Question: I am gay and I want to come out, but I’m afraid that many of my friends now won’t be accepting, and will distance themselves from me. Any advice?
Coming out can be tough for exactly the reason mentioned: we aren’t always sure how the people we care about will react. Reactions can be based on a multitude of factors including family background, personal experiences and popular culture (to name a few).
It’s really tough to give advice on this, as approaches can be very different for different people. Some questions we might ask you over the phone line would be:
- Do you openly discuss topics of sexuality with your friends? If so, how do they react?
- Do you know if they have anyone else in their life that identifies as LGBTIQQ2? If so, how did they react when they were told?
- Do you feel your friends are fairly aware of issues relating to sexual orientation?
When it comes to coming out, some questions you may want to consider are:
- Is this the best time?
- Coming out during an argument or during a stressful time for you you or your friends can communicate negative feelings with your message.
- Am I ready to be patient?
- It can take time for your friend(s) to accept this aspect of you, just like it took time for you. Your friend(s) may go through a period of rejection, acceptance and rejection before they come to accept you. For some, it may never have occurred to them, so the news could be quite shocking.
- Do I know how to support my friend if they are struggling?
- Giving permission to share this with a close friend or family member can help your friend(s) to feel more supported. Just like it was for you, carrying a secret can be quite stressful. If you are not comfortable with this, you can also point them to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays for additional resources and support groups.
- Am I prepared for any reaction and ready to teach?
- It’s important to be prepared for any reaction, including religious fears, suggestions for therapy or wishing you would just change or make a different “choice”. It’s sometimes helpful to let your friend know that being gay is a biological based thing and not a choice. Being prepared to calmly address stereotypes or concerns can help reassure your friends, especially if they are concerned about you.
- Am I prepared to explain why?
- It is sometimes helpful to explain why it is important that you come out and why you are doing it now. Letting your friend(s) know that you care about them and don’t want to be dishonest with them can help them understand that they are not loosing a friend, but gaining a deeper understanding of one they already have.
- Do I have a support system?
- Ensuring you have a support system to talk to in case things don’t go as planned can give you more confidence. A support system can be a supportive friend or family member that knows already or a more formal service like LGBT Youthline.
- Is this MY process?
- We can feel pressured to come out from a variety of sources. It’s important to recognize that this is your identity and you should always feel like you are in control of who you tell and how you tell them. You know your friends best and will be able to tell much better than anyone else how and when to approach the topic and how to support your friend(s).
The Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) website includes a document with some great ideas and things to consider when it comes to coming out to the people we care about.
If you would like to talk about this a little more in depth please don’t hesitate to give us a call, Tues-Thurs 6-9pm at 519-836-4550.