Top Ten Things NOT to Say When Someone You Love Tells You They Are Gay
10. Uh, duh, I already knew that. Trust me when I tell you that you may have "always known" but it is NOT what someone coming out needs or wants to hear. In our minds, we have done all of this hiding successfully and FOR YOUR benefit in many cases. Telling us it wasn't working is an unintended slap in the face. Of course it is much more stinging when you first come out...after a while you begin to accept that statement and it is not a problem in the same way. About 80% of the people in my life have raised a thoughtful eyebrow, nodded quietly and then said "Hmmm...yeah, I can see it." About 10% have made the statement listed in #9...and the final 10% lose all their breath and are truly shocked. Somehow, I kinda live for that last 10%. Makes me feel like I was good at convincing SOMEBODY other than myself. :-) But really, just remember that it isn't about you in that moment.
9. Well it’s about time! Really?? I didn't know there was a schedule for this journey. Having been waiting for this 'bus' for 40 years of my life let me tell you, there is NO schedule. And "what took so long?" is almost a rebuke. Well, let's see...it took so long because 20 years ago I was entrenched in a small town conservative culture that had convinced me I was going to spend all of my days miserable, shallow, alone, cast out, and immoral and then cast into the gates of hell at my death. So, really, that is why it took so bloody long!! You need to remember that you have NO IDEA all that I have been through. What I have endured in the 40 years of my life would humble most people so quickly that they would easily admit they would never have been able to do what I did to stay alive every day.
8. When did this happen? Just yesterday...I woke up and thought "gee, I think I turned gay in the night...those antibiotics had bad side effects." Ack. I understand the question but just remember...no matter where someone is in their timeframe of coming out...10 minutes or 10 years, it is new ONLY to you, the listener. You are going to be in a different place when you hear than the person telling you may be.
7. Are you sure? Yes, I'm sure. How were you sure that you were straight? How are you sure now? Did you take some test in high school that all the gay people were out sick for?
6. How am I supposed to deal with this news? Don't ask me. I need YOU to help ME by being present, focused and supportive. I don't even need advice or problem solving. I don't need you to offer that to me at this moment...though I may soon. Your journey to understand can't be placed upon my shoulders at a time where I am not even able to hold my own burdens. You see...it isn't about you at this moment.
5. Oh…are you telling me this because you’re into me? Ummm...no. Again, this is not about you. It is about my need to talk to someone I love and trust. And although there is a whole lot of stereotyping out there about gays and their 'lifestyle' let me be clear: we are just like you...we don't fall in love with every person we know just because we are friends. Not to mention that "Hey Ted, I've known you for 20 years and I feel like I need to tell you I am gay" is definitely NOT listed in the classic book of pick up lines.
4. So what is your next step? Lunch? Dinner? Gotta pick up dry cleaning?? I DON'T KNOW...not the time to ask. Practice just being present in the moment. All I can focus on right now is "will this person I am talking to ever speak to me again?"
3. I’m not judging you, but God is pretty clear on this issue. You are not talking about God, you are talking about the church...really, any Abrahamic religion if you want to bring out the big words. Having been a deeply committed, sincere, active and faithful Christian most of my life I can tell you...had the church been able to 'get it' I wouldn't have had this unbelievable desire to take my life and break the commandment "Thou shall not kill." If you mean that God is clear on homosexuality, then I say YES God is...I am LIVING proof of my own personal revelation on the subject. YOU have to ask God and find your own answer. If you mean that God is clear on how Christians are supposed to RESPOND to gays then I agree: YES, he is abundantly clear "Judge not, lest ye be judged."
2. Hate the sin, love the sinner. This is not at all a Christian sentiment. This was a statement made by Ghandi on one of his "off" days. He regretted making this statement such that it was caught and perpetuated. This is not at all compatible with Christianity which teaches "Love." Hate is not part of the equation.
1. Nothing. I'm not saying you need to talk. You can be silent, you can be present, you can be supportive. What you cannot do is maintain silence. It kind of depends upon the context. If someone emails or writes to you, your silence is clearly a sign of disapproval and distance. If someone is talking with you in person and you stay silent until it is awkward or you leave without speaking anything, it has a similar meaning. Listen...but speak, even minimally. Just speak love when you do open up. It is a hard moment for you. It is full of doubt, fear, difficulty; a host of other emotions. But right now it is time to set those things aside so you can do what I have needed and trusted you for: love me.
Top Ten Things NOT to Say When Someone You Love Tells You their Spouse is Gay
10. When did you know? or Did you suspect? I probably won't mind telling you this but when this is in the first things that you say to me, it does not make me feel supported and loved, just interrogated.
9. What is the next step? First of all, this is such a strange process that isn't totally clear and is constantly changing. I don't always know what the "next step" is. And really, sometimes it is just too raw to talk about in your time frame. And again, I am already overwhelmed, I don't need to feel interrogated.
8. Has he been faithful? None of your damn business. And if this is something that I am willing to share, I will. In my case, yes, but you don't need to ask me about this right now.
7. When did this happen? This is not an event that just happens. Probably this has been a very protracted process of realization that has unfolded in small subtle changes over many years. The actual "coming out" may be recent and categorized as an event, but that isn't really what you are asking is it? Again, if I am willing to share this story, I will. But only to a supportive and loving audience in my timeframe, not yours.
6. This is no reason to end a marriage. Really? If you are straight and you were living as a homosexual, don't you think that might be too hard to do forever? Just think about it.
5. Does he want to act on these urges? None of your business. But really, put yourself in his position, if all the world were gay and you were the lone straight person, how would you feel? And really, aren't these questions that your should ask him? And if being gay is about 'urges' then so is being straight. Do you want to act on your 'urges'? Stop with the inquisition!
4. He just can't love you that way anymore. Seriously? Did you just hear what you just said? You just told me that someone that I still love deeply can't love me anymore. How hurtful. Don't; just don't. It is not your place to define what kind of love happens in a family relationship.
3. I was never sure about him anyway. Or, I always knew. Even if you did always know, or had misgivings, this is not the time to share them. Please remember that I am still in love with this man.I am his fierecest defender. You are trying to take sides and you will only end up losing my friendship in the process. This is a time to show support for this painful process. This is a time to give love and not take it away.
2. We just need to find you a good/hot/new man. Ummmm, would you say this to someone that just found out that she just lost her husband? Would you tell a mother who just lost a child, "Don't worry, you can always have another?" I don't want another, I want this one. But I know that I can't. I am in mourning. And that is just as real as a death. Don't diminish it or ignore it. It can't be skipped. Just love me as I go through these stages of grief.
1. It is his loss. Wrong! It is all of our loss. He is someone you love too...and he is hurting and traumatized and in coming out may be facing the loss of everything in his life. Your statement isn't comfort. It is vengeance. This is not the place for bitter sentiments. Just love. This also shows a taking of sides. Remember, I love this person. Taking sides is only damaging.