Fact No. 1
Fact No. 2
Fact No. 3
Fact No. 4
The Quickie
6 minute read

When a friend or loved one comes out to you, whether in-person or through social media, it’s normal to feel a whirlwind of emotions. You may be surprised (or not surprised), struggling with judgment, worrying about their safety, feeling proud and supportive, or brimming with questions.

But first things first: pause.

This person has just told you some personal information that may have been difficult for them to relay. It’s possible that leading up to this moment, they were feeling stressed about how you would react.

"Thank you so much for trusting me and sharing this with me. I love you.”

So take a breath, pause your spinning mind, and offer up the most important statement you can make: “Thank you so much for trusting me and sharing this with me. I love you.” If your loved one says they’re okay with it, this might be a good time for a hug or hand-squeeze. If they’d rather not have physical touch, that’s obviously okay, too.

At this point, you may have some questions floating around your mind. Before you dive into them with your loved one, there are two things you need to ask. The first question is for you: “Am I asking to satisfy my own curiosity or so I can better support my loved one?” The second question is for them: “Can I ask you some questions, or would you rather not talk more about this right now?”

“Am I asking to satisfy my own curiosity or so I can better support my loved one?”  

If your loved one says they’re not into answering questions right now, that’s totally fine. They just spent a lot of emotional energy telling you a thing, and they might want to leave it at that. Tell them: “That’s okay, I understand. What would you like to do now?”

Other people may want to talk more in depth about what they’re experiencing. If they do, these are some questions to ask—and some to avoid.

What To Ask When Your Friend Comes Out

  • “Who else are you out to? Should I keep this between us, or is it more common knowledge?”

This lets them know that you’re being thoughtful about their boundaries and safety.

  • “How can I support you?”

Open-ended questions let people describe what they’re needing or looking for from you. They might say nothing, but asking it alone lets them know that you’re there for them.

  • “What language feels good for me to describe you?”

Language is complicated. Someone might prefer to call themselves “queer” (a historical slur that many have reclaimed as a chosen label), but only want you and others to call them a lesbian. Or they might not know the answer to this yet. Either way, reflect back the language they use when speaking to your friend and others.

“What pronouns and name should I use for you?”
  • “What pronouns and name should I use for you?”

This is a question you would ask to a loved one who is coming out as transgender. They may have already shared this information with you, or they might not know the answer. Whatever they tell you, be thoughtful and always mirror their language.  

What Not To Ask When Your Friend Comes Out

  • “So how long have you been _____ for?”

Maybe they’ve known this about themselves forever, maybe they just realized it 30 minutes ago. Either way, this question opens up Pandora’s Box and invites a whole lot of existential dread and self-doubt. This is because our world tells people that they’re “straight by default,” which can lead to a lot of confusion and questions that LGBTQ+ people internally face regarding who they truly are. And ultimately, it doesn’t matter how long they’ve known—what’s relevant is that they’re telling you now.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how long they’ve known—what’s relevant is that they’re telling you now.
  • “Aren’t you scared of what people will think or do? I’m so worried about you.”

Your loved one may indeed experience discrimination or be treated differently because of their gender or sexuality. However, they’re probably happier being able to live outwardly as they truly are, rather than having to hide a piece of themselves.

  • “So how do you have sex?”

Unless you’re about to have sex with someone, it’s best to avoid asking this. Everybody’s sexual desires and behaviors are different and personal—regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. If you are about to have sex with the person you’re talking to, then reframe the question to, “So, what types of play are you into?” or “How do you like to have sex?”

Unless you’re about to have sex with someone, it’s best to avoid asking, “How do you have sex?”
  • “Are you going to get the surgery?” (or “Have you had the surgery?”)

This is a question that transgender people often encounter. It’s not great to ask for a few reasons: First, there is no one medical procedure that trans people may pursue, if they decide to pursue any at all. Second, this question implies that if a trans person doesn’t have surgery, then they aren’t really transgender. On the contrary, many trans people do not want or pursue surgery, and they are no less trans for making such a decision. Third, this question is rarely asked from a place of support. It’s usually coming from a place of curiosity, of wondering what a transgender person’s genitals look like. In plain terms: It isn’t your business what someone’s junk looks like.

