Tips for family, friends and partners of LGBTQ+ folks
Learning that your friend or loved one identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender can lead to a number of reactions. It’s quite possible that you might be surprised or confused by the revelation. Maybe it’s something you’ve suspected for a long time. Regardless, it’s okay to be unsure of how to respond.
Above all, you probably want to provide support and encouragement to this person you care about. You can do that even if you’re still uncertain and have questions. There are lots of ways that friends and family of LGBTQ folks can find support as they become accustomed to this new facet of their loved one’s identity. Let’s take a look at how to get started.
Do Some Reading
The first step toward coming to a place where you can provide genuine support to your friend or family member is to gain a basic understanding of gender and sexual diversity. Reading up on terminology and obtaining a basic understanding of what it means to identify as a member of the LGBTQ community can be a good start. Organizations like PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), the Trevor Project and the Human Rights Campaign have resources to help you.
Finding support from others can go far toward helping you to work through the process of understanding and accepting this new change in your relationship. Joining an in-person support group for families of LGBTQ individuals can provide the support you need during this period. Online forums and resources exist for this purpose as well. In addition to the groups listed above, you can visit the National Association of LGBT Community Centers to find a meeting in your local area. The Family Acceptance Project is another good source of support.
In order to better support yourself and your loved one, you’ll need to be honest and ask yourself some hard questions. Take time to assess your own feelings and any beliefs you’ve internalized throughout your life regarding gender and sexuality norms. Confront any issues that may affect your ability to be a positive force in your friend or family’s member’s life. Taking part in individual or group therapy during this process can be a good way to find the answers you seek and to reconcile any inconsistencies that may hinder your progress toward being a good ally.
The ways in which you react to someone’s sexual or gender identity can affect their self-esteem and wellbeing. Above all, it’s important to show respect and encouragement for them. Taking time to find the information and support you need is a crucial step toward facilitating your own growth. It also helps to strengthen your relationship with your LGBTQ loved one.