My friend just came out to me — what do I say to her?
If you’ve ever shared a secret with a friend, you know a friend’s response can either be really helpful or really hurtful. Friends don’t come out on a whim. LGBT+ teens have often wrestled in secret for a while before having the courage to come out.
Coming out is your friend’s brave attempt to be known by and gain support from trusted friends and family. Your friend coming out to you is a testament to your trustworthiness!
Reacting Well and Processing Your Emotions
When your friend comes out, you might feel sad, surprised, or uncomfortable. While it is okay to feel a range of emotions, put her emotions first. Be a calm, understanding listener.
Tell your friend, “Thank you for trusting me. You’re always my friend, and nothing will ever change that.” Give her a hug.
When your friend goes home, then pray to God honestly. “Lord, I have so many emotions. Please comfort and guide me. Help me honor you in my beliefs and love my friend well.”
Risks: Isolation and Bullying
Due to bullying and the fear of family rejection, LGBT+ teens can be at risk for depression, self-harm, and suicide. The good news: these risks go down when they receive good support.
Your friend needs your support. Ask, “Are you being bullied at school?” If so, you can tell a parent, teacher, or school counselor to ensure that your friend receives protection.
Your friend also needs adult support. Ask, “Do any adults know? Are there any you’d feel safe telling?” Encourage her (but don’t force her) to talk to a youth pastor, school staff member, or coach. It is always best if your friend can share with her parents, but this is not always possible.
Confidentiality is Crucial
Your friend may not be “out” to everyone. Coming out to peers could subject her to mistreatment - even physical harm! You MUST honor her trust instead of gossiping. Before telling others, ask, “Is it okay if I talk to someone about this?” Honor her answer.
The one situation where it is appropriate to violate confidentiality is in order to protect a friend who is being bullied or threatened. You can tell a teacher about the bullying without disclosing your friend’s sexuality.
Maybe you need to talk to someone about your emotions. You can say to your youth pastor (without giving your friend’s name), “One of my friends came out to me, and I need help processing how I feel.”
What About My Beliefs?
God made our sexuality to be expressed in marriage between one man and one woman. Since this can be difficult for many to accept, some of your friends will not follow God’s design.
Our reaction: We need to maintain beliefs that honor God while having compassion for everyone, because God has compassion on us.
Since your friend may be depressed or suicidal, it is not urgent to discuss your beliefs. You should not feel like you have to hide your beliefs, but equally, you should not feel like you are disobeying God by focusing on your friend’s safety. This is a loving Christian response.
Eventually, after gaining support, your friend might ask you what you believe. At that time, you can say, “I believe sex is designed by God for marriage between a man and a woman. I want to be a great friend to all my LGBT+ (and straight) friends. I do not judge my friends. I love and accept you as you are. I hope you’ll love and accept me, too, even when we believe differently.”
What if she has a crush on me?
You may worry your friend has feelings for you. She may, or she may not. Like with anyone, exercise healthy emotional and physical boundaries, but don’t be afraid or disgusted by her possible feelings. Keep including her in activities with you and your group of friends.
For more tips on loving your LGBT+ friends well, you can check out Guiding Families of LGBT+ Loved Ones: www.adventsource.org/as30/store-productDetails.aspx?id=39347
For additional help, contact us at www.gorgeous2god.org/confidential-qa-responses-1.