  • “Oh, I’ve known that for ages.”

This one isn’t a question, but it is still in the no-go zone. That’s because even though you may have had your own thoughts about your friend’s gender or sexuality, they don’t need to know that you’ve been contemplating it for the past 10 years. Or, they may not have realized it themselves, and this statement can lead them to think there’s something wrong with them or to worry about the judgment of others.  

With these suggestions in mind you’ll be ready to show up as your most supportive self and say the right thing to your loved one. High five for being a good friend and LGBTQ+ ally.

For more resources, check out:

The LGBTQ Center of UNC Chapel Hill’s website

BookRiot’s list of 20 books for parents of LGBTQ kids

TSER’s bank of helpful infographics

GLSEN’s school-focused resources for students and educators

PFLAG’s “Our Trans Loved Ones” guide

PFLAG’s “Our Children” guide

GLMA’s LGBTQ-friendly medical provider directory

Related Articles:

Supporting Survivors

How To Tinder In A Gender-Diverse World


Myths and facts

Setting the record straight.

No items found.


At O.school, we know that few things are one-size-fits-all. Read on for insights from Pleasure Professionals and other experts:

No items found.

Community voices

Check out what the O.school Community is buzzing about and send your questions and stories to submit@o.school.

Upcoming streams

Want more? Check out our live streams and on demand videos.

No related streams available.

View full calendar

Sex Ed Videos

Previously recorded streams we love.

The Sex Talk Your Mother Never Gave You: Using your Voice

The Sex Talk Your Mother Never Gave You: Using your Voice

An O.school fan said they wished their mother taught them how to use their voice and stand up for themself with problematic partners.

Become A Dirty Talk Master!

Become A Dirty Talk Master!

Helping you find the words to maximise hot and minimise awkward. O.school’s resident cunninglinguists Kate and Louise will show you how to master your dirty talk game.

We Need to Talk About Consent

We Need to Talk About Consent

How many of you have had a real, clear talk about consent with a partner after #metoo? Q Wilson, your boi of validation and warmth, will get you so pumped and ready to have an empowering, not awkward conversation.

Video transcript

Tips For Negotiating Condom Use

How to talk about using a condom. What to say when you want to use protection. Ways to maximize pleasure when practicing safer sex.

Fact No. 1
Fact No. 2
Fact No. 3
Fact No. 4
The Quickie
6 minute read

Setting boundaries in the bedroom can be intimidating. Lots of folks have internalized the myth that communicating their needs ruins the mood, especially when it comes to boundaries like safer sex. 

But if your partner respects you, they’ll be glad you’re looking out for your health, and you’ll feel more comfortable knowing they care about your wellbeing and boundaries. As long as you both honor each other’s consent, the conversation can actually bring you closer. 

Why Use A Condom?

People use condoms to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms have an 85% effectiveness rate for preventing pregnancy. But that takes into account that people don’t always use them correctly. If used properly every time condoms are 98% effective at preventing pregnancy. 

People use condoms to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Condoms also play an important role in STI prevention. When a penis is making contact with a partner’s genitals, anus, or mouth, a condom prevents ejaculate or pre-ejaculate from transmitting STIs. You can also put condoms on sex toys to prevent the spread of any bacteria that may be in them, especially if you’re using the toy with multiple partners.

Deciding Whether To Use A Condom

Some people use condoms as their sole birth control method, while others who are on hormonal birth control or other methods use them for additional protection. When it comes to STI prevention people use condoms if they are unsure of their own or their partner’s STI status, or if they know that one of them has an STI.

But even if you’ve both tested STI-negative, there are some STIs that tests can miss, such as HPV. So, it’s still beneficial to use a condom. But ultimately, that’s a decision people have to make together based on how much risk each of them feels ok about.

