The striking down of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code on September 9, 2018, which led to the decriminalisation of gay sex, was truly a historic day for the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex and asexual) community. Following the judgement, several queer people, young and old alike, finally felt like they could breathe a sigh of relief and truly celebrate their beautiful and unique identities–without the fear of being penalised for being true to themselves. However, Indian society still has a long way to go when it comes to accepting the LGBTQIA community. So if a queer friend comes out to you, understand that it’s taken them a lot of strength, courage and trust to get there. And they’re probably feeling more vulnerable than ever! So here’s how you can ensure they feel more loved, included and celebrated.
The first thing you need to do when a queer friend comes out to you is to thank them for trusting you, and to assure them that they are in a safe space. Some of them might be scared to come out to their family, some might even face discrimination or abuse. So make them feel at ease and assure them that you will support them and hear them out without any fear of judgement or discrimination.
Coming out to anyone, even to a close friend, is an extremely brave and vulnerable step to take. Your friend is probably nervous about sharing the news with you, and also possibly anxious about the thought of losing you as a friend. So the least you can do is give them all your attention when they tell you, and don’t interrupt them with questions. Let them know that you understand how important this moment is for them!
Sure, you might have a million questions in your head when your friend tells you that they’re gay. And while it’s okay to be curious, right now is not the time to bombard them with questions! Understand the gravity of this moment, and reserve your questions for when they’re more comfortable answering them!
So your BFF just told you that they’re gay and you’re SO happy for them! Keep the fireworks on hold and ask them what they’d like to do. While some of them might want to hop from bar to bar with rainbows painted on their faces, others might just enjoy a quiet day in with pizza and wine. It’s their day, let them decide how they want to celebrate!
Look, it’s great that you want to stand up for your queer friends! However, you don’t want to be that arrogant straight person who is straight-splaining gay rights to gay people. As much as you empathise, your experiences aren’t first-hand. So do the next-best thing–talk to your queer friends and ask how you can be an active ally. Let them show you the reigns!
Coming out can be stressful for a lot of our queer friends–wouldn’t you be if you had to one day “declare” your sexual orientation to the world and hope that people accept you? So it’s safe to assume that your friend is probably going through a stressful period in life. Instead of giving them unsolicited advice, ask them if they’d like you to direct them to professionals and other resources that might be able to help them navigate this exciting yet confusing new path.
Your friend’s coming out story is about them and them alone–how many people they tell and when is a decision only they can make for themselves. Whether they want this secret to remain just between the two of you, or announce it live on social media–let them decide, and respect them for it. Don’t try to pressurise them to do something YOU think is right for them. You may or may not agree with their decisions, but it is imperative that you respect them no matter what. Just be as supportive as you can.
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