How to Support Your LGBTQ Friends
If your friend is part of the LGBTQ community, you likely want to show them all the love and support in the world. Whether you’ve always known or they recently came out, acknowledging and celebrating their identity is a great way to be a good ally. Sometimes, people who aren’t familiar with LGBTQ identities inadvertently offend their friends. They might go over the top with their support to the point it dehumanizes their friend or embarrasses them; they might tell them that being gay or transgender “doesn’t matter”, which unintentionally dismisses a core part of their life.
This guide will help you be a more supportive friend and create a more inclusive and accepting world for everyone.
Learn About Their Experience
Be open minded and willing to listen to your friend’s evolving experience as an LGBTQ individual. What have been their greatest sources of pride? What are their biggest challenges and fears? You can support your friend solely by being present and listening. You don’t need to fully understand their experience to be supportive. Just the act of being there can give your friend a much-needed sense of acceptance that so many LGBTQ people go without.
Do Not Sexualize Them
Your friend’s gender identity and sexual orientation are not oddities; as individuals, they are not educators or responsible for answering any and all questions you have about how sex and love works for someone who isn’t cisgender or heterosexual. Although you might genuinely be asking from a harmless position of curiosity, asking your friend questions about their sex life can dehumanize them and deny their body autonomy.
You also don’t want to imply through your questioning that there’s a right or wrong way to be intimate. Sex looks different for everyone, and it is a personal matter that isn’t immediately open to discussion just because someone identifies as LGBTQ.
Find Good Resources to Help Them
LGBTQ people are more likely to experience mental illness, prejudice and discrimination. Even as full-fledged adults with careers and a good support system, they may carry wounds from a non-supportive family or bad experiences from the past. You can help them by educating yourself and knowing what resources to direct them to if they ever need help. Local therapists and support groups that offer LGBTQ services can provide a safe space that’s understanding of your friend’s experiences and needs.
You can also educate yourself on some of the warning signs of poor mental health in your friend; identifying issues and reaching out to them when things are difficult can be life-saving.
Counseling / Getting Help
I Think My Friend Needs Help. How Do I Get Him Or Her To See A Counselor?
For whatever reason, even in this day and age, there is for many people a stigma around therapy. It seems a bit strange to us therapists, because we think therapy is great! Regardless, many feel that going to therapy must be a sign of weakness, failure, being completely lost, innately flawed, or just plain crazy. And, of course, this is simply not the case.
Going to therapy for strength, healing, clarity, discovery, personal development, and growth is one of the most courageous and wise things any of us can do. So, very simply, take that stance with your friend. Share with them your positive view of counseling and your appreciation of their courage. If you have ever been to see a counselor, tell them about your experience in therapy. And help resource them by sharing potential referrals. More than anything, we want to know that we are not alone.
So, if you have ever struggled in similar ways as your friend, be vulnerable and tell them about it. If your relationship has a degree of authenticity and vulnerability, offer to be a supportive friend by making yourself available for processing outside of counseling. And keep in mind that people will not go to therapy if they are really not ready. And pushing too hard or trying to force them to go to therapy does not usually work very well. Even if they end up going to counseling, the work will not be very effective if they are not ready to engage in the therapy process.
Lastly, keep in mind that people are responsible for their own lives and must ultimately take full responsibility for the changes they want and need to make. Treating someone who is struggling like they are helpless is not usually helpful. People are generally stronger and more resilient than we think. Reflect the strengths you see in your friend and compassionately encourage them. Then, just follow this up with support.