Feeling safe helps you get out of your head and into your body to enjoy the physical sensations of sex, rather than worrying about possible STI or pregnancy risks. So using safer sex methods can actually make sex more enjoyable.

Asking To Use A Condom

Any partner, even a casual one, should be invested in your sexual health and listen to your preferences regarding condom use. Ideally, it’s best to discuss safer sex before you’re in the bedroom. This ensures you’re on the same page and know what to expect beforehand, and it’s easier to have the conversation when you’re not in the heat of the moment. 

“It’s important for me to use condoms, are you OK with that?”

You could say something like, “it’s important for me to use condoms, are you OK with that?” or just “are you OK with using condoms?”

If you don’t feel comfortable having this discussion or don’t have the chance to get to it, you can simply ask your partner in the moment, “Could you get a condom?”

Negotiating Boundaries

Just as you have the right to turn down sex without a condom, your partner has the right to turn down using one. They may decline to use condoms because they find them uncomfortable, are allergic to the material, or another reason. 

But in that case, they should be OK with either exploring other solutions that make you both comfortable, like getting tested for STIs and/or using another birth control method, or not having sex at all. 

If a partner makes you feel like you’re being unreasonable, guilts you, or threatens to withdraw their affections because you’ve asked to use a condom, they are engaging in verbal coercion. You should never be pressured into compromising your sexual boundaries. 

Nonconsensual Condom Removal 

Once your partner agrees to use a condom, it’s not OK for them to remove it without your consent. “Stealthing,” when someone takes off a condom without their partner knowing, is sexual assault. 

Consent must be informed — you have to know what’s going on in order to consent to it. And consent to sex with a condom is not consent to sex without one. Just because you’ve agreed to have sex with someone doesn’t mean they have the right to have whatever kind of sex they want, with or without your permission. 

Troubleshooting Condoms Challenges

Some people have trouble using condoms, which can make them not want to wear them. Here are some solutions to common condom problems to help remove the roadblocks when you’re negotiating condom use:

Problem: Reduced sensation of the penis

Solution: Find thinner condoms - although they may be a little more expensive the improved sensation is worth it. And add a drop of silicone lube inside the end of the condom, as well as lube on the outside of the condom when it’s on for added slide and sensation.

Problem: Uncomfortable on penis

Solution: There are so many different sizes and shapes of condom. Try out different ones - you can even try masturbating with them on to experiment - until you find the right fit for you.

Problem: Allergic to latex

Solution: Latex allergies are fairly common, you might not even realise it, but a minor latex allergy might be behind your discomfort. Non-latex condoms are easy to get and could make all the difference to your comfort.

Problem: Putting on a condom can ruin the mood

Solution: Up your dirty talk skills to make condom use hotter and more seamless - instead of it being an interruption why not grab a condom and say “I can’t wait for you to put this on so we can take it to the next level”.

Problem: Getting a condom interrupts things

Solution: Instead of breaking the flow and going to find a condom in the bathroom, or wherever, have condoms on hand. In bedside drawers, in your bag, in your car, or locker… just make sure you check expiry dates and dispose of any that have been exposed to sun or heat.

Problem: Losing your erection when using condoms

Solution: Try the internal condom. This is inserted in the vagina or anus rather than rolled onto the penis. When the penis feels less constricted it can be easier to keep hard.

Once your partner agrees to use a condom, it’s not OK for them to remove it without your consent. 

Troubleshooting condom use increases the pleasure potential of protected sex. Condom negotiation is easier when you have suggestions to improve comfort and ease. Find the condoms that are right for you, get confident using them, and go ahead and enjoy!

Related Articles:

Top 10 Things You Need To Know About Consent

How To Choose A Condom

What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?

What Birth Control Is Best For Me?

9 Questions to Ask Your Partner Before Getting It On

How To Talk Dirty

We Have Reviews For Restaurants But Not Birth Control — This Site’s Changing That


Video transcript

Loading next article...