Written by DiveThru Team
Reviewed by Natalie Asayag MSW, LCSW
How To Support Someone Who Comes Out To You
Published Dec 23rd, 2020 & updated on Mar 19th, 2021
Ok, so someone in your life has just made a huge step in owning their sexuality by coming out to you. Good news: they clearly trust you A LOT. It can be a really scary experience (and really brave!). Maybe you’re even the first person they’ve told! In that case, you’re probably someone who means a lot to them, and who they trust to support them on this emotional journey. YAY! So what can you actually do to support someone who comes out to you?
Let’s talk about that! We’re sure there are a billion questions swirling around your brain right now, especially if the news is fresh. Like how do you know what to say when someone comes out? What if you say the wrong thing and hurt their feelings?? Or what if you blurt out something that you thought sounded supportive in your head, but instead it comes out awkward and forced??
We got you. Here are a few ways to support someone who comes out to you, like a true ally.
1. Thank Them For Telling You
It doesn’t matter whether you were surprised to hear this news or not. They came out, and that’s a big deal! First and foremost, try saying something like: Thank you for telling me, I really appreciate that you trust me enough to share this. It shows you recognize how hard it was for them to share this part of themselves. Anddd don’t forget to tell them that they’re amazing AF. A little empathy and encouragement goes a looong way.
2. Remind Them That You’re Always Gonna Be There
*Cue Friends theme song* I’ll be there for yooooouuuuu…
Part of them probably knew you would be accepting of them no matter what, but it doesn’t mean they weren’t nervous as hell to come out to you. A lot of people might worry that things will change if they come out, or worst case scenario… lose someone close to them forever. That must be suchhh an isolating feeling. Saying the words: I’m here for you and I’ll always support you is a must, even if you think they already know. Say it.
3. Be Serious But Not Tooooo Serious
What they’ve told you is important and took a lot of courage. Maybe there were even some tears… orrrr a lot of tears. Hey, we encourage crying here!! But that doesn’t mean you can’t lighten the mood, right? Being your normal self and throwing in a joke here and there (when the moment is right, of course) will make them feel way more at ease. Make ‘em laugh, ‘cause that shit is the best medicine.
4. Ask What You Can Do To Support Them
If you feel like maybe words aren’t enough, ask how you can help them or what you can do to support them. Maybe they want you by their side when they tell the rest of your friends, or even their family. Or they might just want to go get some chicken nuggets. That works too. Offering to help in any way, shape or form will mean so much to them!
5. Let Them Come Out To Others On Their Own Terms
A suuuper important thing to check once someone has come out to you is whether or not they have come out to anyone else and if not, when they will be. You NEVER want to out someone before they’re ready. That can be traumatic and devastating on so many levels. Just don’t do it. If someone else questions you about your friend/family member’s sexuality and you know they’re not out yet, you keep that info under lock and key.
6. Ask Questions
Maybe you’re worried about coming at them with too many questions like it’s a pop quiz, but it’s okay to have a few! Just be understanding that this person might not have all the answers yet. It could still be very new to them and it might take some time for them to sort out their thoughts and feelings. Remind them that it’s okay to not have all of the answers right now, and that you can figure it out together.
7. Treat Them The Same That You Always Have
One of the biggest fears a person has when they’re coming out to a friend is that the relationship will change or be different. Make it clear that is NOT the case! They’re still the same friend, sibling, roommate, or whoever they might have always been to you. The only real difference is that they’ve shared their true self that they might have kept inside for so long, and we think that’s pretty awesome. So remind them how much they mean to you.
8. Learn More About The LGBTQ+ Community
If you haven’t already, now is a great time to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, its culture and its history. It could make you and your friend grow even closer than before! It’s a win-win for everyone. Also, add RuPaul’s Drag Race to your watchlist if you haven’t already. You can thank us later.
“Help! I Didn’t React Right When I First Heard!”
Maybe you’re here because someone came out to you and your reaction was… bad. Whatever you said (or left unsaid) ended the conversation on a bad note. You upset or hurt them. You feel awful. And now you’re worried you’ve ruined a relationship that means a lot to you.
We all make mistakes and sometimes say or do the wrong thing in the moment. What matters now is that you try to rectify the situation so that you don’t lose this person for good. Coming out to you was already a big deal for them, so if it didn’t go well, they are probably not feeling great right now.
But you can turn this around! It’s never too late to acknowledge your mistake and start a conversation around it. Be humble and honest in how you try to open up a dialogue but here are a few things you can say to someone if you didn’t react properly when they first came out to you:
I want to apologize for how I reacted.
I’m really sorry. The news caught me caught off guard and I didn’t know what to say.
I will always support and love you, no matter what.
I hope you can forgive me, but I understand how much I hurt you.
You’re really important to me and I don’t want to lose you. Can we start over?
Taking ownership over the situation will show how much you regret your response and want to do better. It’s also important to spend time listening to this person and allow them the space to express their feelings, including how your reaction made them feel. This makes your apology more about them, not you. ‘Cause remember, this is all about their experience! Ultimately, this is a major event in their life and your reaction shouldn’t overshadow that. Make sure to follow the tips we mentioned above, so that they know they have your full support.
We hope this article will help you as you try your best to support anyone who comes out to you!