How to Avoid Outing Someone

So your friend recently told you that she identifies as a member of the LGBTQ community. Awesome! She is still in the process of coming out and has not told a lot of people. Okay, good to know. The following guide outlines how to avoid outing someone before the person is ready. As a member of the LGBTQ community, I acknowledge that this information may be new for some people.

  1. Don’t tell people until your friend is ready. Don’t assume someone already knows. Parents’ weekend can be a stressful time for students who are not out to their parents. It can be a good idea to check in with your friend before parents’ visits.
  2. Privately check in about pronouns, especially if your friend is coming out as transgender and/or nonbinary. It never hurts to ask what pronouns your friend would like you to use in various contexts. Maybe your friend would like to be referred to with “she” pronouns among a group of friends but only “he” or “they” pronouns in front of professors. Keep that in mind! 
  3. Be responsible with your phone and social media. If you are attending an LGBTQ event on campus, never take anyone’s photo without permission. Instead, politely ask the person if it’s okay to take their photo. In general, attending a pride parade with a friend is an amazing way to show support. Just make sure that it doesn’t end up splattered across that person’s Instagram unless they feel comfortable with that! Along these lines, be aware that adding your friend to a public LGBTQ Facebook group can appear in your friend’s news feed. Instead, you can invite your friend to a private Facebook group, such as “LGBTs of the 7Cs,” which gives your friend the option to accept or decline with privacy.
  4. Recommend on-campus resources. Your friend may want to hang out with other LGBTQ people in order to form a community. The Facebook page “Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges” is a great page to check out. The QRC is a 5C resource located at Pomona College, open from 9-5 Monday-Friday, and students can also request 24-7 swipe access. The QRC hosts a regular support group, an addiction recovery group, and weekly fun events like game nights and art activities. The Rainbow People Collective at Pitzer is also a welcoming group for students. RPC meets in the Lavender Resource Room off the center courtyard of Mead Hall on Tuesdays at 7 p.m., which is wheelchair-accessible via ramp. All these resources can help a person get to know their identity and feel more comfortable coming out in their own way.
  5. Let your friend come out in her own time. Everyone should be able to come out on their own terms. Your job as a friend is to listen and be supportive. Even if your friend is not ready now, someday she will be ready!

Wow, you read the whole guide! You are a great friend, and I hope you feel ready. If you yourself are coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community at the Claremont Colleges, I wish you well and hope that you have a positive experience.

Abby McCarthy is a junior at Pitzer College. While McCarthy is a member of Rainbow People Collective at Pitzer as well as a Student Associate at the Queer Resource Center of the Claremont Colleges, opinions expressed in this piece belong to the individual.

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