Should I tell my friend that I'm attracted to him?

Dear Alice,

I'm an eighteen-year-old male. I'm beginning to become good friends with a guy, but I'm also feeling that I want something beyond friendship with him. I know that I'm bi, but I have never expressed it to anyone. I guess I fear the social implications of it, but then again I am a very liberal person. I can't stop thinking of this guy, not necessarily in a sexual way, but in a "relationship" context. He isn't dating anyone, but I have no idea if he is bi/gay or straight (he hasn't made any announcements, but he seems to be "playing it straight" as I am).

What should I do? I don't want to destroy a potential friendship by approaching him about this. But, I've never felt this way about anyone (male or female) and I don't want to let a potential opportunity slip by and be miserable. I'd also rather keep my sexuality a private thing, but I do think I can trust him.



Dear Puzzled,

Crushing on a new friend is confusing enough, and when you’re still in the closet, it can be extra tough to grapple with. Telling your new friend about your sexuality and your crush on him could be overwhelming for the both of you, so it might be a good idea to consider coming out as bisexual to him first before you reveal your feelings for him. However, coming out isn't always easy, and learning more about how he feels about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) communities may give you a sense of how responsive he'd be if you came out to him. 

You mentioned that you feel like you can trust this new friend, and that’s great! Having someone you know you can trust to talk to about your sexuality who will keep this information to themselves is essential. Not only will this give you a better idea of where he stands on bisexuality and queerness in general, it’ll also allow you two to get to know each other a little better and hopefully grow closer. Additionally, it gives him an opportunity to disclose anything about his sexuality that he may not have shared before — that is, if he feels comfortable. If it turns out he is attracted to men as well, would at least let you know that there is a chance that he might reciprocate your feelings one day. Again, he may not be ready to come out, or he may not even have any coming out to do, but telling him that you’re bisexual will give him the opportunity to do so if he wishes without the added pressure of reciprocating or rejecting any romantic feelings.

If you’re feeling a bit unsure, hesitant, or even afraid of coming out, whether it’s because you’re still not sure how it will be received by him or because you are still getting comfortable with navigating your sexuality yourself, that’s completely normal. As a first step, it may help to get an idea of how he might respond (though there is no way to know for sure) by getting a sense of how he feels about LGBTQ+ people in general. You could wait for an opportunity when something LGBTQ+-related comes up and casually ask him questions about these topics, such as, “Do you know anyone who is bisexual?” or “What are your thoughts on same-sex marriage?” His answers may give you an indication of how he feels about queer people and relationships. 

If he seems to be fairly tolerant, then there’s a better chance that he’ll be supportive and open about your sexuality. However, there is no guarantee. Even if he appears to be supportive of LGBTQ+ people in general, he still might react differently to a friend telling him that they’re bisexual, which is why it’s a good idea to be prepared for the different possible responses you may receive. He may be shocked or caught off guard; he may need some time to think; and, unfortunately, he may tell you he no longer wants to be friends. There is always the possibility that anyone you come out to will respond in a dismissive or unsympathetic way, and while that may be hurtful and discouraging, keep in mind that his reaction isn't your fault. There is nothing wrong with you, and your sexuality is not bad or shameful. In fact, discovering yourself and your sexuality is a wonderful thing in itself!

If he does react poorly, then it's unlikely that he will return your feelings for him, and it may be best not to bring up your relationship feelings. You could try to focus instead on moving through these feelings and surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of the LGBTQ+ community (even if you’re not out to them yet). Now, if your friend responds positively to you coming out as bi, then congrats! At the very least, you know he accepts and supports you for who you are, and now you’re in a better place to work towards telling him how you feel about him. Before you do that, though, there are a few items to consider. Just like with coming out, you never know how he might react. Make sure you’re prepared for a myriad of possible responses. 

In the best case scenario, he’ll tell you he feels the same way, and the two of you can decide where to go from there. On the other hand, he could tell you that his feelings for you are strictly platonic, but that he still wants to be friends. You may want to think about how you might feel in this scenario. While he has no obligation to return your feelings, it may still be disappointing (not to mention a blow to the ego) when someone doesn’t feel the same way about you that you do about them. If that is the case, you may ask yourself, will it become too awkward to keep spending time together? There is also the possibility that he could feel uncomfortable or put-off by this confession. If this happens, you could reassure him that you would still like to be friends but understand if he needs some time to think it over.

You’ll never know for sure until you go for it, but like you said, there is always the chance that disclosing your feelings could take a toll on your burgeoning friendship. Before you decide to tell him how you feel, take some time to seriously consider whether or not you feel it's worth that risk. If you decide to go for it and it doesn’t work out how you hoped, remember this: just because one person doesn’t feel that way about you, it doesn’t mean that someone else won’t in the future!

Last updated Nov 19, 2021
Originally published Jan 14, 2000

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