By Gboko Stewart
It’s pride month across the world. And in Liberia, too! Sadly, though, it’s not for every who wants to take pride in being who they are.
For many people living in countries where being or identifying as lesbian, gay bisexual or transgender is considered a taboo and carries an enormous amount of social stigma, coming out is as herculean as the closet they find themselves tuck deeply within.
In places like Africa where tradition and religion are often used to cast sexual minorities into eternal damnation, it’s a struggle coming to terms and reconciling what’s internal versus the constructs of society – tradition, religion, family etc.
Hence, people finding themselves under the umbrella of LGBT have an issue of trust when it comes to disclosing their sexual orientation.
Our editorial team put this piece together on how to react when someone comes out to you disclosing their sexual orientation.
We believe this guide will help you put the person at ease and gain their confidence and trust as it’s a life changing moment for them, and for you, an opportunity to unlearn the misconceptions.
- Listen: When someone comes out to you, the first thing to do is to listen. Coming out to you means they trust you. It was a hard decision for them to make. They want you to listen to them. Understand the place where the confidence and trust they are reposing in you is coming from.
- Don’t preach or proselytise: From a lot of personal experiences of people who have come out in Liberia and other places on the continent, religion is the sword of Damocles hovering above their head. If you are trusted with such an information, it is not the time—and should never be—for you to display your holy innocence about what your religious texts say. No. Whoever that’s coming out to you have already read those and have hard a hard time believing whether the deities in those texts really is one of love and had often wondered why do their adherents and followers cherry-pick to suit their hateful whims.
- Don’t ask personal questions: This is not the time to dive into private life or moments of the individual by asking personal questions such as whether they have a boyfriend/girlfriend. Keep in mind always that they are out to you ONLY, not to others. Furthermore, asking about another person when that person hasn’t given them the right to share any information about them could have devastating consequences. Another silly question not to ask is about role play: “Who’s the man or who’s the woman?”. That’s a highly inappropriate question. Nobody goes around questioning the intimate details of an individual sex life.
- Ask how best you can give your support to them: It is usually a hard process for a person to come out. For a lot, if not everybody, a ton of emotional support is needed. If you’re a family or friend of a person who’s gay, your support for them goes a long way. They come from a place of being bullied, attacked, and scorned.
- Confidentiality: Coming out usually goes through different phases. If your sister, brother friend, or cousin is out to you, it doesn’t mean they are out to another person, friend, or family member. Coming out usually has different phases. People come out, i.e. if they choose to, every time they enter a new circle. That a person comes out to you doesn’t give you the carte blanche to alert the rest of the world.