Monday, September 3, 2012

My advice if someone comes out to you (and you care for that person)

I have received an interesting comment from Brahmin in Boston which was this:

"What you said was true - people who are close are sometimes lost on how to behave or treat when people come out. But many of them face problem *because* they DON'T want to do something which is hurtful - they too are finding footing with this new information :)"

Thank you for pointing this out to me. However, from my personal experience, I want to go further than that.

I do agree that it must be difficult to digest this new information.  However, please know that it is much tougher for us to tell you that information.  Doing so requires a lot of courage and to me, every time I have come out, it's as if I was ripping my heart out of my body.  The fate of my heart is then in your hands.  I need you to put my heart back in its place. 

If you care for the person who has just come out to you, than please take care of his heart.  I do know that it's probably a big surprise for you and a shock.  My advice is to be honest.  If you are surprised, shocked, speechless, whatever, say it.  The worst you can do is to hide your feelings.  I have experienced it:  I saw a shadow in the eyes of one of the person I came out to and I couldn't see any further.  I begged that person to tell me but the person told me that she didn't want to hurt me.  That was the worst feeling.  To open my heart and in return, to see that person close her heart was the worst thing she could do to me.

You may be clumsy saying what you have to say, just ackowledge it.  If I come out to you, it's because I'm ready to dialogue with you and to show you who I am.  I'm realistic, I know that you may ask me weird questions.  I don't care.  I just want to have a true and honest discussion.

So yes, when someone comes out to you, it surely is tough to digest, but please know that you have a role that needs to be fulfilled rapidly, which is to put the heart of this person where it belongs.  Forget that you are lost yourself.  That whole moment is not about you, it's all about that person in front of you.   Don't hide what you think, be honest about how you feel. Dialogue is critical. 

I'm not sure if this applies if you are homophobic though... But if you're not, that's my advice.

This is my personal view on the topic.  I would like the most people to express what would be their advice.  I really don't know if my advice will be unanimous or not.  If I'm the only one to think like that, I wouldn't want to mislead well intended persons.


  1. Hi, JF: I understand what you are saying. I came out to some of my family and have not had any feedback since then. They did seem supportive but seem to just file the information away and go their merry way. They don't seem to want to talk about it, so I really don't really know what they are thinking or feeling. It is lonely when no one wants to know what I am feeling. It took a lot of courage for me to tell them, but I really would like to know what they think.

    1. Hi, I'm no expert, but try to start new conversations about it, they may feel uncomfortable to talk about it and they may think that you are also uncomfortable. Your heart is still on the table and needs to go back where it belongs. I have a good idea of what you may feel and i hope the situation will get better.

  2. Hi JF,

    Many thanks for pointing out your PoV :) I come from a family where "talking" and "communicating" is selective and where, not bringing up the topic makes it non-existant. So I definitely overdo it.

    As a soon-to-be mom to a baby boy - I have thought about this a lot. Not talking about it doesn't make ANYTHING go away. I was giving benefit of doubt to the people who *might* mean well but don't know how to articulate. But what you said was very true - I know that you may ask me weird questions. I have had well meaning people ask me questions about someone else because they were afraid of how their question would be interpreted. So now, I give a disclaimer that "This might sound weird but can you tell me..."

    A little more tolerance would go a long way for everyone's happiness! :)

    1. Brahmin, I also come from a similar family, however I have learned in my journey that it is better to talk respectfully than keep silent and hide things.

      Oh and if your question is too weird, even if it is done very politely like your disclaimer, it is possible that the answer given to you is: "I dont know" or "I don't want to talk about this right now". You just need to respect that.

  3. You wrote:

    "..every time I have come out, it's as if I was ripping my heart out of my body. The fate of my heart is then in your hands. I need you to put my heart back in its place."

    Beautiful. I can't imagine how difficult it is to come out, but I can totally relate to the passion in those sentences. You offer good advice for loved ones.

    1. Beautiful and hurtful at the same time yes. We feel very vulnerable.

  4. I remember coming out to one of my best friends, Matt, in high school. We were walking down a country road at night, back to his house from doing some fishing, and I told him I had to tell him something important. My heart was slamming in my chest and I was sweating, but I was tired of hiding a part of who I was from someone I cared about. We walked in silence for a while and then I simply said, "I'm gay."

