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10 ways to support your LGBTQ+ friend who just came out

Coming out isn’t easy. A lot people who identify as LGBTQ+ will tell you, it's a complicated, sometimes messy chapter in our lives. It's the reason why I'm not using my real name for my byline.

In writing about my experience of coming out, I thought I'd use the name of my favorite character on "Super Girl" as my pseudonym. Lexie Danvers* realized she was gay late in life. It is something I could very much relate to.

I was 30 when I began finding myself attracted to a woman. It was only then that I considered the possibility that perhaps I was gay. I sought to understand myself. I tried to “google” answers. I read one article after another. I thought it was probably a fluke. I was still attracted to men, after all.

But once I accepted that unfamiliar attraction, I just found myself looking at women differently. It took me eight long years to finally accept myself.

When I finally did, I decided to tell a friend from high school about it. She had a brother who went through the same thing, and I knew she would understand. While she empathized with me, I later found out that she told others about me, like some cheap gossip.

I confronted her, and she did apologize. But it felt like she was sorry for being caught, not for betraying and outing me. We’re no longer friends.

Then I decided to tell my best friend, and to my horror, her reaction was to tell me it was just a phase. She thought I was traumatized by crappy relationships. Science and any member of the LGBTQ+ community will tell you, it doesn’t work that way.

When I told a mentor, she made an offensive joke — that I was switching to women because I couldn’t get a man. She passed away before we could fix things.

Finally, a friend told me to stop coming out to people I care about. “You don’t owe anyone an explanation,” she said.

It would have been easier to follow her advice, to build a wall, and not let people know who I am - but I didn’t want to live that way.

What I realized is, it’s so much easier to come out to strangers than to friends. Strangers have no preconceived notions about you. Both of you don’t have a long stretch of history to wade through. It’s a blank slate. For instance, when I started a new job, I purposely included in my introductions that I had a partner, the same way others mentioned they were married with kids.

That’s when I realized I won’t be coming out once. I will be coming out my whole life. That’s also when I decided that even if it was difficult, I want to come out to people I care about. I want them know this important truth about me.

It’s not easy — it took me eight years to accept myself! — but I also realized love is not a one-way street. I will need to help them, too.

Apart from giving them time and space to process and understand, I knew I will also need to teach them how best to show their support to their LGBTQ+ friend.

Allow me to share a list of 10 important things you can do to support your friend, should they come out to you:

1. Don’t say “I wish you told me sooner” and make it about you. It’s very simple: They might not have been ready yet. We know you mean well, and you probably wanted to show support, but please respect their space and don’t ask for an explanation. It took me a long time because was battling my own doubts and insecurities.

2. Don’t say “It’s a phase,” especially when they tell you they’ve been struggling for years. Saying it’s a phase undermines your friend. Calling it a phase sounds like telling your friend: “That is not who you are. This is who you are.”  

3. Don’t say “I knew it!” or “I kind of had a feeling” either. Shortly after coming out, a gay friend accompanied me to an LGBTQ+ party. I saw a former colleague there, a lesbian, and she told me that she had a “feeling” about me when we first met. I was 24 then and only realized I might be gay at 30.

I told her, I didn’t know I was gay back then, but she only countered with, “hmmm, alam mo na yun.” You’d think she’d empathize because she was a member of the LGBTQ+ herself, but instead she made it sound like I was lying or was in denial.

4. Don’t ask “Who is the boy/girl?” I remember I mentioned to a friend that I was on my way to pick up my partner, and she immediately said “Oh, you’re the man.” I am not the man, I am not a man, and I do not identify as a man. I’m a woman attracted to women, that’s why am going out with one.

Asking who the boy/girl is, is classic gender role stereotyping. I know many straight women who make more than their husbands. Do you ask them if they’re “the man” in the relationship? You wouldn’t, unless you wanted to be an asshole, right?

5. “You don’t look gay” and “Hindi halata” are not compliments. That’s just a “straight speak” way of saying “You don’t look butch” or “You’re not flamboyant gay.” In the same vein, it’s also not nice to say “You’re too pretty to be gay” or worse, “Sayang ka.”

6. Don’t insist, or give a label for your friend. I remember a gay friend shared with me that he came out as gay to his friend. His friend corrected him “Pare, you’re bisexual, not gay. You had girlfriends before.” My friend replied, “No, I am gay, because while I loved all of my ex girlfriends, I’m no longer attracted to women.”

So, please do not dictate the identity of your friend. They would know themselves best.

7. Don’t introduce my partner as my best friend to someone else when I’ve already introduced her to you as my partner. Again, please don’t apply double standards. Say you have a married, straight friend. At a dinner party, she introduces her husband to you. Would you introduce said husband as your friend’s special friend to another person? You wouldn’t, right?

8. Please remember it’s not your story to tell. Remember, your friend trusted you with a deep truth about herself. This trust should trump everything.

If another person asks you “Do you think Lexie is gay?” You cannot “out” her to another person just because you don’t want to lie or that you were put on the spot. That’s a betrayal of trust. Instead, say “no” and counter with something like, “Why don’t you ask her?” or “Am not sure.”

There’s no positive outcome in spreading her truth to others no matter how you spin it.

9. Another reason why it’s not your story to tell: You don’t know their family situation. I remember asking my mom if my partner can join the family trip she was planning for their 50th wedding anniversary. She said of course, but admitted that she’s not ready to answer questions on the identity of my partner. That meant my partner will not be included in our family photos. Or she can be, but photos with her in it will not be posted on social media, where questions like “who is she?” will be asked. That’s when I realized it’s not only me who comes out. My whole family comes out with me, too.

10. When someone comes out to you, they are seeking emotional validation that you still love and support them. Now is the best time to say that you love them, no matter what.

Thank your friend for trusting you. Tell them you’re glad they're coming out, at least to you. Ask if they have partner and if you can meet — ask if all that is too much too soon. Tell your friend you’ll be ready when they are. Your friend will appreciate your show of support.

Reacting like any of the points listed above will not give your friend the emotional validation that she needs.

For those who have a hard time coming out like I did, rest in the comfort that it gets easier in time.

It’s been three years since I came out. Today, I’m seriously dating a wonderful woman, and my family is accepting of us. 

I don’t regret coming out, and honestly, the struggle in living your truth will always be there. But the upside of that courage is that you get to finally love who you want, and love will always be worth fighting for. — LA, GMA News