What To Do When Your Friend Comes Out To You

We live in a society that often discriminates against people who are different. We have all been taught to believe that to be “straight” is to be normal. This can cause a great deal of pain for LGBTQQ people. “Coming out,” or disclosing one’s orientation to others, is an important step in LGBTQQ people’s self-acceptance. Like everyone, LGBTQQ people seek acceptance.

Someone who is coming out feels close enough to you and trusts you enough to be honest with you. They may feel they are risking the loss of your friendship. 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 they have a great deal of respect and trust for you.

  • Do not be judgmental. If 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.
  • Respect your friend’s confidentiality by not discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression with others without their consent. They have the right to decide who to tell and when. They may want to tell people in their own way and on their own timeline.
  • 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.
  • Don’t be too serious. Sensitively worded humor may ease the tension you are both probably feeling.
  • Ask any questions you may have, but understand that your friend may not have all the answers. You can save some questions for later or, better yet, you can find some of the answers together.
  • If your friend has a partner, include them in plans as much as you would with any other friend.
  • Be prepared to include your friend in more of your plans. It is possible they may have lost the support of other friends and family when they came out. Your time and friendship will be even more precious to them. This may include “family” times like holidays or special celebrations.
  • Offer and be available to support your friend as they “come out” to others.
  • Call frequently during the time right after your friend has come out to you. This will let them know you are still friends.
  • Be prepared if your friend has mood swings. Coming out can be celebratory, but it may also be traumatic. Anger and depression are common, especially if friends or family have trouble accepting your friend’s orientation. Don’t take mood swings personally. Be flattered you are close enough to risk sharing any feelings of anger or frustration.
  • 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.
  • Talk about other LGBTQQ people you know. If you friend knows you have accepted someone else, they will feel more comfortable that you will accept them.
  • Learn about the LBGTQQ community. This will allow you to better support your friend, and knowing about their word will help prevent you from drifting apart.
  • Don’t allow your friend to become isolated. Let them know about organizations and places where they can meet other LGBTQQ people or supportive allies.
  • If your friend seems afraid about people knowing, there may be a good reason. LGBTQQ people may experience name-calling, slurs and even violence because of who they are. Sometimes people are discriminated against in such things as education, housing and employment. If your friend is discriminated against illegally, you can help them in pursuing their rights.
  • It’s never too late to address something you said. If someone has come out to you and you feel badly about how you handled it, you can always go back and try again.
Adapted from flyer by the Youth Service Bureau of Wellington, Ottawa.