Things you shouldn’t say to someone coming out to you

This article is to all of our friends, family and strangers who have just been informed about our sexuality. Please take a minute to look through this article as we point out generic statements you should try to avoid when someone is coming out to you.

Our wonderful contributor Kate will share her most popular stereotypical responses people have made to her coming out. So readers take note, this is things you shouldn’t say to someone coming out to you.

Article by Kate McCaughey

1.) It’s fine, you were born this way!

I was recently reading Mae Martin’s ‘Coming Out’, a funny and lighthearted but informative book touching on elements of LGBTQ+ culture and experience. In it, Mae refers to the ‘Born this way’ slogan as something which sounds a bit like an apology, and I couldn’t agree more. No one fully really knows ‘why’ or ‘how’ people are queer. There’s speculations about genes and environment, but yet to be any factual conclusions. Regardless, saying you’re born this way kind of sounds like you’re born with a flaw. Like it or not, I can’t help it. Obviously, this is a valid and accurate stance for many queer people, but coming from someone when you’re trying to come out, it can feel a bit reductive and coded in judgement. Does it mean if I chose my sexuality, it would then be the wrong choice? 

2.) We love you anyway

Similar to the ‘born this way’ idea, this notion is usually meant really well (I’ve had it a few times and I’m truly grateful for the sentiment). Again, however, it’s the ‘anyway’ that makes it sound like they love you in spite of this thing; this flaw? Usually when people say this they mean “Your coming out has not changed the way I see you and love you.” It can be sweet and affirming, but maybe just take off the ‘anyway’ and offer a simple reminder of your enduring love and care for the person.

3.) Ah well, we’ll just wait and see (unconvincing smiling and nodding)

I’m lucky enough to have not had this (my family suspected more about my sexuality pre-coming out than I did) but I imagine it’s particularly common in teenagers. Firstly, declaring a sexuality at ANY age, is not the same as declaring that you are experimenting. Trust that if someone wanted you to know that they were questioning their sexuality, they would tell you this. If someone outright comes out as a certain sexuality, or gender identity for that matter, they have come to their conclusion. Secondly, even if it surprises you or if you suspect a person may later change their identity, it’s still so important to validate and accept what they come out as.

4.) How do you know?

I remember someone at school talking about how Willow Smith had come out as bisexual when she was 13, and this person said she didn’t believe it and she was too young to know. I asked her if she knew she was straight at 13, and she said, well yes of course. It doesn’t matter at what age someone began thinking about sexuality, “How do you know?” sounds like a dumb question.

I appreciate it can be intended to open up interesting conversations about how anyone knows anything (in which case, specify this) but it sounds like doubt. Would you like me to describe my whole sexual history, inner turmoil, and relationship experiences to you?

Personally, this is the kind of thing I find fascinating to talk about with friends over a glass (or two) of wine, but that’s because I trust that I can have open and nuanced conversations with them about it. If someone comes out to you, they don’t owe you the story of how they got there; just trust that they have. 

5.) But what about this time when….?

This is probably the biggest one that bugs me. Within the queer community there’s lots of interesting and fun terminology, but the worst of the worst (I think) is the ‘Gold Star Lesbian/Gay/insert identity of choice’. This is the crass and silly label given to queer people who have never been with a partner of the opposite sex – i.e. have only been in queer relationships, dating, sexual encounters etc. This is very uncommon due to the RAGING heternormativity and compulsory heterosexuality in our society.

Every queer person is different. Some, know from being very young and only date same-sex partners, some know from very young but are scared and try dating opposite-sex partners. Some, like me, have absolutely no clue because no one has ever told them they could be queer.

Bringing up a person’s dating history when they’re trying to come out to you, almost in an attempt to prove them wrong, is hurtful. Understandably, you may be confused, but it’s important that you, as a kind and calm listener, trust that the person has gone through their own process and journey to get where they are. Again, they don’t owe you an explanation or a memoir.

Positive statements you should say when your loved ones comes out

Kate names some funny and positive responses people should say when somebody comes out that she thinks people take a look at and act accordingly.

  1. “Ayyyy new member of the pussy patrol!”
  2. “If I get your pronouns wrong feel free to never make me a cup of tea until I get them right.”
  3. “Do you think I should get the rainbow cami or skirt for Pride?”
  4. “Oh for God’s sake, are you going to get a National Rail pass then for the long-distance lesbian yearning?”

An article by Kate McCaughey

Kate is an English Literature and Theatre Studies graduate from the University of Leeds. Now living and working in the North East of England as a writer, Kate is Passionate about current socials inequalities and focus much of her work on LGBTQ+ issues, class and women’s rights. These range of skills in copy editing, zine editing, spoken word and theatre makes Kate an incredible addition for Proudly.Blog.

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