my mother."
20. Queer As Folk
"When I came out, I watched the series Queer As Folk (American version) like three or four times over. Even though my friends aren't gay, the way in which the characters supported one another was relatable."
21. The Ellen Show
"When I came out, Ellen had just started her talk show. And she was CRUSHING IT! People on television were cheering for someone like me.
22. The L Word
"The L Word and watching OliviaHas2Moms (now Team2Moms)"
"Alex and Maggie on Supergirl made me legitimately question my sexuality for the first time, and they helped me to realize it for myself. I always turn to them if I ever struggle with telling anyone, or if I'm just feeling alone."
"It sounds silly, but watching Santana's coming out story on Glee helped me so much. Watching her struggle with what exactly coming out meant and accepting herself had so many parallels with my own struggles. My family is/was very religious and even watching her coming out to her religious grandmother and being rejected by her gave me a strange peace. It made me feel like other people got it, and that it was okay. It showed me I could still find my support in other places and people."
25. Pretty Little Liars
"Seeing Emily come out made me think it was totally possible for me as well, and watching as her mom become more supportive of her girlfriends made it less scary. Having such a pivotal lead character be gay made me feel much better about myself. I don't know what I would have done at age 14 without it."
26. The Real O'Neals
"When I was about to explore my orientation, I watched the series The Real O'Neals. And then I came to know that I am not alone. There are people like me out there. So I kind of felt empowered."
27. Freaks and Geeks
"When I was on the verge of coming out, I would spend night after night worrying about telling my parents. I was torn between needing to say the words 'I'm bisexual' and also never wanting to deal with the awkwardness that might bring. In order to put the anxiety out of my mind so I could get some sleep at night, I would watch Freaks and Geeks. Something about watching all of those kids just being kids helped me forget about my own worries. Once I got to the end of the season, I was ready to tell my mom. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about the entire time. :)"
28. "It's Time"
"I remember this one Australian PSA on YouTube about marriage equality called 'It's Time.' It was something I watched like every night around the time I was coming out."
29. Hannah Hart
"Hannah Hart's coming out series on her YouTube channel showed me that anything I was feeling was completely valid and okay. She showed the process of coming out, rather than just one short narrative, which is something that I needed to see."
30. Ally Hills, Joey Graceffa, and MilesChronicals
"I watched a lot of gay/lesbian YouTubers such as Ally Hills and Joey Graceffa. It really helped me to accept myself. MilesChronicals is also a really good YouTuber to watch because he talks about gender and sexual identity."
31. "Coming Out (Part 2)"
"I came out last year to my parents, and what really helped me was Troye Sivan's 'Coming Out (Part 2)' video, because it really prepared me for knowing that it was going to be awkward after and that was all right. Coming out videos in general really helped me. Even seeing some people I watched say they weren't accepted by their families helped because I saw how they were still surrounded by people that loved and accepted them, so I knew that I would be okay if I wasn't accepted. Luckily, my family is so supportive of me because I was so sure it wasn't going to be that way."
32. "It Gets Better" and Kate McKinnon
"Watching the 'It Gets Better' project on YouTube helps, and rewatching Kate McKinnon interviews and skits."
33. Dodie Clark
"Dodie Clark's YouTube videos about her own identity helped me become more comfortable in mine. :)"
"YouTube videos. Sooo many YouTube videos. Specifically MissFenderr. Hearing someone else have the exact same thoughts was amazing."
"When I came out as a lesbian, I was 15 and my best friend who had also just come out as queer saved me by telling me to check out this web series on YouTube. Eventually I did, I fell in love with 'Carmilla,' with the broody lesbian vampire and her tiny gay girlfriend. Through 'Carmilla,' I joined the Creampuff family, a close-knit fandom who actually care about each other. 'Carmilla' helped me get through a really tough time, and even two years later it still helps."
