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How to Support Someone Who Has Come Out to You

come out to you

How to Support Someone Who Has Come Out to You

Coming out as LGBTQ+ can be overwhelming. If someone chooses to come out to you first and not anybody else, it means that they trust you and you are important to them. Being LGBTQ+ isn’t a big deal, so avoid acting as if it is. Try as much as possible to accept an individual’s sexual orientation even if it doesn’t feel right to you. Do not be judgemental; instead, be supportive.

Supporting Someone Who Has Come Out to You

For most LGBTQ+, this is obviously not the highest moment for them, but if someone gathers the courage to come out to you, consider the following suggestions:

  • Be grateful to them for trusting and opening up to you. It shows how much they trust and have faith in you.
  • Respect their confidentiality, meaning you should allow them to share when, how, and what they want.
  • Do not be judgemental. If you have negative vibes against the LGBTQ+ community, this is not the right time to disclose them. Keep cool, at least for now, do not shatter their trust in you by telling them how you disagree with them.
  • It’s not that serious! Add some humor to the discussion so that you can make them feel comfortable.
  • Do not neglect them. Assure them that your relationship is still intact. Most LGBTQ+ fear losing their relationships after coming out.
  • Do not behave like a detective! You don’t have to ask lots of questions. Instead, you can assist in finding answers together.
  • Call them regularly after they come out to show them that you care and you are there for them.
  • Include them in your plans just like before. Most LGBTQ+ persons are neglected by their loved ones, and spending time together can mean a lot to them.
  • Coming out is associated with mood swings such as anger and depression, especially if their loved ones do not accept their sexuality. Do not take mood swings personal; instead, you can choose to help them overcome
  • Do not allow them to spend time in isolation. Advise them to spend time in organizations or somewhere where they can socialize with others
  • Talk of other LGBTQ+ individuals that you know. The discussion should be healthy so that they can understand that you accept the true identities of others
  • Learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. This will help you to relate well with someone who has come out
  • Ensure that you continue doing what you did before they came out. Nothing has changed, only that they have opened up about who they really are.

Remember, coming out isn’t always one-on-one. But if it happens to be, you should consider using a friendly tone and know what’s helpful and what’s not.

So, What’s Helpful and What’s Not?

You may think that telling them how much you love them regardless of what they are about to say to you is helping; well, it’s not! Instead, remind them that they are what they are and that’s what defines them, and appreciate that they come out to you.

Also, telling them that you are not surprised or it doesn’t matter to you may be underestimating what they have gone through before coming out might not be helpful. Choose to say that you will be there for them, and you will support them in whichever way they wish you to go – if any.

Avoid suggesting that maybe they haven’t found the right person yet, and they could be heterosexual after all; that’s being unhelpful. Imagine someone suggesting that a heterosexual person could be gay, lesbian, or bi; it’s only that they haven’t found the right partner; it’s funny, right?

Additionally, you shouldn’t suggest that they are going through a phase that’s not supportive. Although some identity with different sexuality now and then, some find an identity that suits them in their lifetime.

What if You Get it Wrong?

Maybe you said something unhelpful. Perhaps you’ve made some sick jokes about their identity before they come out. Should you apologize to them when they come out to you?

Well, no human is perfect or knows it all, so yeah, sometimes apologizing for your utterances or behaviors is appropriate.

However, you should apologize and move on because it’s not about you. Focus on how to support them and the challenges they face and be a good friend to them.

How to Create a Room for People to come Out to You

For someone to come out to you, they must be aware of your understanding and non-judgmental traits. They should be sure of your support and unconditional love for them. For LGBTQ+ to feel free to come out to you, you should be:

  • LGBTQ+ friendly. Challenge negative comments, attitudes, and create an LGBTQ+ally connection.
  • Proud to associate with them and champion their equity and rights.
  • Ready to ensure they are not bullied and discriminated against, especially in school and place of work.

Remember, someone comes out to you because they appreciate your relationship with them, not because they are into you. Some people fear that the intention of them coming out to them is always about intimacy.

This is far from the truth; the trust between you two leads to them opening up to you. In most cases, LGBTQ+ come out to free themselves from being trapped inside themselves, but not because they want to be with you.

Final Thoughts

If you think that someone close to you is LGBTQ+, you should not pop the question. Create a conducive environment for them to be able to come out, then wait. You should also not show signs of sympathy towards them because you will only make them feel uncomfortable.

In case they open up to you, appreciate and be there for them. Continue being normal to them by doing staff that you always did together. Please stand up for them in case they are bullied or humiliated. Ensure they are always active to minimize the chances of being depressed or anxious since they could be going through a lot. 

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Danielle Aubin (she/her), Online Clinical Social Worker/Therapist, Roseville, CA

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