How do I help my friend come out?

Dear Dwonna:

I found out my friend is a lesbian, but she doesn’t think I know. How do I approach her with the situation without it being uncomfortable?

Sincerely,

Terry

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Dear Terry:

Blake here, and it’s so great to be back!

This is a pretty common question, but a great one, regardless.

Quite simply, you don’t approach her about it. The only time I would recommend approaching someone about their sexuality is if it seems like they’re hurting because they’re hiding.

Because I do not know the full story regarding your friend and how she feels about her identity, I can only say that you should give up your “need” to know for sure. When she is good and ready, she’ll tell you. Coming out is a journey, and if she truly feels you are her friend, she will tell you in her own time and in her own way. Forcing the subject may even put strain on your friendship. Until then, be supportive, be a good listener, and be open to dialogue. Once she opens up, your friendship will open up as well.

Best regards,

ImageBlake Haney

An Open Letter to Phil Robertson

Dear Mr. Robertson:

I won’t call you Phil, like everyone else does, because I do not know you personally. This is in the same way that you do not know me personally; however, that did not stop you from making a blanket statement about me and those like me. I’m talking about gays, not terrorists (just one group to which you equated us).

My name is Blake Haney. I was born and raised in Tennessee. I’m not just someone shouting about what you said just because I read about it on Facebook. I am someone who used to watch your show, though I have not watched it since the dispute with A&E over how much money to pay you and your family. I bought family members Duck Dynasty merchandise even after I stopped watching, but that ends today.

Growing up, I enjoyed hunting with my dad. I wasn’t avid. I wasn’t good at it either. I just enjoyed spending time with my father on the water. Waders, camo, guns…duck calls. I own one duck call. It was my dad’s, and I have held on to it for years. He even checks in every now and again to make sure I still have it. Sometimes, I’ll pull it out of the box, and I’ll call just to hear the sound. It’s a classic Duck Commander call. Funny how you were part of my life at an early age, and I never even knew.

Today, I am at a different place in my life. After years of battling, I’ve finally accepted myself for whom God made me to be—gay. I have found a church that is accepting and loving, and I have accepted a calling to help young LGBT people find their place within the church. God loves them just as much as He loves you. You had an opportunity to use your platform for greater good. Instead, you singled out a group that fights tooth and nail just to have what you talk so much about on your show: family.

Comments such as yours bring young people to their knees. They’re praying without seeing change. They’re trying, and they are failing. Instead of going on, they are choosing to end it. To say that I didn’t consider using the shotgun I had used to hunt with my father to end my own life would be a lie. Thankfully, I was able to push forward.

Your words have meaning, sir, and you must take accountability for them. I don’t care from what generation you are a product. You are old enough to know better. As one of my former professors used to tell me, “Blame your parents for the way you are. Blame yourself for the way you’ve stayed.” It’s okay to have an opinion, but make sure it’s an educated one. Critically read your Bible. Befriend an openly gay person, and ask questions. Grow.

Sincerely,

Blake Haney

I’m coming out, I think….

Dear Dwonna,

 I want to come out to my family, but I am scared. I’ve already come out to a few friends, but my family is so important to me. I just want to feel supported. How should I come out?

 Sincerely,

 Scared and Nervous

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Dear “Scared and Nervous”:

Dwonna loves to send me the LGBTQI questions, and I love answering them. This question is one that many people have been asked me many times. It’s an enormous step, coming out as the person you’ve always been. Part of coming out is explaining that very fact to the people who love and care about you. You are still the person they’ve always known and loved.

There is not one way to come out. I know people who have had sit-down, face-to-face discussions with their families. I know people who have made videos. I know people who have blurted it out at the dinner table because they couldn’t take the tension and the anxiety any more. I had already tried coming out when I was 17, and I allowed my parents to believe that my attraction to men was a phase that I could pray my way out of. In 2009, I came out to my middle sister, and three years later I came out to my oldest one, just a few months before my parents. My friends were getting married and having children, and I knew my family was waiting for me. However, I was waiting on something different, but really, it was something very much the same. It was just with someone of the same gender.

So, after years of trying to make it work with the “right girl,” I chose to write my parents a letter. I did this mainly because I knew I would cry, and I wanted to be clear and precise. At 25, though, it was time. I was preparing to move from the comforts of Austin Peay and Clarksville back to my parents’ home in Chattanooga, and I wanted to return to them and to the city as a free person. I wrote my truth, stuck a stamp on the envelope, and sent it into the unknown. I knew that my parents loved me. In fact, I had always known that, but they raised their family in an independent Baptist church, and I was worried that they’d support the church’s beliefs over me.

It was a Monday afternoon when my parents received that letter. My heart almost exploded when I saw a text from my mom. She responded positively, but in her usual brevity that I have come to love: “Got your letter. I love you. Good night.” Dad was the one I was most nervous to hear from. His text came on Tuesday; it was a beautiful response: “You are my son. My love for you is deeper than any ocean. I will call you later.” I will never forget their kindness and gentleness for accepting me for whom I am.

I want to be clear, though. Not everyone is as lucky as I was. Some people experience pain and heartbreak as a result of coming out. I want you to remember that we, as a community, are here for you, and we sometimes have to become a family all our own. However, we also have allies who are there for us, too, and don’t forget to lean on those friends who you have already told. You’ll remember the moment you came out to your family for the rest of your life, and you will feel free just like I did no matter how it turns out. 

Good luck!