This article was published on December 21st, 2021
Coming out is a monumental and life-changing event that nearly everyone within the LGBTQ+ must go through at some time in their lives, an important part of the process of self-realization that goes beyond the person and involves the lives of everyone they interact with.
There have been great strides within the past 20 years as more queer people are becoming more comfortable expressing their identities and coming out to their peers and loved ones. Yet still today, it is critical to be aware of the issues still faced as people in the community come out and share their truth as the impact will be felt over and over as it is a process that must be done many times.
Microaggressions are an everyday part of life for those living under the LGTBQ+ umbrella and coming out is a massive milestone that should be respected by everyone. Of course, it is natural to be curious and interested, but there are parameters in play that should be respected.
To make this complicated process smoother for all sides, HomoCulture provides insight on the questions not to ask LGBTQ+ people that are just coming out.
When did you ‘decide’ to be gay?
Study after study has shown that our sexual orientations derive from a mixture of genetics as well as our environment, not our will, so asking someone about their ‘decision’ to come out as gay is not only incorrect, it is resoundingly offensive and should not be uttered.
A person doesn’t decide to be queer and thus the word should not be used at all as it implies that a choice has been made and that – even more importantly – it can be unmade, a notion that goes beyond a microaggression to downright volatile. Your questions should not shame someone confiding a part of themselves with you. Instead, ask about their first experience in a respectful manner to engage them.
Does your religion allow gay people?
Religion should never play a role in infringing on the rights of someone else to live in an authentic way. Second, aligning with groups that pick and choose which groups to persecute is a vile practice that has kept the LGBTQ+ community living on the fringe for generations and should come to an end, especially now. If you have a hard time accepting people that are unlike you, be respectful enough to keep your beliefs and perceptions to yourself and be considerate of someone sharing their truth with you. Mutual respect is the name of the game when it comes to coming out.
Are you attracted to me?
Contrary to what some may believe, queer people are not attracted to everyone they come across, and that includes the people they choose to come out to. Does a heterosexual person have a crush on all their friends of the opposite gender?
Instead of assuming that the person coming out to you is making sexual overtures towards you, ask if there is anyone that they would like to get to know or possibly date. This is a way to keep conversation open and expand it without making assumptions that can cause the person coming out undue stress.
Are you sure you’re gay if you’ve never been with a (member of opposite gender)?
We don’t adopt our sexualities as it is only natural that our brains signal the gender we are attracted to. If you are curious as to how your friend discovered their sexuality, then ask that instead of asking questions that are based in ignorance and misinformation. Be mindful of your phrasing and instead ask if they have ever done anything that could be categorized as heterosexual.
Are you the man or woman in the relationship?
Rude. Wrong. Foul.
Assigning traditional gender roles to a relationship not only shows how behind the times you are, but reeks of sexism. There is never a reason to break things down to a concept this simple as gender roles are not the only factor in a fledgling romance. The correct path to take in this instance is to not say anything at all.
Why have you changed?
This is another question that should not be asked because it implies that your friend has morphed into a totally different person when they are in essence only coming out. Any change they are making is for their personal elevation, and you should receive this with excitement as they accept themselves and enter the world in a new way with the announcement. Instead, remind them of your support and your intentions to be a great friend during this time of transitioning out of the closet.
Do you know (insert queer celebrity here ____)?
Even if your friend knows who the celebrity in question is, that does not mean they want to spend their time discussing the stars with you. Tokenizing random celebrities as an attempt to relate is a sure-fire miss. Instead, try asking about their hobbies and current interests.
Have you had the surgery yet?
Not only is this an invasive question, but it also can be categorized as sexual harassment and should never be asked of someone as it is private medical information. Transgender people – just anyone else – is more than their body parts and the whole of them should be respected. Remember that the decision to undergo gender-affirming procedures is a personal decision that is ultimately up to the individual as well as the decision to share the information.
There are a million of questions that can strike out and these are just a few of the main ones that get uttered when someone comes out to friends or family. Remember that being mindful and respectful is always the route to take and the best way to remain a trusted confidante.
What other questions do you consider offensive to ask anyone coming out? Let HomoCulture know in the comments section below!