Supporting Someone Who is “Coming Out”
In more recent times, it has become more prevalent for individuals to come out and express their sexuality. For some, this may be a simple process, but others may experience obstacles such as mixed emotions with their loved ones and support systems. They may also have a difficult time with expressing their emotions and feelings to loved ones. In this post, I have identified helpful ways to support a loved one who identifies as a part of the LGBTQ+ community.
Before we discuss the ways that allies and family can be supportive to a person who is coming out, it is important to discuss some ways they may identify. Below are various terminologies that can help you understand what an individual in the LGTBQ might refer to.
Lesbian is a female-identifying homosexual who has an attraction for other female-identified persons in a romantic love way or sexual attraction.
Gay refers to homosexual individuals. They can be male identifying persons attracted to other males in a romantic or sexual attraction way or also females. Gay is a term more to describe men but can also be for females.
Bisexual is an attraction that one individual might have towards a males and females. It can be a romantic attraction, sexual attraction, or even sexual behavior. Individuals that identify themselves as bisexual might be attracted to anyone no matter their sex or gender.
Transgender can also be called “trans”, and it is the larger umbrella term that individuals might use to help them express gender identity. Transgender individuals do not identify with the gender identity assigned at birth. Trans identity can vary from individual to individual and does not necessarily mean a person identifies gender by the binary standard. Some Trans folks can identify with multiple genders and may vary in gender expression.
This is a larger, encompassing terminology for individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or homosexual and do not want societal identifiers regarding gender or sexual identity expressions put on them. There are no standards in how they define themselves.
Refer to my other blog post, “What Does “LGBTQ” Mean?”, to gain a better understanding of other terminology.
How Can You Be Supportive?
On Their Own Terms
Allowing individuals who identify as queer to decide what sexual orientation they want for themselves. Not forcing anyone to come out to others if they have confided in you too. Allow them to tell people when they are ready and not to force them.
There are many support groups around the world (and Chicago) and organizations that can make you feel comfortable with the LGTBQ community. PFLAG is a great place to start! If you are in either position (coming out as LGBTQ or a loved one) there are groups and organizations for you!
Being open and allowing them to use you as support is crucial. The coming out process is often hard for someone to initiate and can produce a lot of anxiety for that person. Be respectful of this difficult decision they not only they have had to come to terms with, but also inviting you to be a part of that process as well.
They are Not Any Different!
Remember that when a loved one comes to you and opens up about their sexual orientation that they are still HUMAN! They are still the same person that you have known, they still have the same personality, same interests, and hobbies. Reminding them that they are still someone who you care about, and nothing will change.
If a loved one has come to you and stated that they “coming out” and you are needing support in navigating how to help them, feel free to contact Symmetry Counseling for a complimentary 20-minute consultation. Our therapists are available for those processing their feelings around a loved one coming out as well.
Written by Kara Thompson-Miller, Licensed Clinical Social Worker: January 2023 “Why is it so hard to like my body?”: A unassumingly complex question that has been asked by many clients in many different variations, but one that, nonetheless, tends…Read More
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