How To Respond When Your Friend Comes Out To You

How To Respond When Your Friend Comes Out To You

"So does that mean we CAN ride rainbow unicorns off into the sunset together?"

It's 2017, and we can definitely say that, for the majority, we as people have made great strides in terms of humanity's acceptance of LGBTQA identities. Yet in spite of this, it is often still very difficult for community members to embrace their sexualities in the very beginning. For someone to admit to their non-heterosexual feelings and attractions is a HUGE deal. And as if it wasn't hard enough to acknowledge this internally, there's still family, friends, and virtually the whole rest of society to consider breaking the news to.

So let's say you're approached one day by a dear friend who says they've got something to say.

They're gay (or bisexual, or pansexual, or whatever!).

And as your friend's chosen confidant, you find yourself wondering, "how can I support my LGBT best friend?" If you're not too familiar with the LGBT community, you may worry that you'll accidentally offend your friend, or that you won't know how to be there for them like they need you to be. But fear not! As an LGBT community member myself, I have a few suggestions for heterosexual allies that you will hopefully find helpful:

1. Don't assume they're telling you because they MUST have feelings for you.

One of your first instincts may be to think, "oh my God, they're confessing their love for me"; that's okay as long as you don't act on this assumption. If they really haven't given you any clear indications that they're into you, you should hold back these thoughts for now. After all, they only JUST came out to you; emotions will probably be running high for you both, so the last thing either of you need is a misunderstanding like that. Most likely, they chose to come out to you because they trust you- don't break that trust so easily with a silly fear.

2. Don't tell any of your friends - not even the mutual ones

Coming out is a very delicate process that you shouldn't get personally involved in. That is, it isn't your news to tell, so keep it to yourself. Your friend may not have gone to the others yet, or maybe they don't plan to, so it's important that you respect their wishes for privacy. If you've got the urge to share, write to yourself in your journal, or spill the beans to your favorite stuffed animal. Seriously- it's not worth wrecking a friendship over.

3. Don't ask them if they're sure.

Something a lot of people don't know is that sexuality is fluid. It can change over time depending on a given situation, or maybe just because for an individual, it's meant to change throughout their life. Either way, chances are, if someone's coming out to you, they're pretty darn sure that they've got it right. The fact that they're mentioning their sexuality at all means they've given it a lot (like A LOT) of thought already. When they come to you, it means they're ready to embrace themselves for how they realize they feel.

They might even change their minds, and say, for example, that they're not bisexual, but instead are homosexual. That's okay, too! Just let them tell you when and if they're ready to do so. Until then, trust what they're saying from the get-go.

4. Be sensitive about asking questions.

If you personally aren't part of the LGBT community, you may find some things about it a little confusing. All of these new ideas are being thrown your way and you're not quite sure how you should take them. And with your friend, in particular, you might want to ask them how they knew, or if they ever had a same-sex encounter before, or any other questions related to their sexuality. Just be sure to take care when you're questioning them. Don't be too pushy. You can be curious while still being respectful. And if you do offend them, take the time to apologize sincerely and make sure they know you didn't mean to hurt their feelings.

5. Celebrate their self-discovery - and don't make it about you.

The friend that comes out to you might have been the only person oblivious to their homo-proclivities. Maybe almost everyone else close to them was pretty certain that they were flaming gay for years. Even still, don't reply with an "I knew it!" or a "how did it take you so long to figure that out?". Discovering and coming to terms with one's own sexuality is a very, very individualized experience. It takes everyone in the community different lengths of time to figure it out! Unless your friend will definitely appreciate your humor, don't make any jokes about how they didn't know while you supposedly did all along.

6. Let them know you're here for them.

Just like you would in any other situation, give your friend a hug (or a firm, business-like handshake, or whatever you do to express your compassion) and reassure them that their coming out to you will not negatively affect your friendship. You may have some dissenting views about LGBT issues, but it's important to look at your relationship overall and decide if it's really worth it to have a social or political argument potentially destroy what you have.

Thank you for reading this article, because that means you are genuinely interested in supporting not only your LGBT friends, but the entire community as well. It warms my heart to know that we've got some really positive straight allies out there in the world. On behalf of the whole community, I thank you sincerely for your understanding.

Cover Image Credit: Olivia Gemarro

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My Asexuality Is The Last Thing I Hate About Myself

Oh, by the way - mom and dad, I'm Ace!

This week my fellow UCF Odyssey writer and asexual Chris Mari wrote an article explaining his asexuality and his complete detest for it. He goes into detail about how is sexual orientation developed, what it is, and how he feels about how it affects his relationships. It is a really insightful article about the accepting process of discovering your own sexuality.

