There are tons of blog posts about how to come out to your loved ones if you’ve realized you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or even pansexual. But what if you’re the person on the other end? How do you react? Do you just say “We all knew!” in response? Absolutely not! Read on to learn why this is a mistake.
But when everyone tells you they all knew that you were gay, you’re telling them that there were outward signs, even if your friend or family member didn’t know themselves. Not everyone has known they’re gay for their entire lives (even though many realize at a young age). If a person didn’t know they were gay, how could you tell? It’s awfully presumptuous! Sure, you want to be right, but this is someone’s life — not a game show.
Similarly, you don’t want to assume that someone is gay, bi or even trans because of stereotypical reasons. Men who are too feminine or women who are too “manly” are often mistaken for gay because people assume a straight person can’t be those things. But that’s just not true, and you should be careful not to base your assumptions about someone’s sexual orientation on superficial things such as the way they talk or dress.
Furthermore, some people go to extreme lengths to hide their sexuality as they struggle to come to terms with it. Telling them that you knew all along says that their efforts were all for nothing. They were transparent, and you saw through the charade. What’s more, if your assumption proved correct, you stood by perhaps while they were going through something difficult. You may have thought it best to let them come to the same conclusion and open up to you, and this is often the right move.
However, you don’t need to point out that you’ve been waiting, which can make your loved one feel guilty for taking so long to spill the beans. You also don’t want to insult them with your careless words.
When you tell something that everyone already knew they were gay, you also take away their moment. It may be fearful, celebratory, somewhere in between or all of the above. But it’s their moment. Most people carefully choose how to tell their loved ones that they’re gay, rehearsing it in their heads, word for word (including all the possible worst-case scenarios), perhaps for years until the right time arrives or they worked up the courage to do so. You’re taking away from their moment and making it all about you when it shouldn’t be!
So, you shouldn’t answer with “We all knew!” But how can you reply? You can say that you had a suspicion, but there are plenty of better ways to respond.
- Thank your loved one for being open and honest with you.
- Inquire about who knows and who doesn’t. Be their ally if they haven’t come out to everyone just yet.
- Be honest but not hurtful if you’re struggling to understand, feel confused or even betrayed. Respond with kindness and give yourself a chance to process.
- Remember that they’re the same person you’ve loved, worked with, talked with and shared your life with as they were before. This hasn’t changed!
- Reassure them that you love them.
- Offer a hug if it’s something you would normally do.
Although we often talk about how hard it is for someone to come out, it can be difficult when your loved ones come out to you. Fortunately, a little thoughtfulness goes a long way. And if you do make a mistake, humility and love will help you out, too.
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