The actor - who played Q in the most recent 007 movie Skyfall - said it is "hard" for people to come out to their mother, adding: "I applaud everyone who does it."
Whishaw told The Sunday Times Magazine that there is "so much tension around doing something like that".
Asked if he had to come out to his own parents, he said: "I did have to. It's a phrase I'm not entirely comfortable with, but since it's the only one we have..."
Whishaw said his own experiences of it were "not dramatic", and said everyone was "surprisingly lovely".
He told the magazine: "I hadn't anticipated that they would be, but they were."
The star said he had "a lot of fear in doing it for a long time", but said he is not sure why.
"But it takes courage and people have to do it in their own time," he added.
Whishaw told the magazine: "It's hard to have a conversation with people you've known your whole life about a very intimate thing.
"It's massively weighted with all sorts of stuff, whatever the wider world is saying...it's an intimate and private and difficult conversation for most people," he said.
In his latest film Lilting, Whishaw plays a gay man coming to terms with the death of his boyfriend.