How Can I Respond If a Friend Comes Out to Me?
We live in a society that discriminates against people who are different. We have all been taught to believe that to be "straight" is to be normal. This can cause a great deal of pain for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, intersex and queer people. "Coming out," or disclosing their orientation/identity to others is an important step in LGBTIQ people’s self-acceptance. Like everyone else, LGBTIQ people accept themselves better if others accept them.
If someone chooses you as one of the first people to "come out" to then they must feel close to you and trust you to a significant degree. It is difficult to know what to say and do to be a supportive friend to someone who has "come out" to you. Below are some suggestions you may wish to follow. During the "coming out" conversation:
- Thank your friend for having the courage to tell you.
- Respect your friend’s confidentiality. They have placed a trust in you by sharing who they are with you.
- Tell your friend you still care about them, no matter what. The main fear for people coming out is that their friends and family will reject them. Keep the door open for further conversations and help.
- Ask any questions you may have, but understand that your friend may not have all the answers. If you are feeling uncertain or don’t think you can be supportive, refer them to someone who can.
- If your friend seems to lack confidence in your acceptance of them, talk about other LGBTIQ people you may know. It will boost their confidence if your friend knows you have accepted someone else. Explain that many people have struggled with these issues in the past. Admit that dealing with one’s sexual or gender orientation/identity can be a difficult and confusing process. There are no easy and fast answers.