However, I feel like Chris is taking this the wrong way. Being asexual, or any sexuality for that matter, is nothing to be ashamed of and you should never hate yourself for it. It took me a while to figure it out and it took me even longer to accept it. But once I did, my life, relationships, and my view on my asexuality got better. I don't see it as a curse or a disease. I see it as being a part of the awesome person I am (not to brag).

There are many things that I don't like about myself, but my sexuality is not one of them. I hate that I am messy, that I like to mix all of the fountain drinks into one cup, and that I am a terrible driver. I do not hate the fact that I am a five-foot-two asexual woman who eats a lot of pasta.

To be clear, like most sexualities asexuality has a spectrum with different attraction levels and variances between each individual. There are many types of asexuality and each type varies on sexual orientation, lack of sexual attraction, and romantic orientation, which is completely different from sexual orientation. At its core, being asexual means that you lack sexual attraction to others, have low sexual desire, and never initiate sexual activity.

Asexuality means many things to many different people. You can still be in a sexual relationship with someone and still consider yourself to be asexual. You can be attracted to others and still have romantic relationships and still be asexual. It does not have to confine you, your relationship, or you sex/non-sex life.

Unlike Chris, I figured out my asexuality as a teen. Around my senior year in high school, I noticed that I wasn't experiencing the same feelings towards sex and sexual desire as a lot of my friends. For a long time, I thought that there was something wrong with me. I blamed it on me being "too mature" for relationships in high school, and that "all the guys in my grade were unattractive." Which, by the way, was not true.

It wasn't until I started Googling these question I had that I found out what the issue was. I am asexual. And it wasn't until the first relationship I had that I realized I was more of a gray-asexual than strictly asexual. I sometimes feel sexual attraction to others, but only when a strong emotional connection is formed, and even then my sexual attraction is little to none.

Having sex does not mean having a relationship and having a relationship does not mean having sex. Trust me, I know. A romantic relationship is built on a strong emotional connection, respect, and intimacy, which does not necessarily mean sex. My past relationships were built on strong emotional connections and mutual respect. Sometimes there have been feeling of sexual attraction, but in a lot of cases, there weren't. If/when I am in a relationship, there is a lot of emotional intimacy, caring, and a lot more Netflix binging than in most non-asexual relationships.

Chris, it sounds like you are still dealing with the fact that you are asexual. And let me tell you, from my own experience, once you accept it your feelings towards it won't be so negative. There is an entire community of people like you and I that understand what you are going through. But this is something that you shouldn't hate yourself for.

Being asexual does not mean you are broken, have a disease, and are not capable of being in a relationship. If you surround yourself with accepting people, accept who you are as a person, and find that person who loves you for who you are and not your asexuality, then you will see how awesome it is to be who you are meant to be. Trust me, it's good to be part of the plus! We give it that extra credit!

Cover Image Credit: Jon Ly

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My First Pride Experience Didn't Turn Out As I Imagined

And I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way

Since high school, one of the things on my bucket list has been to attend a gay pride event. Over the weekend I got to do just that! I imagined that my first pride experience would take place in some bustling city like Los Angeles, New York City, or Washington D.C. Never in a million years did I think that it would take place in Mississippi, especially not in Starkville. The backstory behind this parade, in particular, makes my experience even more remarkable.

After a year of planning, Starkville Pride, a grassroots organization moved to set the parade into motion. On February 20th, Starkville Pride’s parade request was denied by the Starkville Board of Alderman. This decision led to national coverage and after some consideration, the Board of Alderman met again this time deciding to approve the parade.

The parade is the first gay parade to occur in the city and in the surrounding areas. According to Starkville Daily News, the parade drew nearly 3,000 people making it the largest parade the city has ever seen.

As a native of Starkville’s surrounding area and a member of the LGBT community, I find it difficult to find a place where I feel I belong. The pride parade gave me a home -- a judge free space among a community of people like myself. For the first time in my life, I was not the misfit.

The euphoria has yet to wear off.

Not only is this my first time being in a pride parade, it is also the first time I have marched for any cause. Sure, gay pride parades grant us a beautiful chance to celebrate our lifestyles or to celebrate the lifestyles of others but more importantly, these events give us all a chance to be heard, ignite change, and strive for equality.

Though I never expected my first pride experience to turn out the way it did, I would not have it any other way. Starkville Pride’s parade is undoubtedly the most incredible entity that I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. What an amazing feeling it is to have celebrated this event in such an unlikely location right here at home!

Cover Image Credit: Angela Reives

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