A year ago, I came out to my parents. I remember the night I wrote it like it was last night. I was on the phone with one of my friends, Colin, because I knew if I wasn’t, the letter would never make it past the Microsoft Word program. I wrote the letter – it wasn’t long, but it wasn’t too short either. I printed it off, folded it up, and slide it under my mom’s work bag by her purse. I nervously hustled back to my room to tell Colin that it was done. I locked myself in my room to prevent me from removing the letter. My parents’ response was better than many parents of LGBTQ+ children response I’ve heard of. It was full of support, love, and comfort.
When I came out on Facebook in October, I again got a widely positive response. I don’t think I read one negative comment. However, there were a few things written (out of love I know) that made me anxious and self-destructive.
With June being celebrated as Pride month, there is no better time to come out. The LGBTQ+ community is at an all time high in love and acceptance and wants to welcome you with open arms. But, this is for the allies, the families, and the friends of LGBTQ+ people. Here are 4 things to absolutely tell or write someone who just came out and 4 things you should NEVER say (or try heavily to avoid).
Things to most definitely tell someone who just came out to you:
- “This doesn’t change a thing.”
Coming out shouldn’t ever change anything. You shouldn’t act differently towards someone who just came out to you or anything. You just found out a deep secret someone has been keeping for a very long time, and it is important to continue to act like nothing has changed.
* important note to some girls: if your guy best friend just came out to you as gay or bisexual, do not pull the “gay best friend” card out right away. You don’t get to create that label for them and start acting in ways that are promoted by certain movies out there.
- “I/We love you”
Love is something we all want. It’s good to be reminded that we are loved when we come out. And remember, love is love is love is love is love. Tell your newly out LGBTQ+ friend that you love them!! They will really appreciate it.
- “You don’t have to go through this alone.”
When you grow up knowing you are different, it is very isolating. You’ve had to go through the stages of figuring out something so polarizing by yourself. The last thing you want to do when you come out is go through that process alone. So, allies if someone comes out to you, be with them through the rest of the process. Coming out isn’t a one-and-done type thing, everyday there are new people and new places where one has to come out. Some of those experiences will be wonderful, others not so much. Be there. Your presence at times can literally be a life saver.
- “You are valid.”
All everyone wants is to feel valid. A stigmatizing identity can present many hardships, it’s important to validate not only the humanity of the person coming out, but to also validate their struggle. You may even go as far to apologize for any pain they have been through.
These four things aren’t the only good things to say just a mere highlight. But, there are other things you shouldn’t say — Avoid these at all costs! Not only will it make things less awkward but it may just save the relationship between you two.
- “I had no idea, but it doesn’t matter.”
It’s good you had no idea. They probably tried really hard not to act a certain way or say certain things that would have outed themselves when they were not ready. Yeah, it doesn’t matter, because it’s not about you. Their coming out is not about you in any way. Don’t make it about you.
- “This doesn’t define you.”
I laugh when people tell me this. To me, it takes the power out of my story. It glosses over the sleepless nights, the countless tears, and pain I experienced in figuring out who I was. So, yeah, my new identity does define me. Sure it’s not my entire definition, but it’s a large part. Don’t tell someone that. Don’t tell someone their pain and hurt isn’t important or necessary in their story.
First off, when it comes to another human being there should never be any “buts” to loving them. Everyone deserves love — plain and simple. When it comes to someone who has just come out, their whole lives have been filled with “buts.” “I could come out next week, but we’re going out to family dinner and everyone will be upset.” “I feel like I am bisexual, but the Bible says that wrong.” Let’s stop telling newly out people “I/we love you, but…” There are no “buts” worth the pain you would cause by saying that. There are no “buts” worth the hurt the LGBTQ+ person will feel.
- “I/We’ve known for a while.”
This takes LGBTQ+ new-found power away. They feel like they have been carrying this enormous weight on their shoulders and have struggled, but if you had truly know, then maybe you could have helped. (Though I argue this is not how it actually works.) As someone who was told this by many people, I became super introspective and worried about how I acted gay growing up. I wondered what I said or did that let people know that. It was really damaging to my mental state and made me over aware of my actions. So don’t say this, just don’t.
Just remember when talking to someone who just came out to be supportive and loving. You words have the power to build or absolutely destroy someone. Sometimes it’s not even the words you may have spoken or will speak, it is the intent you had for them and the way you wanted to make them feel. Maya Angelou has a quote that reads something like this, “People won’t remember what you said to them or what you did for them, but they will remember how you made them feel.” So, make sure you are making people feel good about themselves and their story. This Pride month provides people the encouragement and confidence in revealing their true selves.