"For me, it was really my whole community of internet friends on the website Wattpad. I knew that nobody could really judge me on there, and finally writing down that I'm '#sexuallyattractedtopans' felt like a weight was lifted off my shoulders. On my birthday last year, my friend (and now girlfriend!) came out to me as bi, and that helped me understand. I love the LGBTQIA community, and learning about rights and different sexualities and romantics caused me to learn so much. Now, I can proudly say to people that I am a pansexual, grayromantic, fun-loving individual!"
"Honestly, the internet helped the most. Posts on Tumblr, but also Twitter and BuzzFeed, really helped to make the whole experience feel completely normal, and less scary! Because of those who posted about their own coming out experiences, mentally prepping myself to come out felt a whole lot easier (i.e. 'When is the right time?' 'Do I feel safe?' 'I don't even have to come out — it's my business!'). You feel connected, part of a community. You meet and observe others who are just like you, and you make friends who ultimately can become lifelines during an incredibly difficult and scary time. Way to go, internet!!!"
"I still haven't fully come out to my whole family. Even if people do know, I don't talk openly to anyone about being gay. So my coming out narrative so far has been really coming out to myself. As cliché as it sounds, there's this BuzzFeed video where the actress just keeps repeating to herself in the mirror or throughout the day, 'I'm gay.' That really has helped me. Before bed or when I wake up, when I just have some time to myself in silence, I'll just whisper, 'I'm gay.' At first I was testing it out, but then it became an affirmation almost. Like, don't be afraid, or don't hide from it. You're gay, and that's okay."
39. Join Facebook groups or your school's Gay-Straight Alliance.
"Joining trans/nonbinary groups on Facebook and going to my school's GSA club has helped a lot."
40. Do something that relaxes and occupies you.
"As I was in the beginning stages of coming out, I watched a lot of feel-good movies and baked a lot. Just find something that relaxes you but also keeps you occupied."
41. Find a counselor or support group.
"In college I decided to go to the free counseling center. I started with one-on-one therapy and after a semester she asked me to try out the LGBT therapy group. I kept doing groups and seeing my therapist until I graduated. With their help I was able to muster up the courage to come out to my parents and siblings. I still have some difficulties with my sexuality, but if I hadn't gone to therapy, I'd probably be a very different person right now."
42. Buy a rainbow flag.
"My coming out story isn't finished yet. There are days when I'm so fed with feeling like I still have to come out and make it known to people that I'm gay, and this is just due to the fact that people continue to act shocked that I like women or say things like, 'But you don't look gay.' The first year that I officially came out to my mom was especially hard. She had/has a difficult time accepting that my being gay is not a phase. However, the one thing that served as not only a reminder, but a beacon and source of encouragement was my flag. I was out downtown with my best friend shopping when I had the urge to walk into a store we passed and buy a rainbow flag. I asked the guy for the largest one they had in the store and as soon as I got home, I hung it on my wall. I ended up draping that flag across my shoulders to my first Pride parade the following week, and each time I look at that flag, each time I just run my fingers across the fabric, it brings a smile to my face and serves as a reminder that no matter the circumstances, there is a community where I know I can be me, where I belong. And besides, how can a rainbow not put a smile on your face?"
43. Find a community you can lean on.
"Coming out to my LDS family in Utah during the Prop 8 year was not a glamorous moment of my life. Have a support group, because in extreme situations like mine where I was cut off from my family, being able to have a support group — whether it's friends, aunts, uncles, cousins, community neighbors — made a huge difference to know I was not alone in such a MESSED UP situation. You are so not alone, and even reaching out to people on apps like this is a great place to start. Just remember, time heals a lot."
44. Become an activist or historian.
"I got really into activism and learning about LGBTQIA history. Whenever some of my friends said I was only going through a phase I would read about amazing queer people who were able to grow old. And I study laws and current events. It's not for everyone, but it really helps me."
45. Have a backup plan.
"I already knew that my closest friends were also not straight, so coming out as bi to them wasn't scary at all. But coming out to my parents was terrifying. I told my best friend when I was going to come out to my parents, and they were 'on-call' in case it went badly, either to call and talk to them for support or come get me if it was really bad. It turned out that my parents were really supportive, but knowing that I had a backup plan in case they weren't made it a little less terrifying. Even after that, I wasn't ready to come out to most of my community (and I still haven't) but knowing that my parents were supportive and I had friends that shared those experiences made me feel a lot less alone."
