So, what do you do when your Trans friend comes out to you?
You accept them.
This sounds really simple, but it’s something a lot of people find really hard to grasp. And reasons often given are the likes of “oh, but it’s a shock”, or “but using a new name/pronouns is difficult”. And there are some very good reasons why this is a shitty thing to do.
- It’s not about you. In this moment, your friend has chosen to be very brave and place a lot of trust in you, and yeah, you should feel flattered. But this moment isn’t about you, it’s about them. Don’t try and centre yourself and how strange/difficult this situation is for you. Let them know you’re the friend they thought you were.
- Understanding is not necessary. No Trans person is stupid enough to think their non-trans friends are going to understand straight away. We know it’s weird. It’s weird for us too. All we’re asking is that in this moment, you have our back.
- This is not your teaching moment. It’s not the time to bombard your friend with questions. I wrote this post about things you shouldn’t ask a Trans person in general, and these apply tenfold when someone has just come out to you. The only questions you should ask is what name and pronouns they would like you to use. Other questions can wait until later, or you could go online and find things out for yourself. Chances are your friend will appreciate that a lot more.
- Be a decent person. A friend suddenly coming out as Trans might unearth some learned prejudices you were unaware you have. Society is good at teaching us really shitty things from a young age, and these might affect your reaction now. Fight that down. You will be able to challenge these prejudices later, but again, this is not the time.
- Don’t out your friend to anyone else without their permission. This counts for any queer friends, but Trans friends tenfold, because it can be super dangerous being out as Trans, as I wrote here. Don’t put someone else in dangerous just because you think it is something interesting to talk about.
Most of this just boils down to being a good friend, and realising that the moment isn’t about you. Just take a step back, make sure your friend knows you’re there for them, and deal with anything else you have to deal with in your own time.
This article is super useful: http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/07/8-things-to-support-lgbtq-friend/
Here’s Jim to tell you about it in a more direct way: Jim’s VEDA video on Acceptance