How to Support Your LGBTQ+ Loved Ones
Has your loved one come to you and told you they are LGBTQ?
Coming out to family and loved ones is not an easy undertaking, but often it becomes difficult for family and close friends as they do not know the next steps and how to provide support to their LGBTQ loved one. The process of how to move forward and be a support for a LGBTQ loved one can be overwhelming, but when done appropriately, providing support for a LGBTQ loved one can bring deeper understanding, authenticity, respect, and love.
Here are some helpful ways you can offer support to your loved one.
Be a Source of Comfort
Part of being a support for your LGBTQ loved one is by being a source of comfort. The coming out process is exceptionally difficult, and it leaves many feeling vulnerable and scared as they ponder over what could happen once they discuss this part of their identity. To help ease these intense emotions, remind your loved one that you are there for them. Approach the situation with concern, respect, active listening, and most of all love to aid in lessening those intense emotions and to also create a supportive environment.
Do Your Own Research
Part of being a solid support system is investing time into learning about your loved one and the LGBTQ community. To be an informed support, you must do research. There is a lot of culture and terminology within the LGBTQ community, and it may seem overwhelming. However, investing the time and resources to do your own research aids with understanding and being able to communicate with your LGBTQ loved one. And by doing your own research, you display your support for your loved one by taking the time to learn about them and this part of their identity.
Part of doing your own research is asking questions. Don’t assume that by knowing the terms and culture that you fully understand your loved one. As mentioned, there are a lot of terms and fluidity in the community, and sometimes people feel that some terms don’t fully explain what they are feeling or that they identify themselves using different words and expressions. For example, you may think that your loved one is saying is saying that they are lesbian or gay based on the definitions you learned, but find that they prefer to use the term “queer” to encompass how they identify. Ask your loved one how they chose to identify themselves in terms of terminology, physical/emotional expressions, pronouns, and meaning. This allows for clarification and a deeper understanding of your loved one. Disclaimer: Though it is important to ask questions about your loved one and their identity, it is not their job to educate you on the whole community, you still need to do your own research.
Yes, your loved one has opened up about a very intimate aspect of their identity, but this does not give you permission to ask every possible question about their sex life and relationships. Although your loved one has come out to you, this does not necessarily mean that they are ready to discuss sexuality and relationships just yet. Be respectful of their privacy and boundaries, and don’t ask personal questions immediately. Also, just because your loved one is out to you does not mean they are out to everyone. Allow your loved one to come out on their own time and terms, do not out your loved one to other family or friends.
Get Your Own Support
As emotional as the coming out process is for your loved one, let’s not discredit how emotional and difficult it can be for the family and loved ones. The coming out process can bring out inner conflicts with religion and personal values. You may also notice homophobic/transphobic/biphobic jargon that you did not realize was hurtful to your loved one. No doubt, the coming out process is difficult on both ends. Part of being a support is also recognizing when you need to reach out for your own aid. Reach out for your own support, whether its individual therapy, groups for LGBTQ families, or reaching out to other peers who have been a similar situation. Getting your own support can aid you in processing your own thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts without hurting your loved one.
Recognize They are the Same Person
The biggest aspect of being a support to your LGBTQ loved one is to recognize that they are still the same person. Through the coming out process, your loved one has taken the chance to be more authentic and expose this huge part of their identity with you. Just because you may feel that your loved one has exposed this huge part of themselves, remember that this is only a part of who they are, and that they are still themselves at their core. By coming out to you, your loved one has chosen to allow you to know them completely and to be a part of their journey of self discovery and love.
*Most importantly, remember to have an open heart, and just to love*
We have therapists on staff at Lincoln Park Therapy Group who specialize in in support for the LGBTQ+ community. If someone you care about has recently come out and you are struggling to offer your love and support, schedule a time to come in and talk with one of our therapists. We’d love to meet you.
Center on Halsted, Chicago IL
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If you’re in the Chicago area and interested in therapy services, you can learn more about starting here. Or if you’re ready to get started, reach out to us and schedule an appointment.