June 9, 2024

Things to Never Say to Someone Who Just Came Out: A Guide

Coming out is a deeply personal and pivotal moment for individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community. It's a process that requires timeliness, respect, and sensitivity from allies. As someone aiming to be a supportive ally, understanding how to respond appropriately can make a significant difference. This guide will help you navigate such conversations with empathy and respect.

Timeliness and Respect

Respect the individual's timing and choice in sharing this part of their identity. Coming out is a profound moment that demands sensitivity. Avoid comments that question the timing of their disclosure, such as “A little on the nose to do it during Pride Month, no?” Respecting their timing means acknowledging their courage and the personal significance of this step without skepticism.

Personal Reactions

When someone comes out to you, it's essential to focus on their feelings rather than your own experiences or stories. Statements like “I knew the second you told me you were gay” shift the focus away from the individual and onto yourself, making the situation about your perceptions rather than their experience. Actively listen and provide the support they need at that moment.

Supportive Responses

Your response should be grounded in genuine support and active listening. Avoid making it about prophecy or previous suspicions, for example, “a blind old woman prophesied your friend’s sexuality to you years ago.” Instead, show empathy and validate their feelings, providing a safe space for them to express themselves.

Religious Considerations

Unsolicited religious responses, such as reciting the Lord’s Prayer, can be misinterpreted and make the individual feel judged or uncomfortable. It's crucial to avoid imposing any religious perspectives that could undermine their experience. Respect their journey and offer support without religious bias.

Respecting Individual Experience

Each person's journey of coming out is unique. Avoid making assumptions or engaging in stereotyping. Unnecessary affirmations like “Not everyone comes out as stunningly as you” may come across as patronizing. Acknowledge their courage and individuality without diminishing or trivializing their experience.

Privacy and Repetition

It's critical to keep their disclosure private unless given explicit permission to share this information. Repeating what they’ve just told you isn’t necessary; simply acknowledging and respecting their disclosure is enough. Let them control how and when their story is shared.

Practical Tips for Allies

Responding with kindness and an open heart is paramount. Listen more than you speak, showing that you are engaged by asking thoughtful, appropriate questions. Validate their feelings and experiences without imposing your own biases or assumptions into the conversation. Remind them that they are safe and supported.

In sum, being a supportive ally when someone comes out as LGBTQIA+ involves more listening than speaking, providing a non-judgmental environment, and respecting their unique journey. Your role as an ally can significantly influence their experience, making it positive and affirming.

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