Imagine this situation: Your friend just told you that they’re gay. Whether this is shocking to you or something you’ve been expecting, you might not have any idea what you’re supposed to say or how you should act. Or, maybe you think you know what to say and how to act, when in reality, you’re saying/doing something offensive or upsetting. Being supportive to someone who is going through the sometimes difficult process of coming out can be a tough thing to figure out. It’s important to keep in mind that this is their process, and they’ve decided to invite you on their journey. Even if you identify as gay, you might not say the right thing – this is not just one giant experience, and each person has a different story to tell.
Learning to understand another’s experience is tricky, even if you have the best intentions. Be open to their narrative, but also be careful to respect their boundaries. If you have questions about your friend, don’t gossip or out them to someone else, just ask them privately.
Unfortunately, no advice is ever blanket advice. Just because one thing works for one situation does not mean it will work every time. But you can’t go wrong by being an active listener – really listen to what your friend is saying, and try to mirror their emotions while being honest. If your friend seems excited to share, go ahead and be excited too. But if they seem nervous or uncomfortable, it’s probably not a good idea to throw a pride parade for them right then and there, and maybe you should try showing some calm affirmation that you accept them for whom they are. Here are seven things you should never do when someone comes out to you:
Act Super OverzealousTry to remember that this conversation isn’t exactly about you and your interests. It’s about your friend being honest, and instead of expressing how much of a dedicated ally you are to the LGBTQ cause, you should focus on assuring them that nothing is different in your relationship, even if you’re #OMGSOEXCITED for your friend. Being too excited for them might make them feel weird. Just say you're happy for them and happy that they feel comfortable enough to come out to you. Source: iStock
Tell Them You Don't CareI don't mean saying you don't care as in you're acting like a jerk, saying you don't care about their feelings. I mean saying you "don't care" as if them being gay is no big deal to you at all. You might think that would be taken as a good thing, because it shows them you love them no matter what. But this is tricky – well, all of this is tricky – because some people would actually prefer indifference. Not making a big deal of things helps them to feel normal. However, this could be interpreted as insensitive if you’re not careful. Try to communicate that you care for them but snsure them that sexual orientation does not play a factor in how much you value their friendship. Source: iStock
Question Them By Saying, 'Are You Sure?'This or any variation of “Are you experimenting?” or “Is it a phase?” is either discounting your friend’s experience or is creating another layer of insecurity for your friend – maybe both. If your friend says they’re gay/lesbian/biexual/trans or ANYTHING, don’t question it. Their story is not yours to tell. Even if you're doubting them, this is not the time to say it. Source: iStock
Not Acting Empathetic At AllIf you don’t support or understand LGBTQ rights, remember that this person is your friend and that they’re still the same person as they were before they told you. You may have differing opinions, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be friends. Source: iStock
Ask Questions Like, 'How Do You Have Sex?'You might think you're being forward and cute and funny and sassy with this question, like, "Oh, I don't care if you're gay! So cool!" but you're not. No right way to ask this exists. If your friend literally just came out to you, this is not something to ask, if ever. It objectifies your friend, and demeans their identity to a physical act that is often exploited or fetishized. If you really want to know, figure out if your friend is comfortable discussing their sex life. Or save the awkwardness and let us try to explain. Source: iStock
Act Immediately InvasiveExpression of sexual identity and orientation may vary from personality to personality. But either way, it’s personal. It’s not your job to try and make your friend more comfortable with who they are or to prod into the depths of their emotional well-being that they may still be figuring out themselves. In this moment, your job is to do your best to communicate that you care for them no matter who they are, not “fix” anything about them. Source: iStock
Say Things Like, 'It Will Be So Much Easier To Date Girls!'Just because your female friend wants to date girls doesn’t mean that she has it any “easier” than people pursuing straight relationships. Being the same gender does not necessarily mean translate to better communication or understanding. Everyone has their own issues and same sex relationships are not any different in the respect – the problems might just be different, not easier to deal with. Source: iStock
What’s the best response you’ve received after coming out? What scares you about coming out? How would you handle this situation? Tell us in the comments!