Last week we celebrated National Coming Out Day, an opportunity to celebrate people who have come out or are thinking of coming out. Maybe someone you know used this day as an opportunity to come out to you. You may not know how to respond when someone you know and love comes out to you, so we put together some tips.
1. Remember they are still your friend!
No matter how you feel – happy, sad, concerned, or unsure – the person who is coming out to you is someone you care about, right? Your response should reflect that you care! Be loving and supportive. If you have strong religious or personal beliefs about LGBTQ+ communities, it is best to keep it to yourself. If you have any concerns based on your personal and/or religious beliefs, do your best to hold off on sharing them until after you’ve had a chance to process what your friend has shared with you.
2. Respect them for who they are
Make sure your response shows respect. That means respecting their boundaries and their privacy. It’s not the right time to ask them personal questions. While you may be excited or confused by your friend coming out, be sure to respect their privacy, and not tell other people. If you need a way to process your own feelings, think about who and how you’re going to talk about those feelings. Perhaps it would be helpful to write in a journal or talk to a trusted adult. You can check out our tips for talking to trusted adults. While coming out isn’t a bad thing, it can be a very personal thing. Don’t use your friend’s name when talking about them coming out unless you have their permission.
3. Try not to make it more awkward
For some, a friend coming out may be a positive experience! For others, it might be uncomfortable. No matter what, try not to make it harder for your friend. You can use a little humor or be positive in your response to help make your friend feel more comfortable.
4. Remind them that you still love and support them
Reinforce that you still love and care about your friend. If they are coming out to other people in their life, your support may be even more important! Invite them to do fun things with you, check in with them via text or phone call to show them you still care!
5. Remember they are still the same person you know and love
Sharing this information may make you think that your friend is somehow different. But remember, they are the same person as they were before coming out to you!
6. Thank them for trusting you!
Coming out to you means your friend trusts you! Thank them for sharing this information with you and for trusting you.
Having a friend come out to you can leave you with a mix of emotions, but at the end of the day, remember that nothing has really changed. It is likely that people will come out to you at different points throughout your life and responding will probably be easier and easier with practice.