How should I react when someone comes out?

When someone you know comes out to you, it can seem like an overwhelming experience. However, there’s no reason for you to panic. If someone comes out to you, it means that they feel safe and comfortable enough around you to reveal their sexuality or identity.

Although it may seem like a huge deal to you, it’s important that you don’t overreact and just take some time to process what they said. Responding with “Oh my gosh, you’re gay??” or “I always knew you weren’t straight!” isn’t appropriate. All you need to say is something like, “Thank you for telling me. I’m glad you felt safe and comfortable enough to let me know.”

Don’t judge them. Regardless of your beliefs, if someone feels like they can come out to you, you shouldn’t respond with judgement and condemnation. Keep your opinions to yourself. Saying something like, “That means you’re going to Hell,” or “Jesus doesn’t love you,” isn’t appropriate.

Offer support and stay in contact. Often times, people are scared to come out to their friends and family for fear of rejection. Keep in touch with them and remind them that you’ll be there for them regardless of their identity.

Don’t allow them to feel isolated and alone. Treat them the same way you did before they came out — they’re still the same person they were before, and nothing has changed. If you always used to go to the mall on Saturdays, keep doing that. If you cancel these plans or stop certain traditions, it can be very hurtful to them and indicate that you don’t accept them anymore.

Avoid asking questions that may seem rude or offensive. If they are the same gender as you, don’t ask them if they have a crush on you or if they find you attractive. Just because someone identifies as bi, lesbian, or gay doesn’t automatically mean that they like you, and this is a very harmful stereotype. People who are attracted to the same gender are still capable of maintaining friendships with them.

Don’t tell other people about your friend’s identity. It’s not up to you to reveal these things, and this could put your friend in danger. Respect their privacy and confidentiality. It’s their choice to decide who to tell about their identity — all you need to do is simply accept them for who they are.

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