How to Support LGBTQ+ Folx: 6 Ways to Support Your Loved One's Coming Out

   As a queer person, we all have the experience of coming out to our friends and family. It's a unique and terrifying journey we all face at some point. Being the friend or family member of someone in the LGBTQIA+ community means you have a special role that holds a lot of power to that person. If someone you love has come out to you recently, they must trust you and wish to be accepted for who they are. 

   It can be a learning curve- unlearning what you have been told about the LGBTQ+ community to better understand your loved one's identity. Our society tells us so many false narratives about the LGBTQIA+ community. Still, if you are here, you are willing to expand what you've known and are eager to challenge some of these false narratives. Here, you will learn some helpful tips on how to respond, along with what not to do to support your loved ones on their journey of self-discovery and acceptance:

1. Listen with an Open Mind:

Do: Listen, wait your turn, be willing to learn, and be non-judgmental.

Avoid: Interrupting, expressing disbelief, or trying to minimize their experience.

   As a Therapist in California, I teach people how listen without judgment. It is essential to develop active listening skills to hear your loved one out and understand their thoughts and feelings. Avoid making assumptions or offering immediate solutions. Instead, focus on providing a non-judgmental ear, telling them you are there to support them. This approach can make a significant difference in their confidence and their life. Remember, it is a terrifying and vulnerable moment, and your attentive listening can impact how they see themselves.

2. Educate Yourself:

Do: Seek knowledge about LGBTQ+ terminology, challenges, and milestones.

Avoid: Making assumptions based on stereotypes, using outdated language, or relying on information you heard from people who are not in the queer community.

   It's super important to educate yourself about the LGBTQ+ community, like what terms they use, what challenges they face, and what milestones they're reaching. By doing this, you show you care about understanding their experience and create a solid foundation for good conversations with them. Knowledge is key to being a good ally and breaking down stereotypes, and it helps make the world more inclusive.

   Some of the most common stereotypes I heard during my coming out journey as a bisexual person were "This is just a phase" or "Aren't you going to miss d***?" These comments came from ignorance and made me feel unsupported. These are definitely comments to avoid when someone comes out to you.

3. Respect Their Journey:

Do: Respect their timeline and their choice to come out or not to whom they choose and when they choose.

Avoid: Pressuring them to come out to you or others, sharing their identity to others without permission, or making comparisons.

   Coming out is a personal and ongoing process. Respect your loved one's timeline and allow your loved one the autonomy to share their identity with others when they're ready. When you tell someone about their sexuality or gender identity without their permission, that is called an "Outing." Avoid outing them (sharing their identity without their consent), as this can feel like a betrayal since they just shared something sacred with you, which took a lot of trust in the first place. Each individual's journey is unique, and acknowledging and respecting their path is part of maintaining trust within your relationship.

    Seeking professional support when a loved one comes out as LGBTQ+ is important. You can connect with an LGBTQ+ affirming therapist or visit your local LGBTQ+ center for more resources to help you better understand and support your loved one. Avoid discussing your struggles with individuals without personal experience or understanding of the LGBTQ+ community, such as family or community members.

4. Offer Unconditional Support:

Do: Express unwavering love and support.

Avoid: Making conditional statements, expressing disappointment, or trying to change their identity.

    Express your unconditional love and support. Reassure your loved one that you are there for them, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Your acceptance and support will help them stand against any hate or discrimination they will face in society. Being supportive can be the difference between a healthy coming-out journey and a painful one. So many LGBTQ+ people suffer from mental illness, which causes some to choose the afterlife as a better option. So much of this can be avoided if they feel supported and loved by the important people in their lives. 

5. Be Mindful of Language:

Do: Use inclusive and affirming language.

Avoid: Using outdated or offensive terminology, making assumptions about their relationships, or minimizing their identity.

   It's super important to be careful of the words we use. If we use inclusive and affirming language, it shows we respect and appreciate a person's identity. Avoid assuming anything about their relationships or using old or offensive words. These small steps can make a big difference in helping someone feel genuinely seen, heard, and valued. Always think before you speak. If you're unsure about something, let them know you need to do some research and would like to return to the conversation later. Just make sure to show love and respect to them, no matter who they are or what they believe in.

6. Advocate for Equality:

Do: Challenge discriminatory behaviors, policies, or conversations.

Avoid: Staying silent in the face of discrimination or making insensitive jokes

   It's important to be there for the LGBTQ+ community as a whole, even outside of your personal relationship. If you see any discrimination happening, don't be afraid to speak up and challenge it. This helps make the world more accepting of everyone, including your loved ones. Be an ally and promote inclusivity and understanding when you're out in public. Attend a PRIDE event or an LGBTQ+ march. Your loved one will see your participation as more than just support for them; they will feel like you truly accept them. 

   In conclusion, supporting a friend or family member who comes out is about responding with love, understanding, and respect. Your role as an ally is crucial in creating a world where everyone can live authentically and without fear. Remember, everyone's journey is unique and your support will change their whole existence for the better. 

Here are some other blogs that offer helpful information about supporting your LGBTQIA+ loved one:

Benefits of Gender-Affirming Care

How to talk Gender Identity With Kids

Navigating LGBTQ Parenthood with Your Partner

Understanding Mental Health Challenges of LGBTQ+