What Not To Say When Someone Comes Out To You

Pride month may be over, but you can still be a good LGBTQ+ ally by educating yourself on what to say when someone confides in you. As defined by Stonewall, coming out is the act of confiding in someone about your gender, sexuality, or both. Members of the LGBTQ+ community often have to tell a lot of people throughout their lives, though who they tell should be wholly their decision and should never stem from pressure. 

For those who identify as LGBTQ+, coming out to a close friend or relative is a nerve-wracking moment due to their fear of how you may react. Two major examples of this are when Lil Nas X came out and when Jojo Siwa revealed she was part of the LGBTQ+ community. Though both celebrities have a huge platform, they admitted to being terrified of the response they would receive. 

Because of the size of the moment, you may worry about the correct response when somebody has the courage to come out to you. Although you probably have good intentions, saying the wrong thing could harm the relationship between you and the person who trusted you. Someone coming out to you is a key moment they will remember for the rest of their lives, which is why being prepared for that moment is vital. 

Everybody is different, but here are some of the most common questions and statements you should avoid during the pivotal moment.

You should be aware of keeping your response wholly positive

According to Readers Digest Canada, there are several common phrases people often say to those coming out which aren't helpful or welcoming. 

Asking somebody "Are you sure?" can be harmful and dismissive. As stated before, the majority of the LGBTQ+ community have been agonizing over their coming out moment for months or perhaps even years. Asking them if they're sure will make them feel undermined and doubtful, two emotions you definitely don't want to bring out during a sensitive time. Instead of asking this, validate their same sex attraction by thanking them for trusting you.

Another common question is "Why didn't you tell me before?" Although this one is often asked with the best of intentions, it can come across as whiny and insensitive. It takes a great deal of courage to come out to somebody, even if you are mostly sure the response will be positive. While your feelings of being excluded are valid, instead focus on telling the person how happy you are that they told you. 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, telling somebody "I knew it!" is a totally inappropriate thing to say. It may seem like a fun and tongue-in-cheek response, but it actually perpetuates harmful stereotypes. It could also make the person who confessed worry that you and others have been talking about them behind their back, making them feel insecure and unsafe.

Here are some things you should say instead to create a positive moment

Some good phrases to use are above, but if you're still looking for more guidance here are some other positive things you can say. 

GQ states that telling someone how happy you are they told you and how proud you are of them is always a wonderful response. It may feel slightly cringe-inducing to say, but the simple phrases could make feel someone so much better during a tense moment. Moreover, you should delicately ask if the person wants to talk about it more. Don't push the topic, as this could make the person coming out feel panicky and tense. Instead, just let them know you're always there to discuss anything.

On a more practical note, consider asking the person coming out to you if they need a place to stay or your help finding somewhere to live. This will only apply to a select group of people, but it's always best to be 100% sure the person is safe and not at any risk in their current home. Additionally, offer yourself as a listening ear or your assistance in finding a therapist for them to talk to. This will make them feel supported and secure.

You can never be truly prepared for such an important moment, but you can do your best. A good reaction will make all the difference to someone coming out, and will help to kickstart this new chapter in their life positively.