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What to Do When Your Friend Comes Out to You

Coming out is a different experience for everyone. While it’s not always a totally inspiring story of bravery, coming to terms with who you really are and telling the ones you love the most about it can be difficult.

This is exactly why the situation is sometimes uncomfortable on both ends. The person coming out doesn’t know what to expect and the person on the other end doesn’t know how to react. But obviously if your friend trusts you, you want to be as supportive as possible. Here are some super great tips on how to handle this stressful, yet essential conversation!

1. Listening is key

You have a million questions when your friend comes out to you. You want to ask her all the who, what, where and whys of the situation. But Daniel Dallas, the LGBTQ+ Diversity Coordinator for University of Wisconsin-Madison housing, says that listening is the best thing you can do. “The most positive thing you could do in this moment is listen,” Dallas says. “I don’t think there’s a single way to respond better than this.”

But one of the biggest things that you can do as an ally is to understand that these situations are not about you. It has everything to do with listening to your friend and hearing everything that they need to say, without judgment.

2. Don’t make it a big deal

So your friend just came out to you in casual conversation. You asked her if she was seeing anyone lately and she just happens to mention it’s someone of the same sex. It may catch you off guard, but just go with the flow! Dallas agrees that you should act as if nothing happened and just keep asking questions about her as you would normally. “I think the most beautiful experience is when your friend just acts like nothing has changed,” Dallas explains. “Because nothing will change. Your friend is still herself and you should respect her for it.”

If you really are curious about her sexuality and asking about how she identifies, maybe it’s best to leave it for later on in the conversation or ask at a later date. You don’t want to seem too freaked out or come off as judgmental. But as long as you keep it cool, you will be totally fine.

3. Ask your friend what she needs

Maybe she just needs a listening ear, in which case, you’re already doing a fantastic job. You’re hearing everything that she may have been keeping bunched up inside for a while. Just talking at you for a while can be a huge stress reliever for your friend.

But sometimes, when a friend comes out to you, it might be her way of asking for help. Carrie*, a junior at the University of Illinois, says that her best friend came out to her because she knew that she had connections to the LGBTQ+ community on campus. “She knew that I had volunteered at a few events and wanted to see if she could come with me,” Carrie says. “At that time, she just really needed support from other people who identified the same way that she did.”

By connecting your friend with the right resources, like support groups and campus centers, you can make sure she continues to have a positive coming out experience. Helping your friend in whatever way they need can play a huge part in not only their journey in exploring their identity. Make sure to be receptive and patient as they explain what they need.

4. Thank her for trusting you

While coming out is a process for everyone that never actually stops, it almost never gets easier. There is always an inkling of worry or doubt in the back of a person’s head that whispers their worst fear: what if I lose this relationship?

Alex* from the University of Minnesota says that knowing that their best friend understood how serious it was for them personally to come out made them way more calm about the situation. “She just understood that it was something that I was still trying to come to terms with,” they say. “Everyone thinks that coming out is this huge, spectacular party for everyone, but I really appreciate that she knew how hard it was for me personally.”

Bullying is something that is still prevalent in our society today, particularly with queer and trans folks. This is why when someone trusts you enough to come out, you shouldn’t just feel grateful, but you should express your gratitude as well. “Just a few affirming statements can wash all of her fears away,” Dallas says. Make sure you let her know that while you understand the seriousness of her situation, nothing has changed and you will continue to support her.

Coming out isn’t always a huge, dramatic moment like we think it can be. However, it is a sign that your friend coming out trusts you enough to let you know a potentially vulnerable side of them. It’s important to acknowledge this aspect of the experience, no matter what.

The biggest thing that you should do when this moment arises is to just be there for her. Listen to what she has to tell you, ask her if you can help, and channel all the love you have for her into making sure she feels most comfortable.

Barbara Gonzalez is a recent grad of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she majored in Journalism and Mass Communications with a minor in [email protected]/[email protected] Studies. She hails from New York City, and yes, that does mean Manhattan. Her obsessions consist of writing down anything that comes to mind, YA novels, and anything with pink on it. You can tweet her and follow her on instagram @ohhaibarbie
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