As my friendships have continued to strengthen as I’ve grown up, I have had several friends (myself included) share some very personal information, such as health issues, family information, or sexual identity. Supporting a friend who comes out to you, or shares something personal regarding their identity, is important for maintaining a strong, healthy friendship.
Over the past couple of years, some of my closest friends and family members have come out to me and others, and I have found each situation to be different. Some conversations were extremely casual and happened over text, while others naturally came up in an in-person conversation. If a friend has recently come out to you and you are finding it difficult to provide adequate support, you are not alone.
While every situation is unique, there is still some expert advice that you can look to as a guide. I spoke with Ally Linfoot, Head of Peer Support at Peers.net, a new mental health platform designed for teens and young adults, about supporting a friend who just came out, what advice she has, and the different ways to offer support.
How Do You Respond After Somebody Comes Out To You?
This question is quite difficult to answer, considering every situation depends on the person and your relationship to them. Even Linfoot had a tough time offering some support and advice for this question, but she gave an excellent answer.
“It’s a big deal [for the person coming out]. And then to be authentic and be able to say that and feel safe being able to say that, is a big deal,” Linfoot tells Her Campus. “As a person who somebody has come out to before, it’s more about [saying] ‘I’m so glad that you felt you could say this to me and that you could trust me with that information, and thank you for being brave.’”
Even if the conversation is casual or over text, it is still important to recognize how challenging that could be for somebody, especially those who may be in an environment where they feel they may not be as supported. “You can say something like, ‘Thank you for telling me, thank you for trusting me… but know that this doesn’t change how I feel about you. I still love you and I still support you,’” Linfoot advises.
Showing your support and appreciation for your friend in this way is very important. Even if it happened casually or they made it seem like it wasn’t a “big deal,” know that it is and acknowledge that for them.
Show your support in the best way you can.
In addition to showing your support as a friend, offering your questions and ways to be a good ally is also important to the conversation. The first thing she recognizes is that this can be difficult for some people, particularly her generation (Gen X). With that in mind, remember that your friend may not have a support system at home, and it may be up to you and your friends to offer that support to the best of your ability.
While I am a part of Gen Z and have several friends who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, I have certainly had conversations with my relatives and parents who are also a part of Gen X, and have offered ways to help them understand. Even I at some point have made some missteps or failed to react properly to a situation. But the best we all can do is learn from our mistakes, and do better in the future.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to recognize that missteps are normal, and repairing and rebuilding that mistake with the person is so important to the relationship.
“I think it’s about gauging the comfort level of the person who is coming out and how comfortable are they going to be,” Linfoot says. ”And, if you do misstep, try your best to do the repair work, and say ‘Hey, that wasn’t my intent.’”
If a friend has recently come out to you, recognize the strength and trust that it takes. Feeling comfortable enough and safe enough to share this information with others takes a lot, and it is a big deal!