If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

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.

If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

If you can pull off a not awkward fistbump, that would be ideal.

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!


Handling Invalidation

Hi! I’m agender and I really want to come out to my friends and family, but I feel like they’ll invalidate me and say I’m just shallow by labelling myself (my mom already thinks that the gender spectrum isn’t real and thinks trans* identities are stupid). How did you first come out to people you know, and how did they react?

I’m kind of a weird example, because my coming out was super painless on most fronts. However, I think there’s a reason why it was so easy for me. Me embracing my queerness was a result of me getting more into social justice, queer activism and education, etc, and I’m the kind of person who likes to share what they’re excited about with their friends and family. So before me coming out was even a thing, the people who mattered to me knew that queer issues really mattered to me. We would have debates, I would attempt to educate (though this was like 2-3 years ago and I had no finesse), and above all it would just be something that I talked about a LOT. Obviously not everyone was super receptive to my stances, but they at least respected and recognized that it mattered to me. And those who didn’t weren’t people I kept around me. If people are really, really stubborn stick to the fact that this isn’t about them, it’s about you. It’s really important to you, and you’re telling them about it because they matter to you. Regardless of how they feel about it, this is what seems right to you. If you want to come out, then this is something you’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and it’s very courageous of you to want to do this despite your worries. Some people take a lot of time to warm up to new concepts, so unfortunately there’s a lot of patience required for a clean coming out. Stand by the fact that you know this is right for you!

Good luck!


Coming Out as Ace

How should I tell my mom I’m asexual? I feel like she won’t understand that it actually exists or she’ll just think I’m trying to get attention or something. 

So AVEN actually has a great FAQ section for family & friends, and a lot of the questions presented are questions that you might encounter in trying to explain how you’re feeling to your mom. It might even be a good resource to hand over to her if you’re having trouble getting your point across and are needing to step away from the conversation. I didn’t have to do this with my mom, but a few of my partners have looked at the relationship FAQ in the past and it was really helpful for them. As I’m sure you know, asexuality is horrendously underdiscussed in any popular medium, even within the Q community (and especially in the LGBT one, because I do find a distinction there). It’s a strange topic to broach in the context of queerness because most people don’t have preemptive associations with it as an identity, but that doesn’t mean there’s no judgement, as you are very cognizant of. I think the best way to handle this is the same way I handle any coming out/re-education (my last entry might be helpful for you for this reason): start at their level and build your way up. Introduce asexuality at its core, and gauge her response. Move from there! If you know your mom responds better to statistics, hit AVEN up some more and show her the community. If your mom responds better to very personal sincerity, just try to have a candid conversation with her about what it means to you that you identify as asexual.

If she says something that hurts your feelings, take a deep breath and tell her it did and why, and what is ACTUALLY correct. For example, the bit about identifying as asexual just to get attention is actually mentioned in the AVEN link, but if she accused you of that what I would say (and this is very much from my actual perspective, I just want you to get the idea of what I mean), “It makes me uncomfortable that you think my identification as asexual is something I fabricated for attention. It’s something I’ve been very aware of since 8th grade, and it never went away. It’s never been something I wanted attention drawn to in the first place; finding out that asexuality was an actual thing helped me through a lot of internal struggle, but I feel very safe in the community. I shared this with you because I love and trust you, and I need you to respect that this is what feels right to me.” Again this is very much based on myself, but I think there’s a good mixture to find in being candid about your experience and introducing this very new idea in a somewhat logical way.

I hope this helps, I have had to explain asexuality to so many people under so many different circumstances and it is never not tiring and frustrating. It just takes patience and perseverance and a lot of focus on mutual respect. Good luck!