6 things not to say when someone comes out

In a society that presumes everyone's heterosexual/ straight, coming out is never an easy decision - treat it with the gravity it deserves.

HomoCulture Coming Out Simon Elstad

This article was published on February 6th, 2021

Coming out of the closet is a different experience for everyone. For some, this could be a liberating moment that allows them to live ever more openly. For others, unfortunately, it’s a difficult period that makes them more vulnerable and open to rejection.

In a society that presumes everyone to be heterosexual/ straight, it follows that coming out is never an easy decision to make. It becomes more complicated when choosing who to disclose your sexuality to. That feeling of unravelling your secret identity to your close friends, colleague or family member, feels like a huge weight off your shoulders.

However, the responses one gets are likely to have lasting effects. As the person on the receiving end of this information, your words hold a lot of weight. You do not want to lose yourself in the heat of the moment, and utter words that will make the person coming out feel uncomfortable.  

While there’s never a perfect response, there are better ways of handling such situations. Here are six things you should not say or ask someone who comes out of the closet:

1. Ah, I knew it!

This hurtful and demeaning response could lead the person to feel better staying in the closet than coming out. I mean, why try to spin the confession around and make it seem like something you’d been talking about behind his back?

It has taken him tons of courage to disclose this to you, do not undermine this moment. Avoid such a situation by using a few affirmation words to show your support and encouragement.

2. Are you sure you are gay or just confused?

Please, please, steer clear of this question. For someone to question the emotional journey it has taken to disclose your sexuality is nothing short of heart-wrenching.

Sure, everyone is at liberty to explore his/her sexuality, but the moment one ultimately comes out, then that is the label they’ve chosen to stick with.

3. So, who is the woman/ man in the relationship?

Don’t be sexist now, surely! Also, who said that gendered roles must be defined for a relationship to work? All in all, desist from asking your queer mate this question as it has sexist connotations written all over it.

If anything, it shows that your focus is bent on your friend’s sexual activity instead of his identity.

4. Wait, you are not into me….are you?

Do you realize that not all heterosexual people have a crush on members of the opposite sex? The same applies to your queer friend. Just because he came out doesn’t mean he will now pounce on you like a predator on seeing its first prey. This moment is not about you, so do not make the situation all the more awkward.

5. How do you know you are gay if you’ve not kissed a member of the opposite sex?

There is no harm in questioning how your friend discovered his sexuality, but you’ve got to mind how you phrase the question(s). It is not rocket science that we get attracted to a gender based on our brains’ signals.

Heteros are attracted to the opposite sex, and the same applies to homosexuals. It is that simple.

6. Maybe it’s just a phase

Responding with such a phrase is invalidating and shows disregard for the other person’s feelings. It is demoralizing and could likely stop further communication. As mentioned before, the decision to come out has arrived after long soul-searching, and it’s a label one sticks with.

Yes, some might argue that one’s orientation is likely to change over time, but that does not nullify how the person identified previously.  Accept the person’s decision instead of viewing it as a phase that is ‘likely to end soon.’

What You Should Do

Coming out should not be turned into a nerve-wracking and complicated process, at least by the other party. Take time to listen to your queer friend and make him feel important and understood while offering some words of encouragement.

They are at their most vulnerable moment at that point. Avoid aggravating the situation further by asking irrelevant questions. For one to disclose his sexuality to you, it means a lot to them. Listen to what they have to say.

Make them feel important and try to provide some support where necessary.

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