Coming out is difficult. Obviously that goes without saying because, while the world is starting to gear towards a more tolerant society, we all know that a conservative country like the Philippines still has a lot to work on when it comes to preventing day-to-day LGBT discrimination. Around the world, this very discrimination is what makes it difficult for queer people to get decent housing, proper education, good employment opportunities and unbiased healthcare. Let that sink in. So let me say that again with all of that in mind: coming out is difficult.
Coming to terms with one’s sexual identity is always a big step for anyone in the LGBT community; so as a good friend and/or straight ally, there will come a time when you might know someone climbing this uphill battle. Make sure you know how to push them across instead of being an additional weight to carry. When your friend chooses to come out to you just remember the following:
- Let them speak. Finding the words to say is not easy when you want to tell someone about your sexual preference. Because really, it’s not something you consider talking about on a regular basis. It’s not like the weather with the templated, “Man it’s like pushing 40 degrees Celsius outside, by-the-way-I-like-people-of-the-same-gender, let’s go walk under the shade to avoid the heat.” So let them stutter and fumble and look everywhere but you. Be patient and listen.
- Go beyond tolerance—go for acceptance. It is too easy to say that what they do is none of your business. What they need to hear is that you know what they do and don’t judge them at all for it. If they’re happy, you’re happy. Period.
- Reassure them that nothing will change. Being gay doesn’t undo everything you have gone through together as friends. If you loved them as a friend before, why should that love change just because they realized an aspect of themselves completely unrelated to your relationship? Tell them they matter. That being queer doesn’t devalue them. Love them all the same.
- Give them time (no pressure!). Coming out is often a planned out fanfare complete with overthinking, crying, denial, etc. Once they decide to come out to you, do not pressure them to come out to everyone else. If they disclose their sexuality to you while their foot is just half out the closet door, that is a sign of major trust. Protect that.
- Be proud of them. Given that coming out is no easy feat, tell your friend you’re proud of them. For being brave enough to tell you, being strong enough to accept the difficult road ahead and being just an all-around amazing human being (because you’re reading through all of this just to make sure they feel supported then they really must be!)