    We kept walking. I can remember hearing the gravel crunch under our shoes. I heard him shifting his tackle box to his other hand and then he said, "Okay."

    I will never forget what he did next. He just reached out with his empty hand and took mine and we walked all the way back to his house without another word, holding hands.

    Matt isn't gay but he knew me well enough to do exactly what was needed to "put my heart back in its place". I will always treasure that moment of acceptance, that simple gesture that said so much without words. Thanks for reminding me of this with your post tonight.


    1. I loved reading this short comment. It was so sweet. You ought to consider writing up a little longer version of it.

    2. Wow Daemon, that was such a beautiful moment. Your friend knew what to do to put your heart back in its place. I did say that dialogue is key, but sometimes, obviously, it is not necessary. He had nothing to hide to you and he accepted to do something he may never have done afterwards: hold another man's hand. He really forgot about himself and thought only of making you feel good. That was just awesome.

  5. Replies
    1. What's in there is so true, thanks for sharing.

  6. "it's as if I was ripping my heart out of my body. The fate of my heart is then in your hands. I need you to put my heart back in its place."

    That is so touching and something that can apply to many situations in life. I handled it completely wrong when my friend came out to me. My first response was, "Finally! Took you long enough!" But he got lots of hugs and was able to share things about life, like his husband!!!, and our relationship was much stronger. I may of sounded exasperated when he told me because I'd been waiting three years on him lol. But I love him to bits and he knows it which ultimately what matters right?

    Oh, and here via Matty and Brad. Hi!! Thanks for sharing important bits of your life with us!

    1. I think you succeeded in spite of your initial reaction. Yes that's what matters in the end!

  7. I have never had anyone come out to me but when I was reading this I was thinking, like Becky, that it can apply to many situations in life.

    I tend to shrink from emotional situations. I feel there is a 'correct' way to react and I don't know what it is. When I read your words saying it is ok to be clumsy and just be honest, I felt such a sense of relief.

    When I was typing this I started to cry. Your words have triggered a growth moment in me and I feel as though you have lifted a weight off my shoulders, JF.

    Thank you so much. *hugs*

    1. I feel there is a 'correct' way to react and I don't know what it is.

      I may be off in left field in your particular case, but experience has taught me that people who are often trying to figure out what the "correct" response in a situation is are doing so out of a desire (and not necessarily a mean-spirited or selfish one) to control or influence the other person's emotions. The problem with that approach is that no person is ever responsible for the emotions or emotional well-being of another person, and even well-intentioned desires to affect or alter how someone else feels are misguided and often hurtful in the long run.

      Obviously, that doesn't mean one is free to be an inconsiderate jerk. But being considerate of another person's feelings simply means accepting those feelings for what they are and remaining present to them when possible.

      Anyway, I don't know how much of this is particularly applicable to you or your own experience, so feel free to ignore any or all of it that's irrelevant (or even if it is relevant).

    2. "...being considerate of another person's feelings simply means accepting those feelings for what they are and remaining present to them when possible."

      I like what you've said there.

      I think with me the problem is that I have never found it easy to interpret what people are feeling or thinking. As a result I get a bit panicky if I feel a response is called for and I'm not sure quite what it could be. Over the years I have seen people withdraw at my responses and that has reinforced my view that there is a correct and incorrect response. But thinking about JF's post has made me wonder if it is my struggle to respond they are withdrawing from rather than the response itself.

      I have done a lot of work on myself in the past and I am a more relaxed and open person than I used to be. But (as we all are) I am a work in progress and I'm glad I read JF's post today because it really resonated with me.

    3. Hi Alder, I'm happy to have had such a positive impact on you :) I feel the same as you concerning interpreting what other people are feeling or thinking. I know it's hard!

      I totally agree with what Colorful wrote. He once again expressed some of my thoughts in a way I couldn't. I would add to it that sometimes, people will try to find a correct way for them to look good... That to can be hurtful to the other person because it shows a lack of sincerity and honesty.

      Thanks for your comments guys.