Emily Rizzo

April 1998

Coming Out At Thirteen

Q. I need help. I am a 13-year-old girl. I am a bisexual and I don't know how I can tell anyone. I don't know how I can tell it to my parents. I am afraid that they will get mad at me or tell the whole family. Can you help me?

A. I'm not going to tell you that 13 year's old is too young to know your own mind -- my son told me (when he was 16) that he knew by the age of 6 that he was gay. But like my son, you don't *have* to tell people until you are ready. This is especially true if you fear that they will react negatively.

Our society sends contradictory messages: on the one hand, they say you should be open and honest -- parents will say, "you can tell me anything" -- but on the other hand they sometimes cannot deal with the news that their child is gay, lesbian or bisexual.

If you really feel that you must tell them (or you will absolutely explode if you don't) then first read the PFLAG pamphlet "Read This before Coming out to Your Parents" which can be found in the library section of the PFLAG-TALK web page at: http://www.critpath.org/pflag-talk/

Do your homework: obtain information (see www.pflag.org) about the nearest PFLAG chapter. Every chapter has a Helpline so call up to find out when and where the next meeting is. Read up on the subject; after all, you will be the expert and you should prepare yourself to answer their questions.

There's no shame in not coming out to them until you are older and more independent; only you can judge how your parents will react. Many people, who fear a bad reaction, wait until they are older, perhaps living away at college, when they can be more independent financially and emotionally. At 13 you are still very much at their mercy since you are too young to live on your own. Also, while your sexual orientation is central to your identity, there are many other things that matter as well, such as doing well in school, outside activities, cultivating friendships, etc.

As for telling other relatives, you should ask your parents to respect your privacy by not sharing your news with others unless you give them permission. In reality, though, once a secret is out you have little control over it, so be prepared that others will know.

Please send your questions to Emily Rizzo at er5@nyu.edu

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