March 7, 2014
Showing Support & Coming Out
What is the best way to show support for a friend or family member that comes out with their sexuality or gender identity? For example, I don’t want to be overwhelming in showering them with love or blowing my reaction out of proportion (ex. “OH MY GOD I KNEW IT AND I’M SO PROUD OF YOU), but I also do not want to sweep it under the rug as a no big deal because I do understand it is a huge step in their life.
I think that generally, the best way to respond to someone coming out is to say, very earnestly, “thank you for sharing this with me, it means a lot and I’m here for you.” Because that’s 1) what they’re doing, 2) a recognition that this is significant, and 3) an expression of the solidarity you’re wanting to convey! They’re sharing something with you that is potentially and big deal, and that they would feel comfortable telling you without, I assume, feeling pressured to for any secondary reason besides wanting you to know, is a huge testament to how much you matter to them. So respect that, don’t make it a spectacle, don’t respond with nothing more than “okay cool”, just share a nice, small moment with them and then be there for them as they need you to be. I definitely think that’d be a best case scenario. If you and whoever is coming out are physically comfortable with each other, minor physical contact is immensely comforting.
Not everyone needs the same things, obviously. Some people are going to want more support in the moment, some people are going to want to move on pretty quickly. I can’t give you one definitive answer because there isn’t one. Read them, provide them a confidence boost if they need it, let them elaborate if they want to. Keep it about them and their needs and just make sure they know you’re there for them in whatever capacity that might be! Good luck to both you and the potentially queer people in your life.
Hey there! I’m a bisexual/biromantic girl, and I’m “out” to my friends but not to my family. I know my family will be supportive, but it’s just so weird thinking about Coming Out to them. I just hate that it has to be such a big deal. I came out to my friends by casually talking about girls I had crushes on, so it was never an event or anything. The problem is, I don’t talk to my family about crushes. I don’t even like expressing interest in cute actors around my family. I was thinking about coming out to my (older) sister, then my parents, but I don’t know how to do it without them making it a big deal. I want it to be as low-key as possible. Any advice?
So there’s a huge possibility that I just have horrific luck, but coming out to family is historically awkward, regardless of how supportive you know they’ll be. I do think that using your sister as a stepping stone would be super conducive to what you’re tryin’ to go for here, because she’s not going to treat it… like a parent would, for lack of a better comparison. Honestly, just from my own experiences, your parents might want to Talk About It. A whole hand-on-your-knee, soulful eyes ordeal. Which is kind of painful. You might need to indulge it a little bit for the sake of your parents feeling like they’re being good parents, I really can’t guarantee you anything in that respect. Even with super supportive parents, it’s a shift! And they’re going to respond to it. And that response might be a weepy “I’m so proud of you!” that you’ll cringe at for want of causality and it might be a grunt and a fistbump, I don’t know! If your relationship with your older sister is anything like my relationship with my younger sister, just telling her “Hey, I’m not straight” apropos of nothing with result in a nod of understanding and solidarity and then a different topic will come up. I don’t know the relationship you have with your family, but if you know they’ll be supportive that’s half the battle right there! Having your sister in the know will be helpful, and I know a lot of other queer people who came out to their siblings before they came out to their parents. Utilize your sister in trying to find a good time to come out to your parents. Let her know that you need it to be as calm as possible. She can help facilitate that.
This is going to sound like a really dramatic option, so I apologize, but I also think it will help you to minimize the intensity of the reaction you’ll get: write them a letter. Something short and sweet that you can leave them that just says something like “Howdy, I’m queer and I don’t want it to be an ordeal, it’s not something I want to dominate the conversations you have with me, I just wanted you to know for the sake of you knowing.” Obviously I don’t want to put words in your mouth, so that is 100% just an example. Also my coworkers laughed at me for suggesting this, so maybe not. I’m suggesting it because it’ll give your parents to process it away from you so that you can come back and handle it with them the way you need to. But regardless of how you start, I think that stressing your needs from the get-go is important. Again, I’m not going to lie, your parents are probably going to talk to you about it! But make sure it’s on your terms. Tell them when you’d be okay with talking about it, figure out what you want to talk to them about and what you don’t necessarily want on the table. I don’t know how your parents will react, so I want you to have options and be ready to control the conversation if it becomes more than what you want.
Make your needs clear, and ask your sister to run defense. I wish I could guarantee you a casual experience, but I can’t! I can only try to help you minimize it. Good luck, I hope things go well!