October 9, 2020
My best friend and I have known each other for over a decade, since we met in preschool. Yet it still took her some time to fully open up to me about her sexual orientation. She was scared of how it might impact our friendship and that I was going to judge her.
I am so happy that she was able to come out to me. It not only made our bond stronger, but allowed us to experience a genuine moment of friendship and, for me, allyship.
October 11 is National Coming Out Day, a time to celebrate and support those who identify as LGBTQ. Coming out can be awkward and challenging, and for some, dangerous. But having a circle of supportive family and friends can make the difference.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “one out of every two Americans has someone close to them who is gay or lesbian. For transgender people, the number is only one in ten.” They go on to say that, “When people know someone who is LGBTQ, they are far more likely to support equality under the law. Beyond that, our stories can be powerful to each other.”
Feeling confused about what to do or say if someone comes out to you? Here are some ideas.
- Recognize it is not about you. Do not turn the conversation immediately to yourself. Instead, be patient and let your friend/family member/partner say what they have to say at their own pace.
- Appreciate. A simple “Thank you for opening up to me.” communicates closeness and acceptance. When my best friend came out to me, it was no easy task for her. I felt special that out of all the people she knew, she felt she could confide in me.
- Ask (appropriate) questions. If you are unsure how to respond, ask how you can help or show support. If the person shares their gender identity with you, you can ask what name or pronoun they want you to use. You should also ask if other people know. Just because this person came out to you doesn’t mean they are out to other people.
- Listen and support. Listen attentively and offer support. Make sure they know you are there for them and everything they say will be kept confidential.
- Learn. Learning about LGBTQ people and history can be a genuine way of showing that you care and are an ally. LGBTQ individuals are often not represented when we learn about history, so this is important.
When someone comes out to you, it’s an honor. Being an ally means taking the time to listen and advocate for those who are LGBTQ.
My best friend and I are still building our friendship, now going on 13 years strong! I’m so glad she felt comfortable enough to trust me.