for family & Friends

How can I best be supportive?

If you have a family member or friend who is part of the Rainbow community, your support can make a world of difference in their life! You may wonder how to best go about supporting them. Here are a few ideas to get you started. The good news is you don’t need to understand everything about being 2SLGBTQIANB+ to be loving and accepting, and to begin your journey as a supportive ally.

LISTEN

  • Listen respectfully. Recognize that ‘coming out’ can take a lot of courage. Many people in the Rainbow community have experienced negative responses to their identity. By sharing their experience with you, they are showing they trust you.
  • Listen with an open mind. You may have your own emotions, fears, and preconceived ideas about being 2SLGBTQIANB+. Set them aside for now and be open to hearing your friend or family member’s perspective.
  • Listen from the heart. Your friend or family member may be feeling a mixture of many emotions – relief, pride, fear and uncertainty. You may not understand everything about being part of the Rainbow community, but you can empathize with the emotions involved.
  • Believe their experience. Coming to terms with one’s gender or sexual orientation often involves a lot of soul searching and is different for everyone. There is no ‘right way’ to be 2SLGBTQIANB+. It is also not a choice or a phase. Trust that people know themselves best and let them know you believe them.

LEARN

  • Educate yourself. Do some reading or research on what it means to be 2SLGBTQIANB+. Your friend or family member will appreciate that you have some knowledge. Recognize that they are not responsible, or even able, to educate people on everything there is to know about being part of the rainbow community.
  • Ask appropriate questions. Depending on the closeness of your relationship, you can ask your friend or family member about their own experience. But don’t ask overly personal questions that you wouldn’t ask your other heterosexual or cisgender friends (like about their intimate relationships, or questions about their bodies).
  • Challenge common myths. Recognize that being part of the Rainbow community is not a “lifestyle,” but rather part of who someone is; also, you can’t know someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity by looking at them; and being 2SLGBTQIANB+ is not a mental illness.
  • Accept when you make mistakes. If your friend or family member tells you that something is hurtful or offensive, try not to get defensive or argue with them. You don’t really know what it feels like to be in their shoes, or the discrimination they may have already faced. Thank them for the learning opportunity, and continue to grow in the ways you approach the Rainbow community.

LOVE

  • Be safe and welcoming. For your gay, lesbian or bisexual friend or family member, let them know their same-sex partners are welcome at your home. For your transgender or non-binary friends, use the pronouns and name they have asked you to use.
  • Be an advocate. Offer to go with your friend or family member when they come out to less supportive people. If they are religious, help them find an affirming church and go with them. Stand up against disparaging comments even when they are not around. Recognize that these actions may be uncomfortable for you and you may receive criticism.
  • Honour confidentiality. If your friend or family member in the Rainbow community has not made their identity public, it is not up to you to tell other people. Doing so could put them at great physical or psychological risk.
  • Find support for yourself. Don’t unload your fears and concerns on your 2SLGBTQIANB+ friend or family member. Chances are they are dealing with enough fears of their own. If you are having trouble understanding or accepting them, talk to someone who has had a similar experience, see a therapist or counselor familiar with the Rainbow community, or join a support group.
  • Consider your choices – who you vote for, where you do your business, and where you go to church. If you want to help make the world a more accepting and inclusive place, give your support to the places and people in leadership who are working towards that, too.