How to Respond when a Gay Friend Comes Out of the Closet
Coming out as gay can be one of the most significant events in your friend's life. Chances are good that your friend is experiencing a fair amount of fear and anxiety about coming out, so it's important that you do all that you can to show your support and embrace your friend's honesty. Remember that neither you nor your friend have changed; your friend is just comfortable enough now to be honest about their feelings with you.
Responding in the Moment
Thank them for telling you.Coming out of the closet can be one of the most significant events in a person’s life. People often fear how their friends and family will respond when they break the news, so let your friend know that you appreciate them trusting you, and that their trust wasn’t misplaced.
Don’t ignore the situation.You may not feel as though your friend coming out is particularly big news. Perhaps you felt as though you already knew or you don’t see a significant meaning behind one’s sexual orientation. Regardless of your feelings, understand the importance of the moment to your friend.
- How significant the event is for you doesn’t matter. What’s important is how significant it is for your friend.
- Try to appreciate that this moment isn’t about your friend’s sexual orientation, but rather it’s about their feeling strong enough to be honest.
Ask questions.Let your friend know that you care and you’re interested in learning about their experience and what they’re going through. One great way to demonstrate your concern is to ask questions.
- You may want to ask who else knows or if you should avoid discussing the subject with others.
- Ask about relationships, their experiences or concerns. Keeping the conversation moving will prevent awkward and uncomfortable pauses.
- Try asking questions like, “how old were you when you realized you were gay?” or “when did you realize there was a word for how you felt?”
- Other questions you might want to ask are: “are you in a relationship?” If they are, you may want to ask if you can meet their partner. Demonstrating a willingness to accept your friend’s partner can be a good way to show that you are comfortable with the news.
Making Your Friend Comfortable
Focus on what your friend needs now.Depending on your friend’s situation, they may need different things from you. Try to determine what your friend is going through and base your behavior on what they may need.
Voice your support.Let your friend know that they have your support. Coming out of the closet can be nerve racking, stressful, and even frightening. It’s important that you express your support for your friend and let them know that they can rest easily having told you.
Avoid stereotypes.As you talk to your friend, it’s normal to relate the situation to things you’re familiar with. A danger in doing so, however, is utilizing stereotypes that you may not realize are hurtful.
- While the extent of your experience with someone coming out may be from television and movies, to your friend this situation is very real and unique to them.
- Making even positive generalizations robs your friend of their individuality. Instead, focus on them specifically.
Being a Good Friend
Don’t tell others for them.Your friend choosing to come out to you does not necessarily mean your friend has chosen to come out in general. Let your friend choose the way in which people find out that they’re gay, don’t make that decision for them.
- Ask your friend if others already know or if they intend to tell others. Make sure you aren’t the first person to break the news to someone else.
- You may be excited for your friend, but remember that it’s their journey, and they need to choose how they want to come out.
Be careful with your pronouns.Everyone is different, and a part of coming out for your friend may be publicly acknowledging their feelings about their gender as well as their sexuality. If your friend explains that they no longer wish to identify as a particular gender, show them your understanding by using the pronouns that reflect the gender your friend chooses to identify as.
- Using the correct “he” or “she” can be a meaningful gesture when your friend first comes out to you as transgender or otherwise.
- “Ze” is a commonly accepted gender neutral pronoun that your friend may also feel more comfortable with you using.
Trust yourself and your friendship.The way you handle the situation will need to be as unique as your friendship itself. Trust your gut and the way you know your friend to guide your interactions. What is appropriate for some people may be less acceptable for others.
- Don’t act out of character or behave differently because of the situation. Your friend trusts you, otherwise they wouldn’t be telling you.
- While acknowledging the weight of the situation, remember that the two of you are the same friends you always were. Let your previous experiences with your friend guide your current behavior.
Allow things to get back to normal.After your friend comes out to you, things may feel different. Remember that any difference is in your head; your friend is the same person they were before they came out. They are now just able to be honest about a part of their life they previously felt they had to hide.
- Your friend’s sexuality doesn’t dictate or change who they are.
- You and your friend can move forward knowing that your friendship is as strong or stronger than ever now that they can be open about their feelings.
QuestionHow should I respond to a married friend who tells me he or she is gay?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBe a supportive friend. Life doesnt always turn out to be what you expect, and they've confided this in you.Thanks!
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