Has a family member ever told you that they are gay, or come out as transgender? When a loved one shares such an important part of themselves, you might not know exactly what to do or say. It’s actually pretty simple: All you have to do is show them that you love and support them no matter what. If you’re unsure where to start, here are some things you can do to support and show love to your LGBTQ family members.
One of the most important ways to support an LGBTQ family member is to make an effort to understand their lives and what they are experiencing. So, here’s a short introduction to the letters we’ll use throughout this article: LGBTQ. These letters stand for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer.
This acronym is used to describe the community of people whose sexual orientation and gender identity are not cisgender and heterosexual. “Cisgender” means “a person who identifies as the gender they were born as,” and “heterosexual” means “a person romantically interested in people of the opposite gender.” When someone comes out to you, researching their specific identity will allow you to get to know them even better. The Human Rights Campaign has a full list of the words you will encounter in the LGBTQ community here.
Create a Safe Place for LGBTQ Family Members
The LGBTQ community is a diverse group of individuals who have unique identities and stories. Throughout history, LGBTQ people have endured discrimination and harassment from those who do not understand them, and there are still places where it is illegal and dangerous to be “out” as their true selves. Your family member may experience similar discrimination from people, whether it’s in their own community, online, or in the media. It’s important that their loved ones create an environment where they feel welcome and safe. Studies have shown that this can actually save their lives! LGBTQ people are more often to experience mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, which is often caused by the discrimination they face. When families are supportive, it decreases the chances of LGBTQ turning to drugs and alcohol to cope, and even lowers their risk of suicide.
Listen to their Story
Many cultures discourage asking personal questions, saying that it’s impolite or “nosy.” But when you are close to someone in the LGBTQ community, asking genuine questions can be a way to come closer together and have a healthy conversation about their experiences. If an LGBTQ person wants to tell you about their lives, it means that they trust you and want you to know them better. Listen to their stories about their past, their feelings, and their hopes for the future with an open mind and heart, and it will show them that their trust in you was well placed.
Help Them Connect to Community
It’s healthy to foster a strong relationship with your family members, but don’t let that be the end of your support for your LGBTQ loved one. They will want to build bonds with others like them, and you can help them connect to the community in a variety of ways. If they are a younger child or teen, look into LGBTQ youth groups and school clubs they can join. Attending Pride events and parades together is another great way to help them reach out beyond your family and connect with others. When they see that you accept other LGBTQ people in the community, they will know that they have your love no matter what.