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?"
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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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Don't Call Me By Your Name

In fact, don't call me any name at all.
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In an interview regarding the newly released movie "Call Me By Your Name", Armie Hammer was asked about the age gap between the two main characters. The interview went as follows:

Reporter: But with this movie, there were some people, even famous people, that said that this movie wasn’t possible because it depicted a story between a 17-year-old boy and a 24-year-old guy. What do you answer them?

Armie Hammer: It's a story of two adults. 17 is not a child, and neither is the character of Elio a child. In fact, you see that Elio is more aggressive and self-assured to say "this is what I want." There is no power dynamic that is unbalanced. It's just two human beings that genuinely fall for each other. Two legal aged human beings.

Allow me to disrespectfully disagree.

A 17-year-old boy is likely in his junior or senior year of high school. He is newly able to drive, still going through puberty, and unable to smoke, drink, or vote in America, where the movie was marketed. In Italy, where the movie takes place, the character is unable to smoke, vote, or drink anything other than beer or wine. While he is above the age of consent, what many people fail to realize is that lower ages of consent in most European countries are NOT in place to allow older adults to have sex with younger teens, but rather to protect younger teens from prosecution when they have sex with each other.

For example; in America, in many places, an 18-year-old who has sex with a 16-year-old is committing statutory rape. Should the parents of the 16-year-old find out, they could charge the 18-year-old and have them prosecuted. Whether or not they're convicted, that charge will be on their record. If they ARE convicted, they'll be tried as an adult and sent to prison for having consensual sex with someone very nearly their age. Nations where the age of consent is under 18 acknowledge this and acknowledge the fact that teens are going to explore sexually and should not be punished for it.

Armie Hammer's assertion that Call Me By Your Name is the "story of two adults" is technically, and legally true. His character broke no laws by having sex with Timothee Chalamet's character and not a jury in the world would be able to state otherwise.

It's still wrong.

A 17-year-old boy is likely in his junior or senior year of high school. He is newly able to drive. He is still going through puberty. His brain and body are still developing. He is unable to smoke, drink, or vote.

A 24-year-old man has likely graduated from college. His body has all but finished going through puberty. He pays taxes as an independent. He can smoke, drink, vote, join the army, and hold a 9-5 job.

He is seven years older than a 17-year-old boy.

Think of the person you were seven years ago. Think of the person you were at 17. I'm only 19, barely a legal adult myself, and I've changed so much since going off to college that it's hard to believe. When I think about myself at age 17, it's not like I'm thinking of an alien, but neither am I thinking of a peer. How many college graduates, or even students, are willingly signing up to spend extended periods with 17-year-old high schoolers? Not many. How many are dating them? Hopefully even fewer.

Call Me By Your Name is about two gay men. Any other time, I'd be jumping for joy at the mainstream, well-funded representation this movie was bringing in. But it majorly fucked up, and we shouldn't let ourselves be so desperate for any representation that we sacrifice our morals for an indie film that glorifies predatory behavior.

Pedophilia has always been associated with gay men and the queer community, as ridiculous as that notion is. The community has put in decades of work to dispel people's prejudicial notions about the predatory nature of gay men, and Call Me By Your Name has chucked all of that out the window in favor of a cutesy story with bicycle rides in the Italian sunshine. The last thing the queer community needs is movies depicting relationships with large age gaps and an underage kid, ESPECIALLY not where the younger party is being portrayed as the “aggressor”!

I thought that in 2018 we were getting rid of the entirely false narrative of "they were asking for it so it's ok". Kids ask for a lot of stuff. Sometimes they demand it. When I was 10 I would sneak into the fridge and eat Smart Balance straight out of the tub. Was I "asking" for heart disease? Maybe. But that doesn't mean my parents should've handed me the spoon!

