While coming out should be celebrated as liberation day in an LGBT+ person’s life, it should also be seen as a culmination of that person’s years of dealing with fear, confusion, anxiety and self-hate even.
The act itself is difficult and entails mustering a huge deal of courage as the person coming out does not have a clue as to how they will be received by the person they’re coming out to.
Despite the massive progress in the fight for equality, there’s still a long way to go as discrimination and the perpetuation of violence against the members of the rainbow community continue.
So, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a coming-out confession, be a darling! Don’t brush it aside, trivialize it or make fun of it.
Here’s how you can make it right.
1. Be all ears.
Listen to what your friend is trying to say to you. Give them your full attention to encourage them more to unburden themselves of years of uncertainty and hiding. Don’t be passive; be appropriately responsive. Don’t utter smug remarks like “I knew all along” as that could be hurtful to someone who spent all that time agonizing over their own sexual identity. Don’t take control of the conversation by talking about other people you know who are already out. Your friend’s story is different from theirs. Again, listen.
2. Ask them if they’ve told their family and other friends.
You’ll know how far along they are in their coming-out journey and have an idea on the emotional state they’re in and what kind of support you can extend to them.
3. Ask them if they need any help.
In most cases, the person coming out just needs someone to listen to them pour out what they’ve been keeping for so long. But, at times, it could be a veiled cry for help. Gently ask if they need any help and be generous enough to extend whatever it is that you can.
4. Ask them if they’re happy.
By asking this question, you’re telling them that you genuinely care for them and their happiness is important to you. If they say they are, congratulate them and celebrate the milestone with them. If they say they’re not really, be the light in their darkness by telling them “It gets better. You’ll be fine. I’m here for you.” That reassurance could be music to their ears.
5. Ask them the LGBT-related questions you’ve been wanting to ask.
Share your honest thoughts about their coming out and about the LGBT+ community. Ask them questions you were afraid or ashamed to ask. You’ll learn a lot from initiating this conversation. However, don’t force them to spill out personal stuff they’re not comfortable to share just yet.
6. Ditch the stereotypes.
If your male friend comes out as gay, don’t start asking him about Regine Velasquez or Miss Universe. If someone comes out as lesbian, don’t tell her that it’s just a phase and she just hasn’t been with the right guy. And if someone bisexual comes out, don’t ask them why they swing both ways or which gender they prefer over the other. Seriously, don’t. There are tons of far more sensible questions to ask.
7. Don’t force them to date another LGBT+ person you know.
Your friend coming out to you is not a license to play matchmaker. If you really think someone you know would be perfect for your friend, gently ask them if they’re ready to be set up on a date and if they say they’re not, don’t railroad them into doing it. Don’t overwhelm them with your excitement.
8. Don’t go telling everyone else.
Just because your friend came out to you doesn’t mean you can tell everyone else – you’re nothing short of a despicable gossip monger if you do that. It’s not your story to tell. It’s their journey and they should be able to choose how they want to come out. Don’t make that decision for them.
9. Thank them for trusting you.
Tell them how you feel about them exposing their vulnerable side to you, without making it about you. Telling them a few affirming statements would allay their fears and assure them that nothing will change between the two of you.
10. Give them love.
Through your words and actions, show them your support. Their coming out may come to you as a bit of a shock as it may be something you don’t fully understand or against your religious beliefs, but putting your friendship above all else is the right thing to do. Borrowing the words of Lady Gaga, “It’s always wrong to hate, but it’s never wrong to love.”
Love is love is love is love is love! Happy Pride Month, fam!