IT TAKES A lot of courage for a gay teenager to reveal their sexuality to friends. They face the threat of rejection - will they be laughed at or mocked? Teens who trust their friends enough to confide in them bare their souls, and if they are understood and accepted, friendship bonds become stronger. 'Coming out' to parents poses greater risk. If your so-called friends reject you, you can always make new friends who will accept you. But you only have one family and the fear of being shut out by them is what compels most Hong Kong gays to hide their sexuality. But just because you don't tell your family does not mean they don't know. Take Michael. He's 21, has had several boyfriends and lives with his parents and elder brother. He came out to a small circle of friends when he was at school. He carefully chose the people he could confide in and they were supportive. 'Some of them were surprised and I had to explain things to them, but in the end, they were accepting. They advised me not to tell my parents because they are very traditional,' he said. Michael did not need his friends to warn him against telling his parents, because he had decided not to from the start. But he will tell them eventually. He is waiting for the right moment: when he has enough money to get a place of his own. Being cut off from your family is bad enough without being homeless as well. Parents aren't completely clueless. And they are often a lot more aware of what's going on than we give them credit for. 'I'm pretty sure my parents have guessed I'm gay, from the phone calls I get and from my ICQ, but they have never asked me directly. They just don't want to bring up such a sensitive subject,' he said. While a lot of parents go by the philosophy of 'don't ask about what you don't want to hear', some are more courageous, but that doesn't always make it easier. Seventeen-year-old Billy knew his parents suspected he was gay. His dad kept pestering him about whether he was interested in girls. His mum took a more direct approach. She waited until his dad was engrossed in the TV one night and then she slipped into Billy's room and, in a hushed whisper, asked if he was gay. Billy didn't say anything. 'She said if I was gay she would still love me. The trouble is she is ready to ask, but I am not ready to tell,' he said. Billy knows his mum would be supportive if he came out - he's not so sure about his dad - but he feels he would be letting both of them down. He's an only child and being gay means the end of the family line. No grandchildren. He is also dreading the barrage of questions he knows he would face from his parents: Why are you gay? Is it curable? In the United States and Europe, coming out is a big deal. The US had its annual national 'Coming Out Week' this week and universities across the country held marches, rallies and parties to support gays. Hong Kong has its own, more low key, support groups for young gays. Hong Kong Rainbow (tel: 2385 6652) attracts a lot of young people to their social events and the Blessed Minority (tel: 2834 6601), a gay Christian fellowship, also has young members. There is even a newsletter for gay secondary school students. (For a copy contact the editor at hermione~ firstname.lastname@example.org ). Coming Out Days and sexual revolutions are not Hong Kong's style. We are a smaller place, with a different culture, but the support is there.