When a Friend Comes Out to You
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. Below are some suggestions you may wish to follow:
- Thank your friend for having the courage to tell you. Choosing to tell you means that there is a great deal of respect and trust for you.
- Respect your friend's confidentiality. They probably are not ready to tell others right away and want to tell people in their own way.
- Remember that LGBTQ people receive the same message about their sexualities as everyone else. Therefore, LGBTQ individuals often suffer from internalized homophobia and heterosexism. It is important to recognize the risks of coming-out and challenging internal oppression. Be prepared for your friend to have mood swings.
- Tell your friend that you still care about them, no matter what. Be the friend you have always been. The main fear for people coming out is that their friends and family will reject them.
- Be prepared to include your friend in more of your plans. They may have lost the support of other friends and family and your time and friendship will be even more precious to them. This may include family times like holidays or special celebrations.
- Don't judge your friend, lf 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.
- Do what you have always done together. Your friend probably feels that coming out will change everything in their life, and this is frightening. If you always go to the movies on Friday, then continue that.
- Be aware of the coming-out process and realize that it is not a simple one-time event.
A special note: Because we live in a society that is not yet accepting of LGBTQ individuals, some students feel isolated and alienated, or they may experience anxiety from ongoing heterosexism and homophobia, or fear violence. Consequently, LGBTQ students can be at greater risk for depression and suicide, but those with more support and access to resources may feel less isolated. The final pages of this manual include a number of local and national resources.
Please recognize when a friend needs more help than you can provide. Do not attempt to diagnose, counsel, or treat someone who you feel is at risk of suicide or other harmful behaviors. Refer them to the Centenary Counseling Center.