Supporting LGBTI+ friends and family
Your LGBT friend.
LGBTI+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Intersex. If a friend or family member comes out to you as LGBTI, you might not know what to do, especially if you’ve never known an LGBTI person before or don’t know much about them. Coming out is the term used to describe when an LGBTQ person accepts their sexual orientation or gender identity and decides to tell other people about it.
Being LGBTQ isn’t alway easy. Many LGBTI people can face discrimination, which is very difficult for them. This means that often times it can be really hard for them to tell you that they’re LGBTI, and they may be very worried about your reaction. This is why it’s so important to be caring and supportive of them when they come out to you. You should feel honoured and flattered that you’re friend or family member has chosen to come out to you, and you should treat them with kindness and respect.
So what can I do to support my LGBTI friend or family member?
Let them know you still love and support them
Make sure your friend or family member knows that you're still there for them no matter what. Many LGBTI people worry that their friends or family won’t accept them if they come out, so it is important that you reassure them that their sexual orientation or gender identity has not affected how you feel about them.
Coming out is a big step and you should congratulate your friend or family member for being so brave. Remember, being LGBTI is something to be really proud of, so remind them of this.
Realise that this is a big deal for them
You might feel unfazed by their sexual orientation or gender identity. Maybe you’ve always suspected it. However, coming out is a big moment and it can take a long time to work up to. You might feel by downplaying the moment or pretending you don’t care that you are being more supportive, but you should let your friend or family member have their moment. This is probably really important to them.
Be there for them
Let them know that you are there if they ever need to talk. Sadly, they might have to deal with other people's’ prejudices and even bullying sometimes. If they are being bullied, there are some steps you can take to help them. Read about those steps here.
Keep it to yourself if they have asked you to
Just because your friend or family member has come out to you does not mean that they are ready to come out to everyone else. It can be really hurtful if you tell other people that they are LGBTI without their permission and this could really damage your relationship. Don’t treat it as gossip to share - go at your friend or family member’s own pace, and support them in telling other people once they are ready.
Don’t pressure them
Don’t pressure your friend or family member to tell other people if they have chose to keep things private for now. They will tell others when they are ready and the last thing they need is more stress and pressure.
Check in on how they’re feeling
Some LGBTQ people feel very depressed and isolated, especially if they have not come out to anyone else but you. Let them know that they are not alone and that there is support out there. Point them to organisations such as BeLonG To if they feel they need more support.
Stand up for them
If your friend or family member is a victim of discrimination or harassment because of their sexuality or gender identity, always try to stand up for them and offer them your support. You don’t have to be LGBTI to fight for equal rights.
Listen to them
It’s really important to understand that if you’re not LGBTI, you won’t necessarily understand all of your LGBTI friend’s experiences. This is why it’s so key to listen to your friend or family member as they talk about their experiences, so you can learn to be more supportive.
It’s really important to read up about issues that LGBTI people may face, so you’re in a good position to support your friend or family member if they come up against these issues. Explore the SpunOut LGBTI section for loads of facts, advice and information on issues LGBTI people may come up against.
If you meet their partner, be welcoming
Welcome your their partner into the family or group of friends. It’s always intimidating for a partner to meet the family, but it may be even more intimidating for your friend or family member to bring their same sex partner into the family. So, really make an extra effort to be as warm and friendly as possible.
Keep an eye on their mental health
Don’t keep it to yourself if you are worried that your friend or family member is depressed or suicidal. They need help to get through it and you won’t be able to sort it alone. It's important to seek professional help from your GP or another health professional. For more information, check out our article here.