Author: Audrey Pitcher, Ursinus Intern
We live in a society where more and more people feel comfortable coming out to their friends and family. This is great, but many people still don’t know how to respond. Obviously, you don’t want to say the wrong thing. Here’s a few things to help you out.
Keep it low-key. For many LGBTQ+ people, our greatest fear is that coming out to someone will change the way they think of us. Reacting calmly shows us that you’re fine with it and still see us as the same person.
Tell them you support them. You don’t have to make any grand gestures, but make sure they know you’re there for them.
Exploring your identity can be really hard. Your friend might need someone to talk to about their latest crush, just like a straight friend would. Or, if they’re exploring their gender identity, they may need a friend to help them feel safe and comfortable when they dress in a manner that validates their identity.
This is a good sample of what you could say: “Alright, thanks for telling me. I’m here for you if you want to talk, or if you need anything.” It’s simple, calm, and supportive.
It’s also important to support their identity, even if they don’t match your definition of that identity exactly. For example, don’t say, “You can’t be a lesbian, you told me you had a crush on a boy last year!” Or, “You can’t identify as a boy, you like makeup!”
In some cases, like the first example, your friend might have lied or tried to make themself believe they were attracted to someone because of societal pressures. In the second example, your ideas of what constitute “boy things” or “girl things” are influenced by a society that enforces rigid gender norms. Just as it’s okay for a cis boy to like dolls, a trans boy can like makeup.
Don’t expect your friend to explain everything about their identity. If they offer to explain it to you, that’s fine. But for some people, answering the same questions over and over can be exhausting. It’s understandable for you to have questions, but you can answer many of them with a simple Google search.
It’s up to you to figure out how best to support your friend, but there are lots of resources out there to help you. Like with most things, be kind, be supportive, and communicate, and you’ll do just fine.
For more tips on how to come out to friends and family, or for information on how to support someone during their coming out process, click here.