The aftermath of coming out is a bit like the experience of Goldilocks. (Bear with me – pun intended!)
When we share with others about our experience of same-sex attraction, there are different extremes that people can go to. Some people make too small a thing out of it, and it is never talked about again. There are different reasons why this might be. Some people might feel uncomfortable talking about personal things; others might think they are helping by not bringing it up. At the other end of the spectrum, some people make too big a thing out of it. It can become the only thing they talk to you about. This can be for a good reason, perhaps they are very concerned for you and want to be sure to be a good support, but it can also be for bad reasons, perhaps they think the only important thing about you now is sorting this ‘issue’ with your sexuality.
The best responses are those who don’t make too small or too big a thing out of it, but who get it just right.
The best responses are those who don’t make too small or too big a thing out of it, but who get it just right. They help you talk about your sexuality but without making it the only or most important thing about you. There will be times when you talk about it with them, but there will also be times when you don’t.
This is so important. Making too small a thing out of what someone has shared with you can make them feel that you don’t really care. If they are yet to have told many people or if they expressed that this is an area of pain and struggle for them, silence on the topic can add to that pain. It can be like a wound opened but then not tended to. Making too big a thing out of it can make the one who has opened up feel like this is now the most or only important thing about them. They may feel that they are now seen only as an issue and not a person who is loved and valued.
Even if they don’t do it perfectly, I feel loved and supported when my friends invite me to talk about my sexuality.
The friendships for which I have been most grateful are those where we talk about my sexuality, but it’s just one among lots of areas of life we talk about. I’m really grateful for friends who have actually asked me how much I want to talk about it and whether I want them to bring it up. I think sometimes people are nervous to bring up the topic, worried they’ll say something insensitive or hurtful. But even if they don’t do it perfectly, I feel loved and supported when my friends invite me to talk about my sexuality.
In my late teens, I came out to a close friend. He took a bit of time to get his head around what I had told him, but a week or so later we were sitting in a coffee shop and he sheepishly asked me, ‘So, how’s the gayness going?’ His phrase wasn’t one I would use, but it meant so much that he had asked. I knew he cared, and I knew this was a safe context in which for me to be honest.
So, if someone comes out to you, try and remember Goldilocks. Don’t make too small a thing out of it, but also don’t make too big a thing out of it. Try and get it just right. Obviously, none of us will ever manage to do that perfectly, but being aware of the risks on either side will put us in a better position to try.