By AZARIA HOWELL

“Hey, uh, can we talk? I’ve got something I want to tell you,” your friend mutters quietly before sitting you down. After what probably felt like an eternity for your friend, but only lasted a few seconds, your friend is ‘out of the closet’ and you’re aware of their identity. You want to be a voice of support to your friend, but you’re not sure exactly where to start.

Be there for them

Let your friend know, first and foremost, that you’re there to listen to them and support them unconditionally. Hearing these words will be comforting to your friend; it’ll be much easier for your friend to feel proud and confident in themselves if they know you’ve got their back. After a friend has recently come out to you, try to reach out more than usual to them, as they may be going through a hard time accepting themselves. Just little things, such as texts of support or asking to hang out and talk can mean so much in situations like these.

In addition, keep an eye out for your friend. After someone has just come out, they often feel more vulnerable to sadness and anxiety. Make sure you notice when your friend isn’t acting as lively or cheerful as usual, as coming out can be like climbing Mount Everest for some people.

Ellen DeGeneres, famous talk-show host, makes history by coming out as gay in 1997. (Flickr)

Language matters

A huge part about supporting an LGBT+ friend is respecting them for who they are. Make sure to not tell anyone else about your friend’s identity, they told you for a reason and most likely don’t want it to spread everywhere (or they would do that themselves), so be sure not to ‘out’ them to anyone. Your friend will come out to others when they are ready and it can be incredibly hurtful when rumours spread.

Also, respect your friend’s chosen pronouns or name change if that applies. Mistakes regarding pronouns or a name change when someone is recently out of the closet might be easy to make, but be sure to correct yourself and apologise if it happens. Don’t use somebody’s ‘deadname’ (the name they used before coming out) or the wrong pronouns on purpose or jokingly. In addition, don’t use LGBT+ slurs or jokes, these can be incredibly hard for your friend to hear, and can make others uncomfortable.

Attend an LGBT+ event or group with them

Attending an LGBT+ event or group with a friend who is out will help grow your friendship, and help your friend feel safe. It can also be a great idea for you and your friend to meet others who are in the LGBT+ community and feel supported knowing that your friend is not alone in who they are. When doing this, make sure you ask your friend if going to the event or group is okay, as they may not feel comfortable attending if they have just recently come out. Be sure to check what the event or group will encompass, as some events aren’t as youth-friendly as others.

Learn more about their identity

The road towards LGBT+ equality is definitely a bumpy one and isn’t as straightforward as just marriage equality. Something that could really help your friend is learning about their identity and what it entails, as well as the struggles that come with it, such as gender-neutral bathrooms or school uniform issues, for example. Knowing this, you will be more educated on who your friend is, as well as having ways to advocate for them and show your support. Knowing what issues come with your friend’s identity can mean that you can be a voice for your friend, and stand up for them on the things that really matter. It could mean presenting an argument to your school board in favour of a gender-neutral uniform, or something as simple as correcting others when they use the wrong pronoun. Things like these can make a huge difference in your friend’s wellbeing.

Show them other resources

Unfortunately, you don’t have all of the answers and might not know how to deal with everything your LGBT+ friend tells you – and that’s fine! The good news is that there are thousands upon thousands of resources online to guide you and your friend into accepting their identity.

Out and Proud is a series of LGBT+ articles written by Azaria Howell in
order to help young LGBT+ people feel safe and confident in their identity. These articles are published with the support of RainbowYOUTH,  find them online at ry.org.nz for more information.

AZARIA HOWELL is a huge politics nerd living in Christchurch. Expect lots of new political articles on Tearaway from her! She also loves snowboarding, Beagles, and wearing clunky boots.

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