Telling one’s friends and family about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity requires tremendous courage; unfortunately, sometimes people react negatively.
Responding thoughtfully when someone comes out is essential, so here are a few tips that will help. This article covers: 1. Stay away from making it about you
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Avoid making it about you.
Being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender is part of who they are and should be respected as such. While you may feel overwhelmed and uncertain how to respond when they first come out, remember they took the courage to tell you and may be experiencing mixed emotions, ranging from excitement and fear.
As it’s likely they have already shared this information with others and received different reactions, this experience may help them determine how best to approach coming out and seeking an audience with you. You should always ask how they’d like you to respond and what they would like you to do with the information given by them.
Also, it would likely be best to avoid asking them when they “became” gay or when they realized, since research indicates we are born with our sexual orientation and gender identity and don’t choose it ourselves. Instead, it would likely be more useful to focus on their positive traits such as being good friends, employees or romantic partners instead.
If you don’t know how to respond, start by saying: “I don’t know what to say”, followed by an offer to learn about LGBTQ issues and communities. This shows your openness while showing that you care enough to dedicate the necessary time and resources such as PFLAG, the GSA Network or LGBTQ-centric online communities as ways of being supportive friends or family members.
Coming out can be challenging for those who identify as LGBTQ+, often due to fear of rejection and discrimination. When someone does confide in you, treat their information with care and never pry into their life; remembering that no one owes you information regarding their sexuality or gender identity should help reassure anyone they may confide in that nothing owes anyone information on that front either!
Asking someone how long they have been “that way” or when they “decided” is also best avoided as this can make the person believe their orientation or identity is an act of their choosing when in fact it has much more to do with who they are as an individual than its date of origination.
When someone shares personal information with you, it should be their moment and their own decision to do so – not about making it about you or forcing something down their throats. So it is essential that when they do so, that they be given space and attention without making it about you personally.
Especially if the individual in question hasn’t disclosed to any other friends or family members, you should assume they’re out with you, but don’t try and pressure them into coming out in other settings – whether at work or with family. That decision belongs entirely to them as part of their personal choice and may even serve to ensure their own safety in areas that may still be hostile towards LGBTQ+ people.
Even in the most accepting families and communities, coming out can be an emotionally taxing process. People may face questions, prejudice, physical danger and rejection by those they love and trust most – an especially harrowing experience for LGBTQ+ youth who already face elevated risks such as depression, anxiety, homelessness and other mental health conditions.
Though coming out can be terrifying and anxious, it can still be very beneficial. Affirmative support can have a significant impact on someone’s wellbeing and help them feel more at ease with themselves about who they are – it also serves as an opportunity to show that you care and acknowledge this part of them!
However, it is essential not to make this conversation about you; now is not the time for discussing your personal beliefs regarding homosexuality or any other issue that may come up. Their private matters should be their decision alone when sharing with the world.
Also important is using their preferred pronouns. As it can be difficult to adjust to using different pronouns when doing it for the first time, practice on yourself first before speaking with this individual. Keshet’s website can provide all-gender pronouns.
Finally, it would be beneficial for you to gain more knowledge of the LGBT community and its challenges. Doing this will enable you to better comprehend their experience while becoming a more supportive and empathetic friend.
Don’t be judgmental.
Many who come out may experience their lives being upturned suddenly and unexpectedly, with close relationships likely changing or ending and the need for new housing and jobs potentially arisening as immediate concerns. All of these should be given due consideration, respect and compassion.
But some who come out may feel that those they trusted the most have suddenly judged them or consider them unworthy due to their sexuality or gender identity. That is absolutely unacceptable and must never happen.
Understanding LGBT culture and issues can be helpful in better understanding your friends and advocating for their rights, while remembering that regardless of who or what they are, you love them as an individual.
Some individuals may feel awkward when their friends use unfamiliar slang or lingo, but keep in mind that your friend is more than the language they use – they value your respect of their privacy as much as you value yours!
At times, it can even make them special to you. If someone comes out as transgender or nonbinary, for instance, it might be helpful to ask what pronouns they prefer so you can address them correctly.
If your friend comes out, don’t immediately be critical or criticize. Remember it takes courage to come out, so give them space. Keep checking up with them in the weeks after coming out so they know you still value their friendship.
Don’t be selfish.
People coming out can feel many emotions upon disclosure: fear, sadness and/or excitement are common responses; many worry about how friends and family will respond; some might fear losing their job or being forced out of their home as a result of coming out.
After someone comes out, it is essential that friends and family provide supportive assistance without making the conversation about yourself or making comparisons between experiences. Listen carefully if someone brings up sexual orientation or gender identity discussions – let them lead the dialogue – rather than hijacking or trying to control.
If they feel comfortable, congratulate them for coming out, express your love and use their correct name/pronouns when speaking. Inquire if there are any immediate needs you can assist them with such as finding housing or changing legal documents.
Encourage them by asking how they’re doing and whether or not they have found employment or accommodations to meet their needs. Furthermore, inquire as to their health concerns such as depression or anxiety and offer help as necessary.
Being around someone who is focused solely on themselves can be challenging and can make it hard to remain supportive and positive. This is particularly true if they constantly consider what they want or believe they’re better than other people – they might think themselves prettier, more intelligent or talented than anyone else.