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How to Respond to Someone Coming Out

How to Respond to Someone Coming Out

Updated: Jan 25

What is "coming out"?

“Coming Out” is the act of disclosing one’s own sexuality or gender identity to someone.

Coming out is different for everyone. Some people come out as soon as they come to a realization about their sexuality or gender identity, while others come out to people slowly, one by one. Read on to find out the best way to handle someone coming out to you.

How do I respond to someone coming out?

Whether the person coming out is a distant acquaintance or your child, the best way to respond is with respect.

We know that learning about this new facet of someone's life can be jarring, especially if you're extremely close to them. However, it's important to acknowledge this information with an open and supportive mindset.

Show support

While your first instinct may be a shock, understand that the person coming out to you more likely than not put forth a lot of courage to divulge their sexuality or gender identity to you. What's most important is that you welcome their honesty and fulfillment with open arms.

Educate yourself, but don't rely on them to do it for you

While an eagerness to learn about their experiences or feelings may be flattering, it is not this person's responsibility to give you more information than was offered. It's alright to express curiosity, but don't force them to answer questions they're not comfortable with talking about. You can find all sorts of information about gender and sexuality here.

Ask how you can help

LGBTQ+ youth and individuals face a whole host of problems beyond their peers. It's important to ask the person coming out to you how you can help them.

What should I NOT say?

"Why didn't you tell me?"

While you may feel betrayed or offended that this person waited until they did to tell you, understand that each person goes about coming out differently. In fact, many people come out to those they care about most later on in life because they are worried about the reaction those people will have and how they will be perceived. No one is entitled to information on someone's gender or sexuality, so simply appreciate that they included you in their coming out journey, wherever they may be in it.

"I knew it!"

This may seem like a supportive statement, but this is an extremely disrespectful thing for LGBTQ+ people to hear. Many queer youths spend years hiding their sexuality or gender identity out of fear, and pointing out that you "called it" or "knew it the whole time" isn't an accomplishment to brag about.

"It's just a phase."

Everyone explores their sexuality at different paces and with different experiences. Because of this, sexuality and gender can be fluid and shift. However, trivializing this journey and forcing sexuality onto someone is extremely detrimental.

What's most important is that you are supportive, respectful, and understanding of the situation.


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