And before you point out that the character isn't 10, I'm well aware of it. 17-year-olds can be just as dumb, don't worry. And on some level, we should let them be dumb. Kids are gonna cut their hair and get nose rings and date idiots and listen to music too loud. I'm a kid CURRENTLY DOING most of those things. But if a 24-year-old man is handing me the needle gun and a box of Manic Panic, alarm bells are going to go off.

Not to mention that all relationships entail a power exchange. You have to trust the other person to some extent, and you have to know that they trust you. There is a LOT of emotional and physical exchanges that go on in most relationships and THAT is why the age gap is an issue. Not because I don't think a 17-year-old knows that they want sex, not because I don't think that a 17-year-old can say "no" just as easily (or not as easily) as a 24-year-old, but because the power exchange between them is NOT EVEN CLOSE TO EQUAL.

Metaphor time:

There are two people in a room. The light's gone out. You need someone to hold up the ladder, and someone to screw in the light bulb. If the first person is 30 and the second person is 37, the decision comes down to a flip of a coin, or maybe whoever's bigger or afraid of heights gets to hold the ladder up.

But if one's 17 and one's 24? It's a lot more likely for the 24-year-old to be trusted with the support, and the 17-year-old be the one climbing the ladder. Are there exceptions? Sure. Maybe the 17-year-old's dad is a construction worker. Maybe the 24-year-old is 300lbs and the ladder can only hold 200lbs. Maybe they're both blind and neither need a light bulb so the point is moot anyway.

But we're not talking about exceptions.

I know plenty of 17-year-olds who have had relationships with older men (and women) who DON’T regret it and plenty who DO. The point is that SEVENTEEN YEAR OLDS SHOULDN'T BE MAKING THOSE DECISIONS PERIOD. But they're going to anyways. So it's up to the adults to say NO.

Do I have a HUGE issue with the age gap? No. Do I have a HUGE issue with Armie Hammer dismissing valid concerns about the age gap and saying the 17-year-old was the aggressor and the pursuer just as much if not more than the 24-year-old? Absolutely. HUGE ISSUE WITH THAT NARRATIVE AND THE KIND OF MENTALITY IT PROMOTES. It's the same kind of mentality that allows predators to excuse their actions when they leer at 16-year-old girls in shorts or hit on teenagers because they were only TECHNICALLY a girl, they ACTED like a woman! The same mentality that allows predatory men to groom young boys to do what they want without the boys ever knowing that they're being manipulated.

In ANY relationship with an age gap, there is going to be some kind of power imbalance. The one portrayed in Call Me By Your Name is blatant and BAD. Address it. Don’t gloss over it. And DO NOT excuse it because the 17-year-old CHILD was “into it” or the "aggressor".

And now, Mr. Hammer, I'm going to address you directly. You have kids. Two of them, I believe. How would you feel if your daughter, once she hits 17, still in high school, brought home a man 7 years older than her with his own car and apartment and tax return and everything? Would you be ok with it? What if she was the one who approached him? Maybe she was working her part-time job at McDonald's and he came in on his lunch break and she asked him for his number. Is that an ok situation? She was the aggressor after all.

How about your son? Would you let him date a man 7 years older than him? A woman? The age of consent is 17 in New York, and some states it goes as low as 16. you said yourself that “17 is not a child.”

And yet a 22-year-old actor was cast in the role... could the director have cast a 17-year-old? Legally? Ethically?

Would you have been comfortable acting out the scenes you did, acting, not even really doing, with a 17-year-old? Would you have been comfortable, as an adult, making out with a 17-year-old boy on camera? As “two legal aged human beings” would it have been ok to do that?

And think about yourself at 17. Were you able, mentally, emotionally, and physically to enter into a safe, sane, and consensual relationship with another human? Even if the human was 7 years older than you? I sure wasn’t.

But I dunno. Maybe I just wasn't aggressive enough.

To everyone hoisting this movie up as some beacon of queer representation: don't. It's two straight actors playing cisgender gay men in an unhealthy relationship. I don’t want this representation and the queer community doesn't want it either. Take it back. Fix it. Fix whatever part of yourself is ok with this narrative. You can come back once you’ve sorted it out. I’d advise doing it soon lest you end up as just another name on the Hollywood blacklist of creeps.

“Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman, does not mean she’s ready to do what a woman does.”

-Hard Candy (2005)

Cover Image Credit: Via Vimeo

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5 Historical Figures Who Were (Probably) Gay

History's not as straightforward as they'd like you to believe. It's not as straight, either.
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History books have an unfortunate habit of glossing right over sexuality, assuming all of their major players to be straight. But that couldn't be further from the truth: non-straight sexuality isn't some modern fad. It was swept under the rug for hundreds of years, but it never ceased to be. Here's a look at just a few figures who were a little less straight than your textbooks would like you to believe.

1. Leonardo Da Vinci

Da Vinci was rather famous in Florence for his relationships with his students, having been arrested for sodomy twice (even though same-sex affairs were often overlooked by the Florentine authorities). Perhaps most notable of these was Gian Giacomo Caprotti, nicknamed “Salai” -- meaning “Devil” -- by Da Vinci. Salai lived up to his nickname: he was a cheat and a thief, and Da Vinci had little reason not to send him packing save his personal connection with the young man. He spent nearly twenty years with Da Vinci and appeared as one of Da Vinci’s most frequent drawing subjects, with some art historians arguing that the “Mona Lisa” is, in fact, a composite of of Salai and a Florentine woman.

Da Vinci never showed much interest in women, either, even going so far as to proclaim his disgust of male-female intercourse in his notebooks. He did, however, keep himself surrounded by male assistants -- universally young and beautiful.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt

Despite being most immediately famous as Franklin Roosevelt’s wife, Eleanor’s relationship with her husband appeared to be a purely political alliance, with neither showing much romantic interest in the other. Instead, she preferred the company of a tight circle of female friends, a group that included several lesbian couples. She grew particularly close with Lorena Hickok after spending quite a bit of time with her in New York. The two exchanged nearly 4,000 letters, often permeated with romantic under(and over)tones, like the frequent exchange of the phrase “je t’aime et je t’adore” -- translated to mean “I love you and I adore you.”

3. William Shakespeare

Unbeknownst to many casual readers, several of Shakespeare’s most famous sonnets, including Sonnet 18 (beginning with “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day…”) were addressed to men. They were likely published without his approval and contain quite a bit of homoerotic subtext, often expressed through puns (as in Sonnet 52: “So is the time that keeps you as my chest, Or as the wardrobe which the robe doth hide, To make some special instant special blest, By new unfolding his imprisoned pride.” [“Pride” was an Elizabethan euphemism for an erect penis]). One commends the male subject to sleep with women, but give him his undying love.

4. Abraham Lincoln

Arguably the most nebulous on this list, Lincoln’s sexuality has long been debated by biographers and historians. As a young man, Lincoln frequently shared a bed with male colleagues -- not surprising, given the time period and his lack of wealth. This trend, however, allegedly continued even after he achieved wealth and renown, as he periodically shared a bed with Captain David Derickson when his wife (with whom his relationship was chilly at best) was away, with some reports of Derickson wearing Lincoln’s nightshirt.

Lincoln’s sexuality was really brought to the forefront when several letters -- albeit of stipulated authenticity -- detailing a sexual relationship between Lincoln and Joshua Speed were found under the floorboards of an old store they shared. However, an unambiguous correspondence between Lincoln and Speed shares many of the same affectionate undertones.

5. Virginia Woolf

Woolf’s affair with Vita Sackville-West is, at this point, rather famous. She first confessed to her sister, Vanessa Bell -- who was, for the time, quite accepting, expressing curiosity over rejection. She and Sackville-West kept up a written correspondence, with one letter even asking Sackville-West to “throw [her] man” and join her instead, and later readings of her diary revealed expressly romantic feelings toward Sackville-West.

Cover Image Credit: Wikipedia Commons

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