Supporting a Friend or Family Member Who Has Just Come out

If someone close to you comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, you may be unsure about how you feel about it or how to respond.

It is important to let the person know that you still care about them, even if you don’t understand it all straight away.

Regardless of your initial thoughts or feelings, remember that just because someone identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender it doesn’t make them any less of a friend or family member.

What is important is that you try your best to support them, even if you’re unsure how you feel right now, and that you are willing to try and learn more about what their sexuality or gender identity means to them.

My friend/family member has come out as lesbian/gay/bisexual

Think about how you felt about them before they told you - ask yourself why this would change just because they are attracted to people of the same gender or are attracted to more than one gender. Who they are attracted to doesn’t change who they are as a person.

It’s OK to let the person know that it might take you time to get used to the idea, but that you will do your best to support them.

It’s also OK to ask questions, as this shows that you are taking them seriously. At the same time, try and be sensitive about how they are feeling – it’s not easy coming out to someone close to you.

Most people who come out have put a lot of thought into it before telling someone, so it is important to take it seriously.

Try and let the person explore their sexuality without trying to change or pressure them. And let them explain what their sexuality means to them, and how they define it.

My friend/family member has come out as transgender

If someone close to you comes out as transgender, you may feel unsure about how you feel about it or how to respond. It will probably take time to get used to the idea, especially if you weren’t expecting it.

Remember – you have a relationship with this person either due to common interests, or through blood - why this would change just because the gender they were assigned with at birth is different to the gender they are?

It’s OK to let the person know that it might take you time to get used to the idea, and that it might take some time to get used to using new names or pronouns for them, but that you will do your best to support them.

It’s also OK to ask questions, as this shows that you are taking them seriously. At the same time, try and be sensitive about how they are feeling. It will have taken them a lot of courage to talk to you about this, so try to be as supportive as possible.

Most people who come out have put a lot of thought into it before telling someone, so it is important to take it seriously. Try and let the person explore their gender identity without trying to change or pressure them.

What else can I do?

Once you get more used to it, you could try learning more. There are lots of books that might help you understand a little more about what their sexuality or gender identity means, and it might help you better support them. It can even be useful to read autobiographies of famous LGBT people.

You could also look at websites like LGBT Youth Scotland, Stonewall and LGBT Health who have information and resources about lots of different sexualities and gender identities. Why not read LGBT Youth Scotland’s Coming Out Guides to learn more, and find out how you can be supportive? Two guides are available: Coming out as lesbian, gay or bisexual and Coming out as transgender.

Visit the LGBT+ page on our website for more information.