I’ve had several people come out to me over the past decade or so, both friends and colleagues, and while I certainly don’t put myself out there to be some kind of expert, I think there are a few simple things we, as allies, can do to show our support:
1. Respect that this is someone else’s journey, and while you may believe that certain actions or behaviours demonstrate support and respect, the key is to understand what the other person needs in this instance. This all starts by asking simple questions, and you can take it from there, such as:
a. How can I help or support you?
b. What can I do?
c. What do you need?
2. You should feel honoured that someone has trusted you enough to confide in you, but this is not to say that they are ready to do so publically. Showing some discretion and respecting that privacy will allow the other person to take things at their own pace without feeling overwhelmed.
3. While some people may be happy to answer whatever questions you may have, it’s vital that you listen to them, rather than flipping the situation. If you do have burning questions about the LGBTQ+ community, there is a wealth of resources on the internet and beyond. It is, of course, important to educate yourself and understand what it is like for someone to come out, but that isn’t to say that bombarding someone during their personal journey with questions is the way to go! Maybe have a quick research on your own and familiarise yourself with some key terms and ideas first.
I think the most important tip to keep in mind is that everyone is different, and each individual will approach coming out differently, and on a different timeline. Gauging that, healthily supporting that journey and showing them you’ll stand by them regardless of their orientation or gender identity is the way forward.