Reaction Guide

I’ve told a few of my friends about my situation.  I’ve gotten some interesting reactions, and come to the conclusion that a guide might be helpful.  I understand that this guide has some conceptual flaws.  (If someone tells you they are, used to be, etc. gay, then it is a little late to go find this blog, and read the guide.) even still, I thought it might be helpful.  This is only a guide.  Each person is different, and so you need to use all of your skills of discernment to decide the best way to react.  This is based on my experience, and my understanding of the human psyche.

  • This is a big deal to the person who just confided in you.

In my case it was all-consuming.  While it may seem like downplaying the issue will show the person that you care about them and that this new information doesn’t change that, it may bug them.  Meet the person on their level.  If they are devastated, you need to be devastated with them. Acknowledge how huge it is for them, and then reassure them that you care, and that your feelings haven’t changed.

  • The person told you because they trust you.

They likely care about your friendship, and would be hurt to lose you.  Tell them you appreciate that trust.  Let them know that you realize the difficulty involved in sharing what they likely consider to be their darkest secret.

  • Even if you suspected, don’t say it.

If the person is not openly gay, there’s a good chance that a fair amount of effort has been put into concealing part of their life.  The person already feels like they have failed to live up to the expectation they think society has of them, and usually that they hold of themselves.  Telling them that they also failed in their effort to conceal their failure is not going to make them feel better.

  • If they’re telling you, they probably would like some support

I realize it is not a comfortable topic.  That being said, it is extremely hard to ask for help.  It gets even harder to ask for help when no one follows up after the initial asking.  You don’t have to bring it up every time you see the person. (That would probably be overkill.) Asking every once in a while is recommended though.  It most likely will be seen as concern, not prying.

  • If you’re curious about something, ask, if not, ask anyway

Not asking any questions gives the impression that you are disinterested.  Even if this is born of discomfort with the topic, it comes across as withdrawing.  Make sure they know they don’t have to answer anything they don’t want to, but ask questions.  You don’t have to ask about sexual encounters. (Probably counter-productive)  Ask what they want to be.  Ask if they think it is something they can change.  Find out what they think is the proximate cause. (no, you don’t have to use that term.)  Feeling ignored is not going to help them feel loved, which they really need.

  • Be open and honest

They’re bearing their soul to you.  the least you can do is not lie to them.  If you’re uncomfortable, tell them.  I know that it may seem like it is easier to tell them that the new information doesn’t change your relationship, or how you view them.  That spares their feelings and makes things less awkward, right?  It is actually fairly damaging.  You may not be comfortable telling them that you’re not sure about how you feel about the new information, but they’d rather hear the truth than not.  Having a friend grow more and more distant while claiming that everything is fine will only serve to engender distrust and animus.  Develop the ability to tell the truth, even when it hurts, in a way that ameliorates the sting.

I know this doesn’t answer all the questions about how one should react when someone tells you they have been involved with homosexuality.  I’m sure some of you have more questions than I would think of.  Please ask them.  I’ll answer any questions you may have.  I want to help people have conversations that are uncomfortable, but can also be needed.


2 thoughts on “Reaction Guide

  1. Great guide. Helpful. My only question is that you said at first to let them know that confiding this info doesn’t change anything. (And it really shouldn’t) But then at the end you say that doing so is disingenous and damaging.

    Will you clarify?

    1. Hi Kimberly,
      I would be happy to clarify. If one is not able to honestly say that the one revealing their secret is still loved, and that the revelation doesn’t change the other’s feelings, then it should not be said. This bit was written in response to a guy in my ward who I felt was a friend, who told me that nothing had changed, but then proceeded to be willing to hug everyone but me. I wrote about him here I don’t go into a lot of depth about how much it hurt, but when you are told that everything is the same, and it really isn’t you end up counting on a connection that no longer exists. This hurts more than if you were simply told that the connection was no longer there. In that case, one can deal with that loss, rather than being told it didn’t exist.

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