Coming out – what should I say or do?

Coming out is an important part of the LGBTQIA+ experience. It can be an exciting, terrifying, tough, happy and confusing experience for many people, including members of the community and their loved ones.

When someone close to you feels able to share something as important as this with you, there may be a million questions you want to ask. You may be a mother, father, brother, sister, friend or even a distant relation.

When someone comes out to you, it could come completely out of the blue or confirm your suspicions. Your world may be turned upside down, but remember that theirs already has.

They have already spent a lot of time thinking about their sexuality and understanding who they are.

Coming out can be extremely tough for many people, as they may feel unable to tell their friends and family about their sexuality. Some people feel like they are carrying around a secret, and they may be worried about how others will react.

They may be scared or anxious before coming out, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community have no idea what to expect or how people will react. The decision takes great courage.

What you say to a loved one when they come out to you could change your relationship forever.

Here at Pride Events, we have put together some simple suggestions. These will provide you with the answers to the questions you undoubtedly have and hopefully give you a deeper understanding of the situation so that this can be a positive experience for everyone.

It’s okay if you’re gay

This statement of support and acceptance is important for someone to hear when they first come out.

You might wonder why this should be said, but confirming a person’s sexual orientation or identity for the first time can be scary and vulnerable. The person coming out might have doubts about how other people will react to this information.

By repeating phrases like “it’s okay,” you show your complete support.

Two hands making a love heart, with a rainbow background

I don’t care if you’re gay

The person coming out is probably scared and anxious about their sexuality. This sentence can be a powerful way to communicate that their sexuality makes no difference to you and shouldn’t make any difference to anyone else.

I love you no matter what

This is another supportive statement, especially if the person has just come out to you as a member of the community. It can be tough to feel like a relationship or friendship might end if you come out. This phrase communicates unconditional care and love.

You will love, respect and appreciate them in the same way you did before you knew this information.

What can I do to support you?

At this moment, the person might not be thinking of all the things they need and want from you, so this invitation to brainstorm together is a way of showing support.

You could also say something like, “how can I help?” You should never presume to know what the person needs at this time, but asking them can be a great comfort.

Can I ask you some questions about that?

This phrase communicates that you want to talk openly. It can be a big relief for someone to know that you are willing and happy to listen. By inviting them to tell you more, you begin a conversation.

If the person is not ready for questions, this also shows respect before asking potentially personal questions.

Who do I know who is also gay?

This shows your intention of offering support and says, “you’re not alone.” Chances are, you probably know other people. This also shows you will support anyone else, and you are an ally to people in your life.

"LGBTQ" in rainbow coloured plasticine on open hands

What do you need from me?

This is another good question to ask, especially if someone has just come out to you. It shows that you want to support them, but you might not know how to do this.

They might be thinking of all the things they want and need from their friends and family, and by asking this question, you can prompt them to tell you what those things are.

How do you know you’re LGBTQIA+?

Just because someone has come out to you as gay or lesbian doesn’t mean they will tell you everything about their sexual orientation all at once. By asking this, you encourage them to open up more about their sexuality, which is a good thing.

How long have you known?

If they haven’t told anyone before now, it might be exciting for them to talk about how they knew and when they first realised it.

By asking this, you show an interest in that person’s life and provide an opportunity to share a conversation.

What is something nice that someone has said to you because they know about your sexuality?

This phrase can be helpful if someone is feeling down or sad after they come out to you. It can be a reminder that there is support for LGBTQIA+ people, and it is something positive.

It will offer reassurance that they are not alone and they do not have to navigate this by themselves.

Why didn’t you tell me before?

They may have assumed that you knew, or they might not have had an opportunity to tell you yet. If this is the case, you can help them feel more comfortable by saying something like, “I am glad you told me.

Just because someone didn’t come out to you earlier doesn’t mean they don’t trust you. There is a lot involved with understanding who you are, and this was just the right time for them.

What is your earliest memory of knowing?

This phrase can be helpful if someone has just come out to you. It allows the person to begin talking about the experience of coming out, which can be emotional for them. Listening while they tell you this story gives the person a chance to share what is important to them.

What words and expressions do you prefer?

This question can be a good one to ask if someone has just come out to you. It can help someone feel more comfortable and secure in their identity, so this question lets you find out what works for them and shows that you will be respectful.

Two Pride LGBTQIA+ flags

Why did you decide to come out to me?

This shows that you are willing to understand the person’s perspective. It can also help encourage them to open up about what influenced their decision to tell you. This might provide you both with a chance for a more meaningful conversation and bring you closer.

What can I do to be a better friend or ally?

This question is good because it gives the person an opportunity to tell you how you can be supportive. It shows that you are genuinely willing to support them going forward. By asking this question, you say that you want to help make sure they feel safe and comfortable around you.

Final Thoughts

Coming out can be a challenging experience for everyone, and if someone is coming out to you for the first time, it is crucial to understand what that person is going through.

These questions can help you guide the conversation, giving your loved one the chance to discuss their sexuality in an open environment that is rooted in understanding, compassion and respect.

It is okay if you do not know the proper term or what someone needs straight away. That is why asking questions can help you ensure that everyone gets the support and love they need.

We hope that your coming out experience is a positive one that brings you both together

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