When a Friend Comes Out To You
We live in a society that often discriminates against people who are different. We all have been taught to believe that to be "straight" is to be normal. This can cause a great deal of pain for gay men, lesbians, and bisexual people.
"Coming out" or disclosing their orientation to others is an important step in lesbigay people's self-acceptance. Like everyone, lesbigay people accept themselves better if they are accepted by others.
Someone who is coming out feels close enough to you and trusts you sufficiently to be honest and risk losing you as a friend. It is difficult to know what to say and do to be a supportive friend to someone who has come out to you. Here are some suggestions you may wish to follow.
- Thank your friend for having the courage to tell you. Choosing to tell you means she has a great deal of respect and trust for you.
- Don't judge your friend. If you have strong religious or other beliefs about homosexuality, keep them to yourself for now. There will be plenty of time in the future for you to think and talk about your beliefs in light of your friend's orientation.
- Respect your friend's confidentiality. He probably is not ready to tell others right away and wants to tell people in his own way.
- Tell your friend that you still care about her, no matter what. Be the friend you have always been. The main fear for people coming out is that they will be rejected by their friends and family.
- Don't be too serious. Sensitively worded humor may ease the tension you are both probably feeling.
- A simple squeeze of the hand or a hug (with permission) can let your friend know you still care and that you don't think you can "catch" anything.
- Ask any questions you may have, but be prepared that your friend may not have all the answers. You can save some questions for later or, better yet, you can find some of the answers together.
- Include your friend's partner in plans as much as you would with any other friend.
- Be prepared to include your friend in more of your plans. He may have lost the support of other friends and family, and your time and friendship will be even more precious to him. This may include "family" times like Christmas and Thanksgiving.
- Offer and be available to support your friend in telling others.
- Call frequently during the time right after your friend has come out to you. This will let her know you are still friends.
- Be prepared for your friend to have mood swings. Coming out can be very traumatic. Anger and depression are common, especially if friends or family have trouble accepting your friend's orientation. Don't take mood swings personally. Be flattered you are close enough to risk sharing any feelings of anger or frustration.
- Do what you have always done together. Your friend probably feels that coming out will change everything in his life, and this is frightening. If you always go to the movies on Friday, then continue that.
- Talk about other lesbigay people you know. If your friend knows you have accepted someone else, she will feel more comfortable that you will accept her.
- Learn about the lesbigay community. This will allow you to better support your friend, and knowing his world will help prevent you from drifting apart.
- Don't allow your friend to become isolated. Let her know about organizations and places where she can meet other lesbigay people that you know.
- If your friend seems afraid about people knowing, there may be a good reason. People are sometimes attacked violently because they are perceived as lesbigay. Sometimes people are discriminated against in such things as housing and employment. If your friend is discriminated against illegally, you can help him in pursuing his rights.
- Don't worry that your friend may have attractions or feelings for you that you may not share. Probably her feelings are feelings that you have for her. If she has more or different feelings than you have, these can be worked through. It's the same as if someone of the opposite sex had feelings for you that you don't share. Either way, its probably not worth losing a friend over.
- It's never too late. If someone has come out to you before and you feel badly about how you handled it, you can always go back and try again.
Adapted by Nancy Jean Tubbs from a flyer by the Youth Service Bureau of Wellington, Ottawa.
General information: Jeff Walsh
Design and HTML: Jase Pittman-Wells
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