What to say when someone comes out to youOct 11, 2022
For many people, coming out as LGBTQ+ can be really scary. But queerphobia thrives in an atmosphere of silence and ignorance, so "coming out" is one of the most basic forms of activism.
National Coming Out Day is an observance to raise awareness and support for LGBTQ+ people "coming out of the closet". On this day we also acknowledge the people who are not safe to "come out" and have to "stay in" out of necessity.
If someone does come out to you, here are some things you should say...
“I'm really glad that you told me.”
Coming out is a very personal experience, and everyone reacts differently. Some people might be happy and supportive, while others may be more hesitant. It's important to remember that the person coming out is putting a lot of trust in you, so be sure to respect their decision. If you're not sure how to react, try not to overthink it - just be there for them. Thank them for trusting you with this important news, and let them know that you're always available to talk if they need someone to talk to.
“I’m here for you, no matter what.”
When I came out to my parents, I thought I needed to here the words "we love you". But instead, they said something more powerful. They said "we'll always be here for whatever you need." That is love in action.
Making it clear that your person can come to you with anything is essential. No one should feel like they have to face their struggles alone. Let the person know that you're always there for them (and that you love them) no matter what. This can be a huge relief for someone who is coming out, and it can help build a stronger relationship between the two of you.
“Do you want to keep talking about it?”
If they seem like they might want to talk more, offer to continue the conversation. If you are the first person they've told, it's likely they haven't had a chance to talk openly about this before, and your ear could be the greatest gift. Some people need to process their feelings out loud, and others might want to talk about their experiences. If they don't want to talk about it, that's okay too. Just let them know that you're there if they ever need to talk.
“Does anyone else know? Would you like me to keep this to myself?”
It's important to establish what level of confidentiality the person wants from this conversation and to respect it. If they've told you that this is something they haven't shared with anyone else yet, let them know that you'll keep it to yourself. If they want to talk about it more, you can offer to introduce them to other people who might be supportive or connect them with resources.
“Do you need anything right now?”
When I came out to one of my friends in high school, we were sitting in the car in her driveway and I was shaking the entire conversation because I was so nervous. She invited me inside and offered me some peppermint tea, which helped to calm me down.
If the person who has come out to you seems like they might need some support, offer to help in any way you can. This might mean getting them some food (or tea), offering to walk with them, or just being there to listen. If they don't need anything at the moment, let them know that you're available if they need anything in the future.