Maybe someone you love and care about just came out. Or maybe you want to be a better ally for folks in your life if and when someone does come out. It is no secret that supporting your child or friend who is LGBTQIA2S+ has a positive impact on their life. This section offers helpful information and advice on how to support those you care about who are LGBTQIA2S+. Additionally, when a loved one comes out this can be a shift for you too. They are first and foremost still the same person that you care about, this is just a new and exciting part of who they are that they are sharing with you. No matter how supportive you might be, learning best practices on how to support your loved one, and finding support for yourself, will be supportive of your relationship.
The best possible thing to do is to lead with love and compassion. It takes a lot of courage to share your gender and/or sexual orientation. Coming out is a moment in which your loved one is trusting you and turning to you to affirm them. Rather than saying “this doesn’t change how I feel about you” or “I love you no matter what” though these sentiments are often suggested, they are not as affirming as you might think. These are statements that are shared when someone did not meet your expectations. Instead, consider saying, “Everything I learn about you grows my love for you. Thank you for trusting me to share this with.” or “I love finding out more about who you are and who you are becoming. Thank you for inviting me into this space to be able to celebrate how amazing you are”. These responses clearly communicate that there is nothing wrong with being LGBTQIA2S+.
Letting your loved one lead how they tell people, when they tell people, and who they tell, as these are their decisions to make. It is your job, to support them in this process. Unless you have their enthusiastic and clear consent to share their new name, gender, pronouns, or partner’s name/gender/pronouns, please do not do it as this is violating their trust. Once your loved one is comfortable with more people knowing, it will be important to embrace this publicly by using the right name, pronouns, gender, etc. as long as it is on their timeline.
There might be a handful of questions that come to mind with your loved one sharing this information with you. Do your best to let them lead the conversation. If your loved one comes out with a new gender identity, it might be affirming to ask them if they have a name that they would like you to use. Additionally, asking them what pronouns they go by can be affirming. And then start using them! You can ask for clarification if there are places or people that the person may not want you to use their new name and pronouns in front of. This is carefully thought through by the person coming out to keep themself safe. However, they may specify for you to use their new name and pronouns everywhere to help make the change public. If your loved one does not have a new set of pronouns/name yet, that is okay! Just keep the door open and invite them to share their new name and pronouns when they are ready. This will create safety and trust moving forward.
When someone comes out to you, questions to avoid asking include (but are not limited to) questions about medical transition (i.e. surgery, etc.), sexual activity, asking things like “are you the man or the woman in the relationship?”, “what restroom will you use?”, etc. Also avoid saying things like, “I always knew”, “Are you sure?”, “But you’re so (insert adjective here)”. Asking invasive questions, or saying invalidating statements, will make the person coming out feel unsafe. The most important thing here is to build trust and understanding through how you communicate.
When your loved one comes out, you might also have a lot of concerns. Do your best to not let fear take over by sharing your concerns about how this might make their life ‘harder’. There also might be some feelings of grief that come up for you because you may have imagined your loved one’s life differently. However, your loved one is getting to know themself and wants to share that with you. To have someone come out to you is an honor. They have given this a lot of thought and are inviting you into a vulnerable space of who they are. Lead with gratitude and love for them inviting you into this space. The most important thing to express when your loved one comes out is joy. This is a big moment for your loved one, and they have confided in you to share this with.
It is okay and understandable that you are going to have thoughts and feelings about this news. When your loved one comes out, try your best to put your love for them first. Your thoughts and feelings about this are valid, and they are not the responsibility of the person coming out to you, they are your responsibility. Finding your own support will strengthen the support that you can offer to your loved one. In finding your own support, be careful to not ‘out’ your loved one. Outing means sharing their coming out without their consent. Outing is a violation of trust. Their coming out is their news to share, on their timeline. Talking to your own counselor, which is a confidential space, might be a safe space for you to both process how you are feeling, and get the support you need, before finding support through other friends and family members. Additionally, there are organizations like Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) that offer support groups specifically to folks who are going through, or who have gone through this process. See their information below.
PFLAG is a national organization that offers support groups to families and friends who know someone who is LGBTQIA2S+. PFLAG can help you find your own community and support you as you navigate your loved one’s coming out. PFLAG Website
The Pride Center Resource List includes local organizations in the Inland Empire and national organizations that can be of support to you in navigating your loved one’s coming out. This list also includes a couple of local counselors in the area that offer a safe space and support. Pride Center Resource List Website