Life in high school can be very challenging and coming out as gay is not an easy thing to do in high school–or really at any time in your life.  Fortunately, this is an area where attitudes have been improving toward gay people for some time.

This doesn’t mean that everyone in school or in your life will be accepting, but chances are excellent that you can find good, safe people to talk to and friends that will be supportive of you for who you are.  Most young people I’ve worked with have also been surprised to find that their parents and sisters and brothers are actually more accepting than they expected. It may take your family members some time to adjust to this new information, but most families value their family life and would not allow the fact that their child is gay to tear it apart.

There are a couple of good first steps you can take.  Consider sitting down with your school counselor and confiding in him or her.  Most school counselors have dealt with young people coming out as gay and may be able to give you some ideas about how best to approach it and what to expect from your peers.

Next, if there is a gay supportive organization in your high school, get in touch with the head of that group and sit down and talk to them one-to-one. You might also consider attending a meeting or two to get involved and meet other young people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual and the straight students who are often good allies to their GLBT peers.

Not all high schools have these support organizations, but many do.  If your school doesn’t have something like this, there are definitely support organizations in this geographic area, such as The Center in Fort Collins, that are very welcoming and informative.  Getting a support system before coming out to more people can be very helpful.

Next, think about the people in your life–both friends and family. Think about who you feel safest with and who in your personal circle seems to be the most open-minded about social issues. This is probably the place to start.   Most young people find that their confidence increases as they get over the hump of initial disclosures. Chances are good that if you choose who you come out to carefully on the front end, you will have positive experiences that give you greater confidence. It becomes easier to come out to others.

Relationships are a whole new arena to think about and discuss. Again, I encourage you to discuss your interests and questions with knowledgeable, supportive adults and peers.  If you have a clear sense of who you are, you can come out to yourself and others even if you have never yet had a same-sex sexual experience or relationship.

Take your time and move into sexual and romantic relationships at a pace that feels safe and right to you. If you are thinking about being sexual, you definitely want to learn about safe sex and use this knowledge in your new explorations. It is very important for your health and safety and saves you lots of unnecessary worries as well.

I’m sure this is an anxious time in your life, but it can also be relieving, positive and even exciting.  Young gay, lesbian and bisexual boys and girls find that coming out and being honest with themselves and others gives them a sense of freedom and self-acceptance that makes their lives fuller, richer and happier. And remember, you don’t have to go through this process alone.