A Piece of Advice
Here’s What You Can Do When Your Friend Comes Out To You
We asked people about things their friends did that helped make their coming out experience as easy as possible.
Coming out is often a scary and lonely process, but it doesn’t have to be.
When he was 25 years old, cycling instructor EG Bautista was hiding, avoiding coming out as gay to his friends and family because he was scared of how they’d take it.
“It was the hardest thing. I kept replaying different reactions, instances, things they would say in response to what I had to tell them. That was the biggest obstacle—overcoming the mental gymnastics of being so certain of how they would react,” EG, now 28, said.
For many LGBTQ people, figuring out—and then coming to terms with—their sexuality is a lonely process, so a friend who loves and accepts them is a great thing to find outside the proverbial closet. But just as understanding one’s sexuality can be difficult, understanding someone else’s can be, too.
So what’s the best thing to do in that situation? How can you be an ally to a friend who just came out to you? We asked people about their coming out experience and what their friends did that truly made them feel accepted.
Create an open and comfortable environment
Coming out is hard, so perhaps one of the best things you can do for your friend is to make them feel like they don’t have to do it.
Nadine Bautista, a 26-year-old program coordinator, said she thanked the universe for having found accepting friends. She identifies as bisexual, but never had to set a schedule to come out to them—like many LGBTQ people find themselves doing—because she never felt like she had to come out at all.
“If you might have a gay friend, don’t suspect and just wait for that person to come out,” Nadine said.
Understand that it might be a big deal for them, but don’t make it a big deal for you
Unlike Nadine, EG said he had to carefully plan coming out to a lot of his friends.
“I really had to set it up,” he said. “For some reason, coming out to them felt like a revelation that could really alter or shift their perception of me, and that made the moment extremely nerve-racking.”
He shares this experience with 28-year-old marketing manager Jacky Ong.
“I was anticipating the worst,” Ong said about the time she came out to her best friend.
She identifies as bisexual and decided to come out when she was entering her first relationship with another woman, because she felt that it was important for her friend to know about it.
“I stopped and said ‘I need to tell you something now, and if you don’t want me to be your best friend anymore after this, I would totally understand,’” Ong recalled, saying that her best friend looked worried and curious.
“Finally, [my best friend] spoke. With her eyebrows scrunched together, she said, ‘That’s it?’” Ong said.
This was the response Ong needed, but couldn’t have imagined. “I felt safe and understood,” she said.
Coming out “is an intense moment,” EG said. “Up to the last minute [people] actually come out, they are still unsure, doubtful, and even scared—so be that person to catch them and just welcome them with big, open arms. You will never know what your friend has gone through to get to that moment.”
Acknowledge their significant others as their partners
In many places, LGBTQ couples are still struggling for recognition in the eyes of the law, religious institutions, their own families, and society at large. For many couples, it’s a relief to find out that they don’t have to ask for acceptance from their friends.
“My friends [acknowledged] the presence of my then-girlfriend as my partner, and not just someone I was seeing platonically,” Ong said. “I felt accepted the most when my friends would introduce me and my girlfriend then as, ‘Oh, this is my friend, Jacky, and her girlfriend.’ It gave me another avenue to get the acceptance and understanding I didn’t know I needed, and the validation that our relationship existed.”
Ask questions and be vulnerable, too
If your friend’s coming out did catch you by surprise, that’s OK, too. But be open.
“It helped when my peers would ask me questions about my sexual orientation. I appreciated their questions when they genuinely wanted to learn and understand,” Ong said. “It was nice being asked about my orientation, and seeing the realization of my peers on how to respect people they aren’t used to interacting with.”
The key here is a willingness to understand. Sometimes, LGBTQ people themselves don’t have all the answers, but a friend who asks the same questions is just as good.
“When you want to ask questions, ask them respectfully,” said 22-year-old retail manager Raffy Bunal, who first came out as gay then as non-binary. “Also, make time to reflect on your own gender journey.”
Bunal added that his coming out prompted his friends to be vulnerable with him, and to speak about their own identities, too. “[That] is such a gift,” he said.
Don’t change anything
When EG finally came out to some of his best friends, he was surprised that he had no reason to worry after all.
“They just said, ‘EG, nothing changes, and we’re happy for you,’” he recalled. “We carried on, and it felt like just a normal night. They also met [my partner] that night, and they all really got along. It was a surreal feeling.”
EG said this is perhaps the most important thing to do when your friend comes out to you—tell them that nothing will change.
“You are still friends and family, and that preference does nothing to your relationship.”
Source: Romano Santos, VICE
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