When a friend comes out
Out of the blue, your best mate tells you they're gay/bi/a lesbian. How do you deal with it and how can you be there for them? We give you a few pointers.
Firstly, coming out is a big step for anyone. You should be flattered that your mate chose to confide in you. It shows that they hold you in high regard. Don't freak out at the prospect though, it is unlikely they want to jump into bed with you. Instead think about the following:
- First impressions: When you meet new people, do you ask if they have a boyfriend OR girlfriend? By not assuming other people's sexual orientation, you let your friends know that it's OK to tell you if they're gay.
- Stereotypes: Don't expect your friend to change their appearance and their identity because they're not straight. They haven't become a different person overnight. They won't suddenly acquire dress sense and aspirations of a career in hairdressing, nor will they rush to shave their head and join the pool team. Sexual identity is part of your personality, it doesn't and shouldn't shape your whole life.
- Deal with it: You might not share the same beliefs as your mate, but you can still support them. Chances are that they were scared to tell you, especially if they thought you wouldn't approve of their decision.
It's completely normal to feel uncomfortable and nervous, especially if you haven't known gay people before. Try to remember that nothing has changed about your friend except that they have been more honest with you.
- Lean on me: You don't have to be gay in order to support gay rights, it is simply a striving for equality. If you want to help make a difference get out there and do something, however do consider your mate. They may not have told anyone but you, so don't go parading them about as a gay icon/ needy cause. Don't turn their emotional rollercoaster into gossip, they have enough to deal with, surely.
- Talk on: Don't clam up after the initial conversation you and your mate have about them coming out. If you keep talking about it you will both be better able to be comfortable with the situation.
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