Do you know someone you think might be gay or lesbian? Do you think s/he would like to come out to you, but is afraid? Are there signs you can watch for to see if this might be true?
The answer is yes. Most gays and lesbians have some extent of difficulty coming out. The more important the relationship is to them, the harder the coming out process tends to be. The reason for that, of course, is that there is more to lose if the person rejects them.
So, gays and lesbians will often “test the waters” first in order to determine how likely acceptance will be for them or to learn what hurdles they might face in gaining acceptance from you. Common ways for a gay person to determine this are simply to bring up gay issues or the subject of homosexuality. This may be as innocuous a question as, “Hey, do you ever watch Ellen on TV?” Or it could be in relation to politics, “What do you think about McCain’s stand on gay marriage?” In opening a dialog with you, your gay friend can gauge your responses and see how “gay friendly” you are.
Other signs may be the dropping of hints. The gay person will give tiny insights and watch your response to them. They may talk of their “significant other” without mentioning that person’s gender. They may talk frequently about activities they are doing with their partner, but never mention the nature of the relationship. They may talk about clubs they go to. Sometimes the gay person will say things like, “You really don’t know me.”
Gays that are coming out for the first time may also be depressed, nervous and on edge. If someone has not come out before, they have no way of knowing what responses their friends and family are likely to have. In addition, they have no positive experiences of coming out to draw on. They may spent inordinate amounts of time on the internet looking up the subject. They may have books related to gay issues and coming out issues.
Depending on your response to these hints, your gay friend may or may not choose to complete the coming out process. Sometimes, the hints are so many and so obvious that coming out is hardly necessary by the time we get around to it! I dropped so many hints to the first friend I came out to, she just blatantly asked me one day if I was a lesbian!
So, if you know someone you think may be gay or lesbian and you feel they are dropping hints or “testing,” the best thing you can do is to reassure them. Tell your friend you are open-minded and that you really don’t care if someone is gay or not. Tell them what matters most to you is how that person treats you and how you get along. Hopefully, in time, your friend will gather the courage to be honest and open with you by coming out. It will strengthen your relationship and you (and s/he) will be glad they did it!
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