Monday, February 1, 2016

What to Say When Someone Comes Out

When a friend or loved one comes out to you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, it can bring up a lot! You want to react in a supportive way but aren't sure how, you have your own questions or concerns about what it means, and you may be surprised- to name a few possible inner reactions. Not to worry. 

Someone wants you to know them better and trusts and values you enough to take this step to being more open with you. Breathe that in. It's a good thing that someone wants to be seen for who they are in your eyes! 

Here's how to respond in a way that is accepting and supportive:
1. Be a matter of fact. A gentle nod, smile, or other nonverbal response of acknowledgment works great. This conveys that people can be themselves with you without having to "take care of" you- or your over-reactions. 
2. Be appreciative. Follow up with a quick, "Thank you so much for sharing that with me" and move on. This communicates that you value the opportunity to know them better but leaves them in control of how much they choose to share with you.

--> These ideas are offered with the idea that the person coming out to you is a friend or acquaintance. If it's someone closer to you, you may want to make your interest and acceptance in the person more explicit with a phrase like, "I want to know more" or "Tell me more." And, directly sharing that "I love you no matter what" never hurts. :)

It can also be useful to look at what not to do.

These reactions, whatever the intention, are hurtful:
1. Offering doom and gloom. "That's the worst thing you could have told me. I would have rather you said you were _____." It's important that your worries and fears be worked through but process them later with someone else.
2. Questioning the person's identity. "Well, I don't think you're _____. Are you sure?" The time to contemplate your questions is not with this person.

Remember, if things don't go as you'd hoped or planned, there will always be another chance to talk. The most important thing is to be your self- just as your friend is doing with you! 

I hope that you found this post helpful. Thankfully, we're not defined by any one response at any given moment in time. Rather, we share ourselves slowly through many interactions over time as we grow and change together. No one's as simple as a stereotype- including you!

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