How Can You Let People Know You're Gay When it isn't Obvious?

Teens talking in hallway at school
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Question: How Can You Let People Know You're Gay When it isn't Obvious?

Sometime people realize you are gay, lesbian or bisexual right away. Other times it is clear they just don't get it, or just don't beleive you when you tell them your sexual orientation. Here are some tips for how to navigate these situations.


A gay 16-year-old writes:

"For all you people reading this who don't fit into the typical stereotype for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, I have a question for you. Do you ever wish you fit the stereotype sometimes? I'm gay, but I don't come off as gay at all. It's nice when you're trying to fly under the gaydar, but sometimes I wish that more people could guess. Every time I out myself to someone, it's usually followed by a solid five minutes of them trying to find out if I'm just messing with them. Even when I told my mom, she just laughed it off for a couple of days. Sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes, I wish I could tell people that I'm gay, and the response could be "Yeah, I pretty much figured." Rather than, "Ha Ha, Alright, stop messin' around dude, do you think that chick is hot?"

Another teen says of his situation:

"I'm so not ready to be outed or anything, but I wish I fit into the stereotype more than I do. I dress very well (which I don't really get why that's part of the stereotype) and I do my hair and I have a semi-feminine voice but it's not enough where other people know. However, when I come out to people, most of them have been like "Not really surprising." But two people have been like, "No way. I so don't believe you." It's, like, why the hell would I lie about that? It's not really something to lie about."

So what can you do in situations like these? You have a few options:

  1. Make a point of mentioning your sexual orientation early on in conversations, so that there is no confusion.
  2. Remember that a lot of people won't get your subtle hints. Be direct.
  3. If you have a crush on someone, let him or her know how you feel.
  4. If there is one person who simply refuses to believe that you are gay or lesbian, consider coming out to someone else who you trust, and who you think the person respects, and ask that person to talk to the disbeliever.
  1. Get involved publicly with GLBT causes, like a GSA.
  2. Consider adding some rainbow to your wardrobe.
  3. Accept the fact that you know who you are, even if other people don't get it.

We still live in a world that has a lot of pretty set views about what it means to be gay or lesbian. A lot of these have a lot more to do with appearance and mannerisms than they do with the gender of the person that you are attracted to.

If you think about it, that is pretty ridiculous.

However, more and more of these old assumptions are being challenged. These days, an openly gay actor, like Neil Patrick Harris, can play a straight ladies man on the popular sitcom, How I Met Your Mother. And while old-fashioned terms, like "lipstick lesbian" are still used to describe gay women who wear typically feminine clothes, plenty of lesbians, with plenty of different styles, can be found in all areas of life (think Ellen Degeneres, her wife, Portia de Rossi (now Portia Lee James DeGeneres), Wanda Sykes, or Cynthia Nixon).

Keep in mind, that some people who are heterosexual get mistaken for being gay, and some that are gay get mistaken for being straight. And while for GLBT teens this can be a frustrating example of heterosexism, it is often one that is easily cleared up!