My Friend Is Lesbian But Doesn’t Want to Tell People. What Should I Say to Friends?

People in my grade have been wondering if our friend is lesbian. Today she told me she is, but she hasn’t told our other friends and asked me to keep it private. What am I supposed to say when everyone talks about it?

Your friend probably thought a lot about who to come out to. You might be the first person she has told. Perhaps her parents or other family members don’t know yet.

Your friend chose to trust you because she feels sure that you won’t talk behind her back. She decided you’re not one of those people who blab a confidence just to show they’re the first to know. In her case, trust is important: Your friend might be afraid that if gossip spreads, she will lose friends, get bullied, or even be attacked.

Even if you think people will be fine with your friend’s news, keep her information private until she says it’s OK to let other people know.

It’s not easy keeping information to yourself when everyone else is gossiping. It can help to be prepared with things to say when people talk or ask what you think about your friend’s sexual orientation. For example:

  • “I know what you mean about being curious. But I’m also kind of tired of all the ‘is she or isn’t she?’ talk. It’s exhausting. She’s still the same person. For me, it’s easier to focus on that.”
  • “Sometimes people need time to figure themselves out. We’ll find out eventually.”
  • “I’ve been thinking how I’d feel if people were talking about me like this. It’s starting to feel a bit gossipy and harsh. I’ve decided to stop asking myself these questions and just wait and see.”

You also might have your own feelings about your friend’s news. Maybe you want to show you’re there for her but don’t know what to say. Maybe you feel awkward being around her or have beliefs that make it hard to support her. You may need someone to talk to as well. Your best option is to find someone who doesn’t know your friend and can’t leak her information. A counselor or therapist is a good choice. You also can reach out to Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). This support group can put you in touch with people who have been in your situation.

Your friend trusted you with personal information that she wants kept private for now. Take that as a compliment and guard the trust she placed in you. Though it’s tempting to reveal what you know, after a while it will get easier to keep your friend’s news to yourself.

Each time you avoid gossiping, it’s like you work out the part of your brain responsible for keeping a confidence: You build your ability to keep things private and become the person others trust.

Reviewed by: D’Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: July 2015

*Names have been changed to protect user privacy.