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Supporting LGBTI+ friends and family

How to support someone who "comes out"

Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in life

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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, but there are simple and easy actions you can make to show them that you accept their sexuality and gender identity without prejudice. 

Many LGBTI+ people can face discrimination, making them afraid to come out. By being respectful and positive about LGBTI+ people in your day-to-day life, you can create an environment which is supportive to any of your friends or family considering coming out.

How to support a LGBTI+ friend or family member

Let them know you love them

Make sure your friend or family member knows that you're 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 being LGBTI+ is normal, even if society may not make them feel that way.

Support them

Coming out is a big step so support your friend or family member, give them a hug and show you understand that this is important to them.

Acknowlege the moment

You might feel unfazed by their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, coming out can be 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 follow their lead and try to understand how they want to be supported.

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 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 LGBTI+ people feel very depressed and isolated, especially if they have not come out to anyone else. 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 as they talk about their experiences, so you can learn to be more supportive. If your friend or family member is coming out as Trans, support them by asking if there are any other names or pronouns you could use to make them more comfortable. 

Educate yourself

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. Think critcallly about why people are made to "come out" in the first place and what needs to change. 

 Explore the SpunOut LGBTI+ section for facts, advice and information on issues LGBTI+ people may come up against.

If you meet their partner, be welcoming

Welcome their partner into the family or group of friends. It’s always intimidating for a partner to meet the family, but my be more so for an LGBTI+ person for the first time. Make an extra effort to be as warm and friendly as possible.

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Published January 11th, 2013
Last updated February 6th, 2018
Tags lgbt gay transgender
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