THE BLOG
05/24/2014 09:41 am ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

What NOT to Do When Someone Comes Out to You

Congratulations. You have just been declared trustworthy enough to be let into the private world of your beloved queer sibling, coworker or friend. You passed a rigorous battery of character trait tests and are now behind the velvet rope. You have made it to the other side of a Coming Out and you survived. Welcome.

I am about to guide you briskly, yet lovingly, through the moment that immediately follows a Coming Out. My aim is to help you avoid tragedy. This is a potentially challenging time for all involved. So much rides on this moment. I am here to save you, well-intentioned and trustworthy confidante, from an irreparable gaffe resulting in a sternum dropkick. I don't want you to make an ass of yourself, my friend. Let the World Star Hip Hop aspirants do that heavy lifting.

Pay attention. Here's what not to do.

Don't make references to having a new shopping buddy. If your queer homie is anything like me, he or she may not give an ounce of a damn about fashion or Sarah Jessica Parker. Don't do it, player. I hate shopping just as much as each of your exes. Now, your queer homie may be more likely to tell you The Real Deal and bring things to your attention that your vagina-hunting male homies may gloss over, such as nipples hanging out of dresses and that your favorite top is unflattering. You take the good; you take the bad.

Don't attempt to save their soul from the vicious wrath of Heteronormative Jesus. There's no need to remind us what your pastor or the good book says. The last thing a person letting you into their private world needs is to be greeted with a scripture predicting their roasting in Satan's Kitten Heel Emporium for all eternity. That same well-intended, faith-based superiority is what encourages secrecy and keeps your loved ones "closeted." Wasn't there also a part about not being a judgmental nag?

Don't make it about you. You've proven yourself to be not terrible and that's awesome. But fight the urge to make a fuss about your shock over being excluded from this part of someone's life. That you're offended over being kept in the dark on this is not anyone's business but yours. Save it. You have just been granted access. Don't you dare fix your lips to say, "I thought we were close!" None of that matters. Mothers disown people that marinated in their wombs over this exact thing. So forgive any hesitance. Gauging reactions from loved ones can be a crapshoot. Stand down.

Don't discuss "your gays" like nail polish or Tamagotchis. Don't "collect" gay friends, though they may add mounds of platonic goodness to that drab life of yours. Gay friends are not your personal magical, well-dressed accessories. You will not be "glamorous by proxy." Queer folk do not exist solely to compliment and jazz up your life.

Don't transform into a Real Housewives of Atlanta cast member. You're not required to pepper your speech with stereotypically gay exclamations and lines from Paris is Burning. We speak human being, también. Someone recently learned that I was gay and everything became faaaaabulous, HUNTY. And YAAAAAASS, ¡miss girl! And their sentences were heretofore to be punctuated with snaps. WORK! Fierce, dahhhhling! Don't be that person. It's patronizing and grating. Speak like you walk upright and have opposable thumbs.

Don't feel spiritually mandated to hook them up with your other gay friend or coworker who is repugnant but "nice." Gay folks have standards and are just as shallow as the straights. Also, we're not lepers. Don't feel charitable towards us. Trust me, it's fine.

Don't be afraid to ask questions. That you are trusted is apparent. If you are encouraged, please ask questions. Curiosity is normal. Clarifying is preferred over assumption rooted in ignorance.

But while asking the tough questions, don't ask, "Are you the man or the woman?" That is antagonistic and this is not 1957. Get a grip.

Don't assume your friend or sibling was molested or raped and don't assume that gender reassignment is everyone's ultimate goal. This flattens the lived experiences of your loved ones. This reduces a rich and textured life to a cheap, problematic stereotype. Avoid this at all costs.

Don't feel responsible for coming out to others out on their behalf, unless requested. Mind your business, lady.

And before you ask: no, we can't sniff out every queer person in a 10-mile radius. There is no silent alarm. We have no secret handshake.

Yes, some queer folk do live lives that more closely resemble the snapping, supremely confident characters you may be used to seeing on screen. But as with members of any group, no two are the same. The feisty, immaculately dressed sidekicks who speak in insults on reality television are not a complete representation of queer life.

Make no assumptions. Be a sponge. Take it in. You don't know what this person has had to potentially experience privately. "Coming out" is a big deal. Being let in is a big deal. Adjustment periods are expected while feelings are sorted out and personal prejudices are to be reckoned with. Now is when you get to show your support for your queer loved one. Now is when it matters.

If they let you in, hold their hand as they face mixed reactions while letting the rest of the world in (at their own pace). Be there for them in action as well as verbally. Be supportive, not accusatory. Again: say nothing about high heels or lip gloss.

Ready? Now go forth and be the good ally you were considered to be.

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