Coming out as LGBT can be a terrifying ordeal. The uncertainty of figuring out whether someone is safe or not to come out to can fill them with distress and anxiety.
If a friend or loved one chooses to come out to you, it means they’ve trusted you enough to share this very important part of themselves.
While the new information might come as a surprise at first, understand that their sexuality makes them no less of the person you once loved and appreciated. Their identity goes much farther than their sexuality. And all the while, it’s still something very much worth celebrating.
Whether it’s a friend, sibling, or someone else, here are some ways to support your LGBT friend.
Reassure your friendship and support
Your friend has just exposed themselves as a minority that some people may not be too keen to support. So, be a kind person.
Show that you don’t fall under the disapproving crowd by affirming that you’re still their friend no matter what. These words of affirmation will provide them with a sense of relief from the chance that you might reject or feel weirded out with them.
So make your support clear to them right away. Say things like: “That doesn’t change our friendship at all.” or “You’ll always be my friend, no matter what.” to do this.
Offer them a hug
Were they emotional before they revealed their sexuality to you?
Coming out can be an overwhelming experience. Many people get emotional right as the words come out of their mouth, especially if you’re the first person they came out to. If you’re unsure of what to do, offer them a hug. Hugs build a sense of trust and safety by boosting oxytocin levels, and for people with physical touch as their primary love language, this can be a great way to show your full support of their reveal.
Learn more about their sexuality
There’s a world of different sexualities out there, some more common than others, but all as valid as the next.
Your friend may be a member of the queer community but still have hetero-passing crushes or relationships. And that’s normal! If you’re confused about the terms they’ve used to identify with themselves, don’t be afraid to ask them about it nicely and appropriately. They’ll be happy to paint the picture for you.
If they’re unsure themselves, give them a nudge to go see a therapist or counsellor to clear things up. Even if they don’t push through with it, showing thoughtful concern can mean the world to them already.
Not all LGBT members come out of the closet the same way. Some may come out in a grand spectacle, while others come out low-key. Everyone experiences it differently.
In any case, it’s still important to show your unwavering support. Stay off the jokes that may be deemed harmful and inappropriate, but don’t act completely different and uptight either. Your friend would just want you to act the same way as you’ve always done, while also getting their sexuality off their chest. And that’s a perfectly reasonable thing to wish for.
If their signals are unclear, ask them how you should support them as a friend. Give them a chance to express their desires by opening a clear and open means of communication with them.
Be an ally
Has your friend or sibling come out to you, and did so in fear that someone else would disapprove of their identity?
While there have been waves of progress made to challenge and fight against discrimination in recent years, it’s still not completely phased out. If you hear another friend or classmate make homophobic or transphobic remarks, challenge their hurtful remarks or help them understand the weight of the words they throw out.
No matter what, there are just some people who will never be on your friend’s side. The best thing you can do is to be a genuine friend that’ll always be there for them. Create a safe space for your LGBT friend or loved one to unapologetically be themselves.
Continue doing the same things
Do you and your LGBT+ friend play video games every Friday night? Do you guys walk home from school every day? Keep on doing it.
The last thing your friend or loved one would want is to make things awkward between you two. Your friend might have stressed over the possibility of a friendship ending between you two, or slowly drifting away. Your friend coming out doesn’t stop there. Continue nurturing the friendship and growing together; you’ll make them feel more at peace with themselves.
When a friend comes out to you, focus your attention on them, and give them a chance to express themselves unequivocally. Listen and show your support with no strings attached.
That’s all for now, Psych2Goers!
Kumar K. Dec 3, 2020. How Do Hugs Make You Feel? Retrieved at https://www.medicinenet.com/how_do_hugs_make_you_feel/article.htm
BelongTo. ND. Supporting Someone Coming Out. Retrieved at https://www.belongto.org/youngpeople/advice/supporting-someone-coming-out/
LGBT Chapter UNC Hill. (ND). If Someone Comes Out to You. Retrieved at https://lgbtq.unc.edu/resources/if-someone-comes-out-you/