What NOT to Say When Your Loved One Comes Out
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
So, somebody you love just came out...
You’re wondering what to say. Or maybe, you’re questioning whether or not what you already said was the, “right thing.” These can be tricky conversations to navigate, especially if you’ve had zero experience with someone coming out.
Lucky you, I reached out to one of my trusted LGBT communities on FB to compile a list of all the most cringe-worthy things people said to them when they came out. If you’re hoping to gain better insight on what to say (or refrain from saying) next time someone comes out to you, you’ve come to the right place.
If you’re here, it’s because you want to be a better friend/ally. That’s fantastic! I love new friends and allies. Try to roll with my hefty doses of sarcasm. If we can’t laugh at ourselves as we learn to do better… what’s the point?
Without further ado…
1.) “Are you sure?” & “… have you ever actually BEEN with another man/woman?”
I don’t know Debra, are you sure you’re heterosexual? It doesn’t matter how long they’ve been leading an apparently hetero life, they’ve likely been questioning their sexuality long before they came to you about it. It takes a lot of courage to become secure enough in yourself and your sexuality to finally come out. Trust me, we’re sure.
Listen, I’m fairly certain you likely knew you were straight before having slept with a person of the opposite sex. I’m also fairly certain no body questioned your hetero status beforehand. I knew I was gay before ever having slept with a woman. A lot more goes into sexuality than who you enjoy having sex with, it's an identity.
2.) “But, you’re so pretty!”
Let’s be clear on what you’re implying by saying this, because I’m not entirely sure. Are you implying that only “unattractive” girls are gay? Additionally.. are you saying the only reason “unattractive" girls are gay is because they can’t catch a man? Because I can’t think of any other reason why this would be your first response. However, it happens all the time. Thanks, we know we’re pretty… and so are our girlfriends.
3.) “Oh! I need to introduce you to my other gay friend!”
Why didn’t you want to introduce me to this friend before you knew I was gay? This is the equivalent of telling your new “black friend,” that you need to introduce them to your other “black friend.” Just because we’re both gay doesn’t mean we immediately need to know one another. The only thing I’m clear on now, is that your, "other gay friend” and I both have an ignorant mutual friend.
From a contributor:
“Hey hey hey do you know Judy? She lives in *enter any area within 1,500 miles*. Yea I bet you totally know gay Judy.”
Yes, absolutely, because all of us gays know each other.
4.) “Gay?! How cool!”
This makes me feel like I’ve officially taken on the role of your token gay friend and you now feel you have street-cred for having a gay friend. Don’t even think about asking your fresh-out-the-closet gay boy-friend to take you shopping, or your newly un-closeted lesbian friend if she can fix your broken shower head. I’m a lesbian, this doesn’t automatically make me Bob Villa.
5.) Proceed to tell her about "that one time you made out with a girl.”
Listen, we’re all painfully familiar with the whole, experimental-drunken-college-girl hookups. This is not information I need relayed to me now that you know I’m a lesbian. I equate this to telling your, “black friend,” about that time you were the only white person at a concert and how you officially understand exactly what it’s like to be black.
6.) “I’m totally cool with you being gay… but don’t hit on me”
One contributor put it best… “Oh honey… don’t flatter yourself.”
Just because your friend came out, doesn’t automatically mean they want to hookup with or date you.
7.) “But… how will you have children?”
Is this a serious question? I can’t honor it with a long retort. However, many of us are asked this as though it is a totally reasonable thing to ask. It’s not and I cannot take you seriously about it.
8.) “Were you molested?”
I’m sorry, what? Is there a great deal of the population who believes one must’ve been molested in order to be gay? Is that a required box to check on the gay-intake form? Wait… is there a gay intake form I missed? Shit. I knew I was going to do something wrong.
Asking someone if they’re gay because they were molested may officially top the list of most ignorant things to say. I almost don’t know where to begin. First of all, molestation is HIGHLY sensitive subject matter, gay or straight, to be asked in such a distasteful way. Your friend is already in a vulnerable position by coming out to you, don’t make it more difficult. To answer your question, being gay doesn’t automatically equate to having been molested. Not every gay person has been molested. Just like your straight friend being molested has nothing to do with them being straight.
9.) “You probably just haven’t met the right man/women, yet.”
Totally, you must be right. I must be confused about my sexuality because I’ve yet to have a man sweep me off my feet.
Correction: There’s no man to sweep me off my feet, because he’s a man and I’m a lesbian.
10.) “This is because you had that bad breakup.”
As someone whose bad breakup finally woke her up, I’d have to say you’re not totally off beat with this one. However, it’s not in the way you meant.
My breakup was the slap in the face I needed to finally stop living a life I knew wasn’t meant for me. My breakup didn't, “turn me gay.” I was already gay, I just wasn’t ready to admit it yet. So.. sure, I suppose my breakup was the catalyst to my finally walking fully in my truth. And, part of that, was coming out.
11.) “This is just a phase. You’ll outgrow it.”
This isn’t like having the Terrible Twos, or like that time in middle school when I started wearing JNCO jeans, Vans and dark blue lipstick. I’m not going to outgrow my lesbianism. Your teenager likely isn’t going to outgrow it either. Sexuality is fluid and sometimes people will identify differently as they grow and evolve, but rarely does someone up and decide they made a mistake and are actually straight. Saying things like this makes us think you’re hoping we “outgrow” our gayness —aka— outgrow who we are intrinsically. I’m hoping your ignorance is a phase you’ll outgrow.
12.) “You’re gay? Why?”
