Studies have shown that for the person who has a concealable (hidden) stigma, the biggest challenge in their life is managing information, especially information about that stigma. This is certainly true for the registered sex offender. Few concealable stigmas carry with them such serious consequences as someone finding out that you are a registered sex offender. Because of this, who to tell, when to tell them, and how to tell them are hugely important questions.
Clearly, not everyone needs to know. The person who scans your groceries at the grocery store doesn't need to know. Nor does your barber, or dentist, or your UPS delivery person.
But what about your neighbors? Your employer? Your landlord? Your kids' friends' parents? What about the other members of the softball team you play on? Or your poker buddies? How about the people you play on-line games with?
One perfectly valid argument is that it is nobody else's business. After all, who HASN'T done something in their past they are ashamed of? People don't generally go around telling everyone everything about themselves.
People often tell me that if there are children involved, then they feel it's important to let others know. Friends who have children, for example, are people that may need to know if you are going to spend a lot of time together, or if the children are going to spend a lot of time together. If you are going to be involved in an activity that puts you around children, such family reunions, neighborhood parties, etc., then maybe others should know.
Another important reason that people on the registry often decide to tell people is the belief that it is better that others hear it from the registrant themselves, rather than find out through others or through the internet.
This is a valid argument. After all, if you tell them someone yourself, you can also add your own backstory and explanation. Often times, the difference between a hero and villain is the backstory. When people find out from someone else, or by finding you on the internet, they don't get the benefit of the backstory. Of course, it would be nice if people would approach you and ask you for your story, but the sad reality is that most people make up their mind and never bother to get the whole story.
And the backstory isn't necessarily pretty, and it may not make people any more comfortable with the situation. But my experience has been that people appreciate hearing it directly, rather than finding out some other way. Friends often express their appreciation that I was willing to be upfront with them. They appreciate that I trust them enough to share my story.
Not everyone will react positively, even when you are honest and upfront. But I've come to believe that the friends who are worth caring about are the ones who know all about you, and love you anyway.