Updated: Mar 16
June is pride month and all of us at IVY want to recognize our LGBTQ+ clients and community! You are seen, heard, appreciated, and loved for exactly who you are! IVY Integrative is a safe place for all.
Here are some tips for how to react if someone comes out to you as LGBTQ+:
1. Acknowledge the risk they took and thank them for sharing.
First, this is a huge step and requires serious vulnerability. The decision to come out is often the culmination of an arduous journey to self-acceptance. It may happen quickly for some, and for others, it may take half a lifetime or more. But ultimately, coming out is about letting go of fear, shame, and self-loathing and living fully in truth. So, appreciate that this person trusts you with confidential information that could even prove dangerous in the wrong hands. Acknowledging the risk they took will build their trust in you and validate their decision to confide in you.
2. This is not your story to tell.
Just because they share this with you does not mean that they have necessarily shared with everyone. So, it is not your place to tell others. Talking about this with others without permission is gossip, even when under the guise of concern. Instead, ask questions like, “Is this a secret?” or “What would you like me to do with this information?”.
3. Show compassion and empathy.
Even if this does not seem like a big deal or would not be hard for you. You do not know what this person has been through or what it took for them to get to this point. People want to be seen and heard—especially in their struggles. We all just want to be loved and accepted for who we are.
4. Ask them how you can best support them.
There is a reason this person chose you to share their secret with. Don’t assume that you know what they want or need. Ask them directly how you can support them both in this moment and going forward. Does that mean just holding the space for them to be who they are, or to be vulnerable? Does that mean listening when they need to tell their story? Validating their experience or emotions? Attending a support group with them? A hug? Simply being a trustworthy friend? It will look different for everyone.
5. Ask them what name/pronouns they would like to be called.
This is especially important for people coming out as trans or non-binary. Asking them how they would like to be addressed reinforces that you support them fully. It is also self-empowering to allow them to take control of their life and identity in a way they have never been able to do before.
6. Know that their gender/sexuality is only one dimension of this person.
When someone comes out, remember that this is not their entire identity. Don’t become hyper focused on this one aspect and overlook their other interests, qualities, experiences, etc. They are still the same person you knew before.
7. Do not ask personal or inappropriate questions about their sex life, genitalia, or medical procedures.
This should be obvious but have respect. Just as you would not want someone asking inappropriate questions about your personal life. It is none of your business. Maybe ask yourself why you are so concerned with this. Is it fear? Ignorance? There are ample ways to educate yourself that does not involve crossing personal boundaries.
8. Do not assume—anything.
Don’t make assumptions about their interests or relate them to stereotypes. Also, don’t assume that you know what they have been through/are going through. You never know what happens behind closed doors, so even if they are always smiling or their family seems like great people, their reality could be quite different from that of public perception. And lastly, don’t compare your own difficult experiences to theirs—unless they ask you directly how you handled a similar situation. This moment is about them. Do not make it about yourself.
9. Do not say, “I still love you ANYWAY”. Respond with loving, validating statements.
Even with the best of intentions, adding the “anyway” implies an otherness. Think about it, if a heterosexual friend introduced a new partner to you, would your first response be that you still love them anyway?? Instead, try responding with statements such as, “Thank you for trusting me with this”, “I love you/care about you”, “I am here for you”, “I support you”, “You are safe with me”. Most importantly, establish yourself as an ally for the LGBTQ+ community.
10. Under no circumstances: Do not try and convert them
No matter what your personal beliefs are, absolutely do not try and convert them, shame them, or argue about the morality of their lifestyle. This includes bringing up the religious debate or using fear tactics. Also, do not downplay it by saying they are confused, that it is just a phase, or that they just haven’t met the right person yet. And equally, do not try and encourage them to come out to anyone else before they are ready. None of these are helpful; they are demeaning and damaging. It will only break their trust in you and enforce that their secret needs to stay a secret for fear of repudiation.
At IVY Integrative, you can work with one practitioner or build your own team of holistic practitioners! Reach your optimum health in-person or online. Check out our Get Started page to learn how to work with us!
Karen McKinney, LCMHCA