Responding to Those Who Come Out

What should the Christian response be when a gay person comes out? Many Christians are not sure how to react or what to say when a gay person comes out to them. Some Christians have never met a person who they knew was gay. Being with a person who identifies him or herself as gay is a new experience.

You may be thinking, "I do not know any gay people." Gay people are present in every segment of soceity, including the church. You have met gay people. You just did not know they were gay. You do not have the option to protect yourself from meeting gay people. If nobody has not come out to you already, that will change. So you need to know how to support gay people when they come out.

Prepare yourself in advance, so you do not react in shock, horror or anger. Give some thought to how you will respond when people inform you they are gay. The first person who comes out to you could be somebody you love very much - a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister, a close friend. You do not want to hurt that person. Reactions of visual disgust, horror and angry outbursts do not help the situation. In fact, those reactions make the situation much more difficult for everbody involved and can inflict a lot of pain.

Under no conditions are you to tell the people who have just come out that they are going to hell. Humans do not have the right to condemn people to hell. Only God has the authority to determine who makes it to heaven and who does not. When a person is told they will not be in heaven, a sin has been committed against both God and that person.

Have a plan in mind that will leave the people who share this information feeling blessed by your reaction, feeling like they were somehow, through your actions, in the very presence of God. When you have a plan that will help people see God's love in your life, you will handle the situation with grace, courage, openness and love.

You need to understand that you have been paid a compliment. React as though you have been complimented. You have been trusted with confidential information. That information is not to be shared with other people, without the consent of the person who came out to you.

A few things that will help you respond appropriately and in love appear below:

  • Remember this person is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated with respect. This person did not choose to be gay any more than you choose to be straight. God created this person to live out the faith as a gay person and your task is to assist this person to live as a gay Christian.

  • Think before your respond. You are under no obligation to say something within seconds of hearing the news. Plan what you say, so you will not overreact. Do not scream or yell. Try not to gasp or say, "Oh my God!"

  • Use only gentle, supporting words. A few words that should not be used when you respond include:

    Faggot

    Sodomite

    Dyke

    Pervert or perversion

    Abomination

    Hell

  • Try to keep questions to a minimum. Asking a lot of questions might make the person feel the conversation has turned into an interrogation.

  • Listen carefully. Do not interrupt. Allow time for the person to choose his or her words. Coming out is difficult, so the person may need time to open up and tell you.

  • State your love and acceptance. You are not on the opposite side as the person who has come out. You are actually on the same side - both people who are loved by God and who care about each other.

  • The person who came out was very brave. The act of coming out has risk and shows the person trusts you. You may wish to thank the person for sharing. Try not to minimize the importance of what has taken place by making a comment such, as "Oh it's just a phase. Don't worry about it."

  • This is not a good time to start teaching a person about the risks of AIDS, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases or unprotected casual sex. You can teach about responsible intimacy at a different time, at a teachable moment, but this is not a good time to do that.

  • Be very careful with any public prayer you share at a time like this. You may pray with the person, if that is asked, but be very cautious about offering to pray with the person. Keep your prayer positive. Thank the Lord for the person and for what they have added to your life. Avoid asking God to forgive the person. A gay person has no more reason to be forgiven by God than a straight person.

  • State that you value the relationship and the person. Ask if there is a way you can be of support and assistance through the coming out process.

  • Do not ask what or who made the person gay. In other conversations, you may learn what helped this person discover his or her sexual orientation, but this is not an appropriate time to ask. Asking this question will make the person feel unaccepted.