Coming out can be a huge milestone is someone's life journey, and having support not only feels good, it can help create a more equitable society for all. According to the Human Rights Campaign, research has shown that a person is more likely to support legislation and policies for LGBTQ+ equity if they personally know someone who identifies as a part of the community.
It takes a lot for someone to come out, and by doing so they can be themselves and make an impact on others. Navigating the conversation may be scary or difficult, here are few things to consider for both sides.
If Someone Comes Out to you –– Listen!
It may be tempting to turn the conversation on yourself and your questions or concerns, but if someone comes out to you, be sure to listen and make space for them.
"They probably trust you a great deal and they're being very vulnerable with you," Schuyler Bailar, an advocate who centers transgender inclusion and education in their work, told NPR.
It's means something that they've made the decision to tell you, so before asking questions or sharing your thoughts, make sure you listen to the person. The first conversation isn't the time to bring up your feelings, right now, the best thing to do is practice good listening.
This is also not the time for invasive questions. Just because someone may be opening up about a huge part of their identity, doesn't open the floor for questions about their body.
Make Time to Talk
It's important for both parties to understand that coming out is not a discussion that can be rushed through –– and it may not be a one-time conversation.
For people coming out, it may be helpful to prepare to be ready to talk through the conversation as some people may need to adjust to this new aspect of your relationship with them.
Check out additional resources for having the conversation here.
How to Show Support
Showing support for someone who comes out to you can look different for different people. A person may even lay out how they need support in the moment, but if not there are a few ways to ensure the person who trusted you with the conversation feels supported.
First, you can practice active listening and avoiding invasive questions, as detailed above. Doing your own research on how to be supportive can show the person you're taking steps to educate yourself and support their journey.
You can also take the time to hear from the person what being out means to them while ensuring you're doing your part to educate yourself. Learning about different sexual identities and gender expressions can take the pressure off someone who is coming out to you to have to explain those things further.
For someone who is coming out to another person, if you have the energy, facilitating where you are in your journey may be a strategy to build understanding in your relationship with them.
Do What's Best for You
For someone who wants to come out, above all, do what's best for you. If you feel unsafe or don't feel ready to come out, you don't have to. You know you best.