When a Gay Roommate or Friend Comes Out

If you're the roommate, suitemate, or friend of someone who is struggling with his or her sexual identity and thinking about coming out about being gay, there are a lot of things you can do to make that person's struggle easier.

  • First and most importantly, be a friend. Being a friend means making the time to be open and approachable to conversations on the subject, and listening carefully rather than simply offering up solutions. It also means trying to learn about and consider your roommate or friend's concerns about coming out, rather than simply waving them off with bravado. Remember, he or she is the one who will have to deal with any fallout. Whether your own evolution in college is sexual, intellectual, or religious, try to show empathy for your friends and acquaintances who are on their own exciting and sometimes frightening paths.

  • Promote a positive, nurturing environment. Call out people on homophobic or insensitive remarks rather than simply ignoring them and letting them pass. It's not enough simply to support your roommate, suitemate, or friend quietly, in the privacy of your own room. Letting someone get away with a hostile or ignorant remark or an off-color joke is giving your implicit endorsement of the hostile environment that such comments foster. Staying quiet in those situations will only push your roommate or friend, and countless others, further into the closet.

If your roommate has not yet taken an overt step to communicate to you that he or she is gay or questioning, do not ask, speculate, or gossip. Simply be as open and approachable as you can, and wait for the conversation or the overt signal to be sent.

  • If that signal comes, recognize the situation as an opportunity to be trusted by another human being, to learn something, and to do some good for your campus and the world in general.

  • Remember that if your roommate comes out to you, it does not mean that he or she is sexually attracted to you. It simply means that he or she trusts you enough to want to have this hugely important conversation with you. A student trying to come out wants to stop having to hide his or her identity from others, to be relieved of that pressure, and to live the life he or she wants to lead. If you are called on to be the gatekeeper of that opportunity, cherish your chance to make a major difference in someone else's life by doing the right thing.