46. Write a letter.
"Coming out to someone can really feel like an unpredictable situation because you don't know how the other person will respond. When I came out to my parents I wanted to maintain control of the situation and make sure they were completely informed. Writing is my passion and I've always been a better writer than speaker, so I decided to write them a letter, which ensured that I wouldn't forget anything because I got to take my time, and I could read it over and over to make sure everything was perfect. It was still terrifying, of course, but I was way more confident and it made me feel better to have a well-worded, detailed piece of my soul in my hand to give to them so my words wouldn't be rushed in an emotional jumble and nothing would be lost in translation."
47. Save special texts.
"Due to geographic location I had to come out to one of my best friends over text. He was like, the fourth person I told. His reaction was so amazing that I screen-shotted our conversation and reread it whenever I was nervous to remind myself it was going to be OK."
48. Marvel at nature.
"In my case, it was a breathtaking landscape that did the trick, as weird as that may sound.
We were on a cliff overlooking some mountains with some friends and we were talking about relationships. I was gazing into the horizon, minding my own business and not really being a part of the conversation because, you know, I couldn't talk about my super-gay relationships. Until one of them asked me point-blank, 'You like men, right?' I was so moved by the beauty of the scenery and the honesty of the question that I just answered with the truth.
It's been 15 years and I still remember every detail of that mountain range."
49. Get involved with theater.
"Being involved in the theater community at my high school really helped me get through it, and I continue to feel accepted. The LGBT community is alive and well in high school theater."
50. Treat yourself to a new 'do.
"Planning a haircut appointment for the next day really helped me feel like a new person after I came out."
51. Come out to yourself.
"The biggest thing for me was fully coming out to myself! I grew up in a conservative Christian home where my parents didn't believe in marriage equality and so I had seriously repressed my sexuality for 18 years before I started allowing myself to question my sexuality. Finally, at the age of 20, I told my best friend that I ~might~ like girls. Two months later, I had my first crush. Five months after that, I kissed that crush and now we've been dating for almost a year. Since coming out to myself fully, I have just become so much happier and built a wonderful, queer foundation and support system that coming out, while still difficult, was okay because I knew I was going to be okay."
52. Learn about other people's stories.
"Hearing about other people's experiences helped. My parents are not accepting, but I came out to my coach shortly after and her support made all the difference in the world. You'd be surprised how many people are in a similar situation."
53. Remember: Only the ones who matter won't mind.
"When I started coming out it really helped me to reassure myself and believe that anyone who wasn't okay with who I was didn't need to be a part of my life and that the people who would really end up being important for me would be happy with who I am."
54. Give it time.
"Honestly, just time. Time can be all you need."
55. Keep being you.
"I was 16 in 2005 and at a local fireworks show with my first girlfriend. I had just come out a few weeks before and was nervous to be holding my girlfriend's hand since there were so many people and we were in a mostly conservative city. However, we held hands as we walked around despite our insecurities. A stranger approached us and said, 'Just keep doing what you're doing' and walked off. It was such a profound moment for me and since then, I have reflected on her encouraging words whenever I have any doubt. I wish I could thank her!"
And all of these wonderful suggestions may be exactly what you need, but nothing beats professional support. So, here are some incredible resources, just in case:
* You can learn more about depression here.
* You can find out more about starting therapy here, since basically everybody can benefit from it.
* Here's the queer sex education you probably aren't getting (or didn't get) in school — brought to you by real health professionals.
* If you need to talk to someone immediately — about suicidal thoughts or anything mental-health related — the US National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. A list of international suicide hotlines can be found here.
* You can also call the Trevor Lifeline, a toll-free, confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth, at 866-488-7386.
* The transgender community can also call the Trans Lifeline for immediate help at 877-565-8860 (US) or 877-330-6366 (Canada).
Submissions have been edited for length/clarity.