A contributor in my FB group answered this best,
“I found the question hilarious at the time, so I wouldn't necessarily discourage someone from asking this in the future, provided they don't mind being laughed at.”
13.) “You’re going to go to hell,” “Love the sinner hate the sin,” “I’ll pray for you," “God can fix you,” Or… anything relating to your religion.
You’re allowed to have your belief system securely intact, even if that means you’re offended by my gayness. I’m offended by your religious shrouded judgement, so… let’s call it even. But, let’s clear up a few things…
1. You do not have the security clearance to determine who is and isn’t going to hell.
2. I don’t know a single person who stopped being gay because someone told them their religion said they weren’t supposed to be gay… it simply does not work that way. The fate of my soul isn’t your job.
3. I cannot count the ways in which it annoys me when people say things about loving the sinner and hating the sin. I am not a sin. My gayness isn’t a sin. Whoever created me, didn’t make a mistake by sprinkling gayness into the recipe. If you’re thinking, “I’ll still love her even though she’s gay,” please, exit stage right.
4. By all means, if you want to send positive vibes out to the the Universe in my name, knock yourself out, but to be clear, trying to pray my gay away isn’t a positive vibe.
5. We are not broken.
14.) One contributor’s mom said:
“No you’re not [gay]! No you ARE NOT! Who’s telling you this?!”
I DON’T KNOW MOM! IT MUST BE THE LIBERALS AND THEIR GAY AGENDA!
15.) "Well, good for you!"
This is not as awesomely supportive as they think it is. Good for me? I'm pansexual, not a winner on the Price is Right. smh. - CW
16.) If you like girls that look like guys, why not just be with guys?
Not the same thing, Susan. Not the same thing.
17.) “Are your parents okay with this?”
Interestingly enough, I was asked this frequently whenever I was dating someone (heterosexually) outside my race, as well as after I came out. Apparently, I’d give many peoples parents a heart attack by being who I am. I’m lucky enough to have parents who have always been 100% accepting and supportive of their children. However, not everyone is as lucky. Our parents reactions to our sexuality, much like your reaction, have nothing to do with us. It isn’t our responsibility to worry about how owning our individual sexuality impacts someone else. I’m not worried about your straightness, stop worrying about my gayness.
18.) “Why would you choose to be gay?”
I don’t know… why did you chose to be straight? Oh, you didn’t choose? How strange… I distinctly remember filling out a form in middle school,
“Are you Gay? Circle yes or no.”
Didn’t you get the same form? No?
No one CHOOSES their sexuality. I didn’t choose to be gay anymore than you chose to be straight. Being gay is more accepted than ever before in history, but it’s still not safe to be gay in many areas of the world, including many areas of the United States. I’m not going to hide who I am because ignorance still permeates so much of the world. However, I don’t know many people who purposefully choose the path that puts them directly in the line of fire.
I didn’t choose my sexuality any more than you chose the color of your skin, or the family you were born into, or how tall you are.
19.) “I thought I knew you,” or “Why didn't you tell me sooner?”
If you not knowing I was gay means you don’t know me anymore, I don’t think we were ever really friends. Sexuality is a piece of who we are, it isn’t everything we are. Additionally, our coming out isn’t about you. We told you as soon as we could.
Don’t make the conversation about you. Now is not the time to chastise them for not coming to you with this sooner. Coming out is a process that starts with us coming out to ourselves. After we’ve done that, it’s then a matter of figuring out how to tell people… do we drop it casually into conversation over tea with grandma, or make a grand proclamation over Christmas Eve dinner? Who we tell, how/when/where… It can be exhausting. Every coming-out person picks their own adventure. Some people never actually, “come out” they just start dating whoever they want to date and let everyone figure it out on their own. Either way, I’ll repeat… don’t make their coming out about you.
20.) “But like… how do you have sex?”
Listen up, sexuality is about identity, it isn’t about sex. If we’re on the, “sex talk” level, then I’ll tell you about it somewhere down the road when we’d be talking about it anyway. The coming out conversation is neither the time nor place.
When I came out to my mom, she grabbed hold of an 8x10 picture of me from High school and started sobbing and asking why I was doing this to her. She had big plans for a white wedding and grandchildren. She also wouldn't believe I was bi. She said I either had to be gay or straight, otherwise, she wouldn't believe me. - SW
I had nearly 200 comments on my Facebook inquiry. I don’t know a single person in the LGBTQ community who doesn’t have at least a handful of examples of hateful, cringe-worthy things people have said to them about their sexuality
When someone trusts you enough to come out to you… it’s best to follow a few simple rules…
Unless the first thing out of your mouth is, “I’m so happy you’re stepping into your truth and being who you are,” (or something to that effect), then pause before you speak.
Let your loved one say everything they need to say, don’t interrupt.
If you don’t know what to say, tell them as much, smile and give them a hug.
Say things like, “I love you!” “You’re amazing,” “I respect you so much.”
Thank them for trusting you enough to come out to them. It speaks volumes of what you mean to that person if they are trusting you in this way. Take it as a compliment.
Tell them you’re excited to bare witness to them living their most authentic life.
Tell them you’ll support them however you can and If you don’t know what to say, or how to be a good ally, assure them you’ll educate yourself and learn how.
I get it, no body’s perfect. Sometimes we say ridiculous things in the moment and later realize it was absolutely the wrong thing to say. It’s okay. The best thing you can do now, is humbly apologize and educate yourself on how to be a better ally to your freshly-out-of-the-closet, loved one.