There are many ways to support friends and family members who identify as LGBTQ. Whether you are coming out yourself, supporting a partner or child, or just looking for resources to help someone in your life, there is always something that can be done. This blog post will explore ways people can show their love and understanding for their LGBTQ friends and family members.
First, you can learn about the LGBTQ community. The more people know about what it means to be gay or transgender, the better they will understand their loved ones and friends who are members of this community. Learning is empowering, so get together with your family member or friend for a grab-and-go lunch where they can fill you in on all the latest information and research or read a book together.
Educating yourself will show that you value your loved one's identity and want to learn more about it. It would help if you also did some research into what steps would be helpful for people who are coming out - whether they're still figuring things out themselves or are ready to come out and be open about their identity.
Another way that you can support your loved ones is by providing resources for them, especially if they are new to the LGBTQ community. One excellent resource is PFLAG (Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays). The organization has chapters all over the country with professional counselors available to help with coming out or being an ally. Another resource is The Trevor Project, which has a 24/seven hotline for young people who identify as LGBTQ and might be in crisis. Giving your loved ones resources like these can make it easier for them to come out if they want to or feel better about their identity.
Know And Understand Their Challenges
Being a supportive friend or family member means understanding their challenges and making sure they're aware that you will support them all the way. The first step is simply lending an ear and asking them how you can help if anything at all. Make it clear from the beginning that your support will always be unconditional and non-judgmental.
My Transgender Blog recently posted an educational and interesting article about the transgender community and on the coming-out experience of transwomen. This blog is educational and can teach you about the fears and excitement of coming out and revealing yourself to friends and family. The study has found that transwomen are three times more likely to come out than transmen. Overall, the study found that transwomen come out at a younger age compared to transmen. The study also showed that transgender people often first come out to their mothers and friends, and one out of 10 people want to tell their spouses first. Many transgender people reported that it is not as bad coming out as they thought, but many people also noted negative consequences. However, overall the study showed that despite many people's fears of coming out, most people had a positive experience.
Avoid Making Assumptions
Another good step is to avoid making assumptions about their experiences or being too curious. This can set the wrong tone for what you're trying to accomplish all together - which is helping them through a difficult time. So take care not to make presumptions about the challenges they face in everyday life - and resist the urge to ask too many questions about their past experiences. This is especially important when it comes to asking personal questions that they may not feel comfortable answering right away, or ever at all. So let them do most of the talking in these conversations - and don't pressure them into sharing more than they're ready for if you sense discomfort.
Send A Message Of Support To Your Loved One
Another way that you can support your loved one who is new to the LGBTQ community is by sending them messages of hope and love! For example, you might write something along these lines: "I want you to know that no matter what happens with your coming out journey, you will always have me. I love and care about you so much." Also, if your friend is not out to their family members yet but might be soon, let them know that they can tell their family when and how they feel comfortable and safe doing so.
Be Patient When Discussing Identity
When talking about their identity, it's important to remember that this is an ongoing process. Some have been through the journey for a while now, and there are others still exploring what they want out of life in terms of sexual orientation or gender expression - so be patient with them both when discussing these issues. Remember that this is their journey to take at their own pace. As a friend or family member of someone who identifies as LGBTQ, you can help by simply listening - ask questions if you want to know more but do not press the person if they are hesitant to share.
If you have questions about their identity or how it affects them, remember that this is a safe space for your friend/family member, so feel free to ask - but know the context in which these conversations occur. For example, if someone has just come out and is still processing what being LGBTQ means to them, it may not be the best time to ask these questions.
Talking About Identity With Children
Children might still be in the process of discovery, but letting them know you are there and open to talking to them about it will make them feel comfortable exploring and coming to terms with whatever they decide. Therefore, there is no wrong time to bring this up, and it's okay if the conversation takes a little while before you broach the topic of sexuality or gender.
If they ask questions about sexual orientation and gender identity, answer them as simply as possible without going into too much depth for now. If your child seems confused by this, they may be too young to understand the topic thoroughly, and you can tell them that they don't need to know everything right now. It's okay for your child not to care about their sexual orientation or gender identity at a younger age; it's perfectly normal for someone to wait until their teenage years before figuring these things out.
LGBTQ people of all ages and experiences need support from their friends and family, especially those just beginning this journey. They will likely face a lot more adversity than someone with years of experience. So if you want to help your friend or family member feel supported, listen to what they are going through and be there for them.
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