Happy pride, Queer friends and allies! This month we get to celebrate our friends in the LGBTQ+ community. The bleak reality is that some people have to hide their identity or suffer at home during COVID-19. All because they are stuck with unsupportive households or housemates. In some countries, being queer is punishable by death or law, so no wonder our LGBTQ+ peers often hid their identities because they do not feel safe.
Coming out to someone is just like all human beings when they share their secrets - they tell them to someone they trust and consider a safe space. That is why when someone comes out to you, it means you are significant to them. Below are some tips from Queers from different parts of the world about supporting someone who comes out to you.
Tips to Support Someone Who Comes Out to You
Appreciate their courage to be themselves. Thank your Queer friends for their courage to open up and free themselves. Mario also suggests that you let your friend know that you are supportive of who they are. Show interest and learn more about their identity and sexuality.
Listen. Chris elaborates that everyone has their own story about who they are. It can be challenging to be true to someone when they have been told all their life essentially not to be.
Ask Questions. Chris also emphasizes that it is okay to acknowledge that you do not know everything about gender expressions, pronouns, orientations, and the LGBTQ community as a whole. Asking a question is better than not. In summary, it is okay to make mistakes and try your best to learn from them. If you misgender someone, say thank you for clearing that up. Then, work towards correcting your misgendering habits instead of saying sorry.
“The best reaction is not reacting much. Like, treat us just the same afterward. If it feels so good, it feels like we’re paying it much more importance. If someone tells you about a hard journey coming to internal acceptable and all, be compassionate. Nicely ask questions. Queers mostly are very open and would love to answer your questions if it helps you understand.”
Mind your reaction. Facial expressions and thought-filtering can be helpful or hurtful, depending on the situation. If you react negatively to someone’s coming out, it could be detrimental to their mental health. Nothing productive will come from it. On the other hand, if you cherish that person as a friend, most likely than not, you will lose that friendship. Liona says that depending on the emotional state of the speaker, you have to react accordingly. For instance, if they are calm, they might be open to questions and comments.
Give a hug, ideas, or actionable support. Liona continues that if one is miserable upon coming out to you, it is better to comfort them by asking what you can do to make them feel better. You may offer a hug, ideas, or other support to show them that you care - that their coming out does not change how you see them.
Cheer to your friend! This ray of sunshine shared her own coming-out story that was very empowering for her. When Svenja told her friends at Christmas that she has a girlfriend, they were all cheering for her. She says it felt great that her friends were so happy for her for having found someone.
If You Decide You Cannot Accept Someone’s Coming Out: An Addition by Liona
If you don’t like hearing it, forget about it. In a typical sassy, humorous Liona fashion, she tells me, “Ignorance is bliss.” So if one happens to feel repulsed after hearing someone being queer, suck it up and forget about them telling you about their coming out.
Even if you have strong feelings against being queer, the truth remains. When one criticizes or abandons their friends over their queerness, changing their identity is not within their control. How can we ask someone to change their true identity when they are who they are supposed to be? If anything, by voicing your opposition, you will risk their mental health. It is not a secret that LGBT+ persons are more likely to be suicidal and experience homelessness.
In general, people want to feel supported and accepted. Let them know that their newfound identity does not change who they are as a person, a friend, or a family member. Every individual is unique plus, each of us makes the world brighter. Therefore, it only makes sense if we celebrate their existence!
If you need help to heal after a traumatic coming-out experience, I recommend checking out Queer Healing Resources. For you who just become a confidant to your friends or family’s coming-out and want to educate yourself on how better support them, I recommend visiting the Trevor Project.