How to ease a friend’s coming out process

Illustration by Trevor Moore

For me, the early days of coming out were a nerve-wracking and stressful ordeal. There really are very few ways to know how any given person may react to the news.

Here are a few things I wished would have, or not have, happened when I was coming out to people.

1. Say thank you. I just placed a great deal of trust in you. It’s difficult to work up the courage to come out, and I know I was left in a vulnerable position once the words were said.

2. It’s (probably) not about sex. It was a mix of amusement, disappointment and slight weirdness when I came out to male-identified friends who assumed that I wanted to get them in the sack. Being LGBTQ+ isn’t always about sex.

3. Express how you feel. The only thing worse than a horribly negative reaction was silence or the awkward response of “Oh, OK.” It is totally fine with me if someone isn’t sure how to respond. Feeling confused? So was I. Feeling weird? Coming out can be for me too.

4. Pardon my giddiness. When I was younger and just beginning the coming out process, there was such a sense of freedom from the lie that I was straight and a newfound ability to just exist as myself. It, almost literally, was intoxicating. I imagine I was grinning like the Mad Hatter.

5. Coming out is a process. Just because I’ve told my best friends doesn’t mean I’ve told my family, co-workers or classmates … yet. That level of trust (see number one) may not be there yet, if ever.

6. Show support. It’s not all about rainbow stickers. The process is long, complicated and sometimes confusing to me. Should I come out to so-and-so? There may be days that I don’t want to talk about being LGBTQ+. There may be days that I need to talk about it.

7. Don’t minimize. One of the worst things I ever heard was, when I was 17, being asked if I was sure I was gay. Yes. Yes, I’m sure. I’ve only spent the last four years wrestling with the idea, my desires and trying to figure out what’s in my own head.

Thankfully, I’m now 24 years into my coming out process and it has gotten better for me. I’m more sure of myself and have taken to surrounding myself with supportive people.

Even though it’s 2015, I still hear the bad coming out stories: kids thrown out of their homes or made to go to conversion therapy sessions, people losing their jobs, being disowned by family and on and on.

Or trying to find a new place in Chico, letting the contact know I’m gay, and then finding out that someone in the house wouldn’t be comfortable with my renting there. Bit of a shock for both of us.

Life is hard enough navigating the world of relationships and sex, but think for a moment what it’d be like to be LGBTQ+ and deal with the challenges those identities bring.

Joseph Rogers can be reached at [email protected] or @JosephLRogers1 on Twitter.