Rachel Charlene Lewis
January 21, 2016 9:52 am

So your best friend has come out – sort of. They really aren’t sure if they’re gay, or straight, or something else entirely, and they aren’t sure what to do about it. They don’t even know if they want to do anything about it. More likely than not, they’re really freaked out and nervous and need you as a sounding board, but are also worried about losing your friendship in all of the confusion.

Clearly, you want to support them the best you can.

But how?

Let them know you love them

This is really the most basic way to support your friend. Say you love them, say it loud and proud, and make it clear that you think nothing less of them. They’re still your BFF, no matter what.

Listen more than you talk

Two helpful phrases to have in your pocket when your bestie says they aren’t sure if they’re straight or not: “Thank you for telling me”, and “your feelings are valid.” Admitting that your sexuality is in flux is really scary. Even if your friend knows you’re a huge ally, it’s always different to be a supporter of the LGBTQ community at large and to be an ally to one individual who’s close to you. Plus, verbalizing sexuality can sometimes feel really intense and final, like once it’s stated they can never take it back. So thank them for trusting you, and let them know they have your complete support so they know you’re nodding along but secretly doubting them.

Beyond this, though, let your friend do the talking. Even if feel like you could launch into a monologue about how excited you are for them, or how you always got the feeling that they weren’t straight, this is a really sensitive time and every word matters. The less words you say, the less of a chance that you’ll accidentally shatter the moment and step on their toes in the process.

Give them room to question

When your BFF comes out to you, you may have a bazillion questions. But it’s very likely that they do too! This could be something they’ve been thinking about since they were five, or something that didn’t even occur to them until that cute girl at the dog park flirted with them. New or old, making the choice to be open about your sexuality is often a little nerve-wrecking and can feel like the biggest deal in the world. Be the person they can have doubt with, and don’t judge them if they ask questions like, “What if it’s just a phase?” or “What if I change my mind?”

Be a pressure-free zone

When it comes to sexuality, the world has a lot of expectations. One, that you’re going to be straight. But two, that if you’re not straight, it’s all going to go down in this super linear fashion: you’ll come out to your parents, and your friends, and somehow everyone else will just sort of know, and then you’ll date someone of the same sex (as if bisexuality, pansexuality, and anything beyond gay/lesbian doesn’t exist) forever and ever. But as an ally, you know that’s not the case.

Your BFF, whether you know it or not, is feeling a lot of pressure. Be the space where they can just be, and be fluid, and have room for change. Nod along and be a shoulder to cry on or a hand to high-five. But avoid asking too many questions, or “trying to figure them out. “ Give them room to figure things out on their own, and know that sexuality is a continuing, messy, and fluid thing.

Have an open door policy

Now that their sexuality is out there, make it clear that they can bring it up again whenever they want to. Ask if it’s alright for you to bring it up or if they want to keep it quiet until they’re ready to talk about it again. Let them know that you won’t judge them if they decide that maybe they don’t think they’re LGBTQ after all, or maybe just don’t know how exactly they identify, and that you’re here for them no matter what.

Do your best to understand the reality of being LGBTQ

It may seem like everything is hunky-dory for LGBTQ people now that gay marriage is legal, but the reality is that, even today, it’s sometimes really scary not to be straight. There is still discrimination and your friend may have a new set of concerns that could really be freaking them out. Let them be scared and validate their feelings, but do your best not to add to them. They know the risks – what they need is to know that you’ll be the one at the party to tell your friends to stop using slurs casually, and that you’ll stand up for them if anything goes down.

Respect their privacy

This one’s simple – just because your bestie is processing their sexuality with you doesn’t mean they’re out to the rest of the world, or plan to be. Even though it may be tempting to talk to other mutual friends of yours, avoid assuming that they’re in the loop. Outing someone who’s LGBTQ could really damage what is obviously a massively important relationship, or put your BFF in a really nasty situation.

At the end of the day, supporting a friend is supporting a friend. Sexuality just adds another layer to the mix. True BFFs love and care about each other, and work to understand any differences in how they experience the world.

(Image via Showtime)

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