Tuesday, October 11, 2016

How To Be An Ally When Someone Comes Out To You

Coming out is a very sensitive, emotional process for anyone who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or pansexual. It is important to allow them the space to express their thoughts to you, on their own time. Coming out is a stressful situation because as happy and exciting as it can be for some, there are clouded thoughts and risk of discrimination, rejection, harassment, and possible violence. 

Everyone's experience is different. There is no scripted answer on how to respond when someone comes out to you. Many straight people may just not know how to react. What's the right thing to say? How should you navigate the conversation without offending them or making them uncomfortable? The answer is to be their ally. 

A straight ally can be someone who is supportive of and accepts the LGBT person or a straight ally can be someone who personally advocates for equal rights and fair treatment (or both!) (GLAAD). Being a straight ally is so important in the coming out process because the person coming out needs to feel safe, heard, and understood. Allies are said to be some of the most effective and powerful voices of the LGBT movement. 

One of the first ways to be a supporting straight ally is to not assume everyone you know is straight. Not making assumptions will give them the safe space they need to be open and honest. Many wanting to come out are looking for that support from a straight ally, a voice saying it's okay to be who you are. As an ally, it is important to leave that space open and free of judgement.

Another way to be a great ally is to be a listener. Active listening means you are fully engaged in what they are saying. Being a listener also means allowing lulls to be present in the conversation as they come out to you. Don't rush to fill in the blanks, or try to get them to the point. Give them the space in the conversation to gather their thoughts and courage. Let them talk and say everything they have been thinking.

If the person coming out to you has surprised you with this coming out talk, just remember it is the same person you were talking to minutes before they shared this personal information. They are the same person you loved and cared for 5 minutes ago. Nothing should change because they chose you to strengthen their relationship with and be honest with. Allow yourself to absorb the information and reassure them nothing has changed. You are there for them through it all and thank them for choosing you to come out too. 

Please remember that if the news they are sharing with you is met with a negative reaction, it can be very damaging to someone who is revealing something so personal and raw. For many, it takes years to work up the courage to speak about this to someone they are close to because they are fearful of rejection. When someone comes out to you, it is important to remind them they are not alone and you are ready to help them connect with themselves. Don't use this moment to bring up politics, religion, HIV status or sex life. That is highly inappropriate for the moment and offensive to someone who is trying to be open with you. Be understanding first and foremost. If you have questions or concerns, bring those up in a constructive, sensitive way later at a less stressful moment.

Being a straight ally is accepting all for who they are. Use your voice as a straight person to stand up for your friend or family member in the face of injustice, bullying, or persecution. Human rights are everyone's issue. 

We applaud everyone who has come out for being brave in the face of fear. If you are considering coming out, we encourage you to use your voice, be brave, be you. 

Remember, the bravest thing you can be...is yourself. 



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