Though the world has made great strides over the years in its treatment and respect for LGBTQIA+ people, for many the world is still a difficult place to be in. LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual, with the plus sign representing the many other communities of people who identify with the overall movement.
Odds are, your LGBTQIA+ friends and family have experienced internal and external challenges over the years. The LGBTQIA+ community faces countless unique challenges, both on an individual level and on a greater scale, with legislature in several countries further having a negative impact on these communities.
Whether it’s a same-gender couple dealing with harassment in the street, a gay youth facing judgment from their family, or a trans person facing the very real struggle of gender dysphoria, it’s vital for us as friends and family to understand, empathize, and offer our support with these issues. Here are some key strategies to support your LGBTQIA+ friends and family who might be struggling.
1. Listen First
The first and most important thing to remember when supporting a friend, queer or not, is to listen closely to what they’re saying. Give them the space and the time to tell you about their experiences.
Growing up as a kid who knows that they’re different can be difficult, and they may have faced moments of negativity, great challenge, or even trauma as a result. On a day-to-day basis, they may deal with negative self-talk, guilt, or other difficult emotions. It’s important to hear your loved one out to ensure you understand what they’re going through.
2. Don’t Assume
Unless you’re a member of the community, it’s impossible to truly understand the experience of someone who falls under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella. Even if you’re educated on what challenges and mental health obstacles LGBTQIA+ people have experienced, don’t assume that these same obstacles automatically apply to your friend or family member. Ask questions, then listen to the answer.
3. Remember the Person
Related to the last point, it’s vital to remember that sexuality and gender expression are just one aspect of a person. Sometimes, in an effort to be accepting and accommodating, people may become laser-focused on sexuality or gender—in a positive way. While we should all strive to be radically accepting, remember to embrace and encourage all of the things that make that person special, from hobbies, to creativity, to career.
4. Lift them Up
Many LGBTQIA+ people struggle with low confidence and self-esteem as a result of discrimination and hiding their true identity. Take special care to uplift and celebrate your sex and gender-diverse friends and family. It might seem obvious to you how much you care for someone, however even small moments of compassion and kindness can go a long way in making a struggling person feel supported and connected.
5. Talk with Other Allies
It’s important to talk to other people with LGBTQIA+ people in their lives. This can offer perspective on the overall experience of being a friend and ally, as well as sharing insight between those who have supported people with similar challenges. If you’re a parent to an LGBTQIA+ child, for example, it can be very beneficial to talk to other parents who might be able to help guide you through the journey.
6. Educate Yourself
LGBTQIA+ people are disproportionately affected by mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD, bipolar disorder, and borderline personality disorder. If you know that a loved one is dealing with a specific mental health challenge, it’s a good idea to educate yourself more on their condition. This can help you understand the symptoms and signs, as well as provide tips for healthy coping mechanisms, supports, and other useful resources.
7. Stand Up
In an age where some people, groups, and even governments seek to strip rights and dignity from LGBTQIA+ people, it’s your responsibility to advocate for the people you care for. If you’re spending time with a trans friend (or someone is talking about them without their presence), politely correct people who use the wrong name or pronouns. If you hear someone casually using a homophobic slur, suggest some other words that don’t contribute to the oppression of humans. Aim for it to be a positive conversation—not a confrontation—whether you’re in the company of LGBTQIA+ people or not.
8. Keep an Eye Out for Resources
In your day-to-day life, you might stumble across resources, tools, and other support systems that may be useful for LGBTQIA+ people in your life. These might include workshops led by gender-queer people, events and celebrations for Pride, free counselling and therapy services for certain groups, and more. Seeking these out and passing them along can be a sign that you’re looking out for your loved one, ensuring they have access to everything they need to feel their very best.
Support for LGBTQIA+ at Hopewoods
Since 2011, Hopewoods has provided detailed, comprehensive, and highly personalized therapy and counselling services to Toronto’s Asian and Chinese communities. Many of our past clients have either been or become part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We offer a wide range of mental health services, each intended to help people at any stage of their journey.
Whether you’re facing a long-term, chronic mental health issue, or simply looking for support and guidance through a rough patch in your life’s story, we’re here to help. Our team will always take the time to get to know you, your challenges, and your goals in order to best support you.
Get in touch with us today if you would like to learn more about how we can help.