International Coming Out Day is on Monday, October 11th, meaning You're going to, if you haven't already, be faced with at least one person coming out to you. And when faced with someone putting so much trust in you, it's crucial that you react in an appropriate way, one that makes them feel safe, well-received, and loved. when someone comes out to you, they are revealing a huge part of their identity to you; through this, you can understand so much more about the person and grow closer to them.
However, coming out will only be beneficial for both parties if you, the receiver of new information, act appropriately. I'm speaking to allies, specifically: people who are in support of the LGBTQIA+ Community but aren’t part of it themselves. As allies, It's extra important that you are a source of positivity when someone comes out to you because it shows that You as an ally are understanding and supportive of the person and the community as a whole. For a long time, allies were sort of non-existent; obviously, the LGBTQIA+ movement has grown over the years, but it's always been that gay people feel safer around other gay people. That's why it's so easy to feel like straight people or cisgender people can never understand or accept LGBTQIA+ people: they can't empathize with a homosexual or a nonbinary person. Allies need to resort to the next best option. So, here's the ally’s guide to coming out. Because it really seems like you all need one.
- Don't try to put yourself in a LGBTQIA+ person's shoes. This is an inefficient method that will produce really off-putting results. This will do two things that will harmfully affect you and the person who's coming out to you. 1: trying to empathize in the situation and associating it with ‘feeling bad’ for a person will put a narrative in your head that being gay is harmful. Doing this might prompt you to think, "oh, I'm so sorry," instead of saying something like "Oh, wow, thank you for trusting me with something this huge." 2: trying to empathize with a genderqueer person or a pansexual person does not make sense in the situation. think about it: why would you try to Envision what it feels like to be gay instead of acting upon your role as an ally?
- Never, NEVER get mad at someone for hiding their identity from you prior to them coming out. Sharing something as large as their gender identity and/or sexual orientation takes time and space, so let the person doing so have that. They need time to decide, and they will only share that with you if they trust you enough so that they can predict that you will receive it at least sufficiently positively. Becoming angry and saying things like, “why didn’t you tell me about this earlier?” or “what took you so long?” will make the person feel guilty for giving themself the time and space that they really did need. No one should feel guilty for doing so.
- Decipher the myth of “I won’t see you any differently after this.” Of course, you will; you just learned something monumental about someone close to you. This affects your relationship with them, and therefore it obviously will affect how you view them. Rather than telling them that you won’t see them differently, say something more realistic. You could say that “this does not make me think about you negatively in any way” or that “this does not and will not change how much I love you.” People want to feel loved, and they can’t change their sexuality. So now you can talk about new things, and it’ll change the way you see them, but not in any negative way. Remember that.