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  • Natalie Garcia
    Natalie Garcia

    Respect and Acceptance Don't Stop with Coming Out

    When a family member or friend comes out, it is usually a difficult and momentous occasion for both parties. It is a moment that deserves to be treated with respect and acceptance. After all, it reflects an individual’s very difficult decision to express who they truly are and live authentically. So when faced with a friend or family member coming out, how responbile are we as supporters to respond? When the news is met with shock, disbelief, or a lack of support, it can be incredibly hurtful.

    This situation was recently faced by a woman, whose daughter came out to her and her friend and received a reaction she did not expect. “My daughter came out to me and my best friend, who snorted in disbelief. I am completely caught off guard. How should I have reacted?” she asked.

    It can be confusing to be thrown into a situation like this. Feeling strongly about something and not knowing how you are allowed to express it only amplifies the already difficult emotions. The best thing this woman can do is show understanding and compassion for her daughter by maintaining an open dialogue. A response such as “I understand this may be difficult for you to process, but I want you to know that I accept and respect your decision” would be appropriate.

    On the other hand, the woman’s best friend needs to be addressed. Having any kind of negative response - shock, disbelief, judgement - can be incredibly damaging to a person who is just beginning to process their truth. The woman needs to remind her best friend of the importance of being respectful and accepting of her daughter; rather then reacting with amusement or uncertainty, she nourishes the relationship by expressing admiration for her daughter's bravery and reinforcing support for her authenticity.

    Furthermore, it is imperative for the woman to distinguish her own feelings about her daughter’s identity from the feelings for her best friend. While it may feel tempting to impose these feelings on her best friend, it is important not to take her own internalized feelings out on her best friend. Everyone works through situations like this in different ways and in their own time, so it is important to provide support without pressure or judgement.

    Finally, it is necessary to remember why her daughter chose to come out to her and her best friend in the first place: she trusts them both and values the fact that they are a significant part of her life. This requires patience and understanding; to move forward in building a healthy and respectful relationship, it is important that the woman documents how her daughter was met with an unsupportive reaction. Expressing this to her friend is key in emphasizing the importance of respect, receptivity and acceptance.

    No matter the relationship, it is important to embrace an open dialogue when dealing with moments of growth and processing. Although it may not always be easy, showing support and respect to a loved one in this difficult time can make all the difference in their development of identity and ensured worth. respect and acceptance don’t stop with coming out - they continue every day.

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