Do you know someone who’s queer or gender diverse, or who you think might be questioning their sexual or gender identity? Showing that you love and care about them is really important. Acknowledge their courage and keep giving them support. There’s no secret formula with how to deal with someone close to you coming out as queer & gender diverse – listen to them, respect their boundaries and treat them like you would any other friend.
If a person you care about shares with you their queer or gender diverse identity, it doesn’t mean they are looking for you to have all the answers, only that they trust you and are looking to you for support and understanding.
There are lots of questions that people ask when their child, friend or any person they know and care about share with them their queer or gender diverse identity. We have provided some useful resources that may help to answer any questions or clear up any confusion.
Remember that the RainbowYOUTH drop-in centre is also a place for the friends and family of queer and gender diverse youth. We have extra resources and friendly staff you can talk to. If you’re not in Auckland, you can give us a call on (09) 376 4155 or email us on [email protected]
SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE
Showing that you still love or care about someone you know who may feel they could be queer or gender diverse can sometimes be tricky, but is vitally important. Here’s some advice:
- Don’t be offended if they don’t tell you right away. Sometimes people need time to work it through themselves first.
- Reassure them that it’s normal to question things about themselves. Tell them they are not alone. Respect that this confusion might not merely be a phase, and treat your loved one accordingly.
- Treasure the fact that they have shared this information with you – being on that level of trust with your loved one is a thing that can bring you closer together, and respecting that trust and their privacy is crucial.
- Using labels can sometimes be a damaging thing to a queer or gender diverse person, who might not be completely comfortable with the baggage that some of the more common terms (such as gay, lesbian, bisexual etc) carry. There’s no need to try and define your loved one under a certain term, just make sure they feel good about themselves and their decision to share with you.
- Investigate wider queer and gender diverse culture that your loved one shares with you, this will keep communication open, honest and informed.
- Help identify key people who will react positively, such as a teacher, parent or guidance counsellor. Support them to tell these people first.
- Help your loved one source support from professional organisations as well. Check out our groups to help your loved one find one that suits them. You can also accompany them to the groups if they are nervous on their first visit. There are also many services providing free and confidential phone and online counselling.
- Be accepting of their new friends/partners in the same ways you would be for anyone else.
- Remember that your loved one won’t just ‘come out’ once. As they move through life they’ll constantly be meeting new people and sharing their identity, and they may still experience negative responses. Acknowledge their courage, and keep giving them support.
- Give yourself time to adjust to the information that your loved one has shared with you. It’s okay to feel negative emotions, just make sure that you process your feelings in a way that doesn’t harm your loved one.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this could be directly to your loved one or via the internet, or someone else you know. Be honest with your loved one if you are at a loss, or confused – they will be most appreciative of your openess and your willingness to learn.
- Seek out others who have gone through something similar. If you know other queer or gender diverse people, or their loved ones, it can be good to listen to their experiences and any advice that they have to give. While doing this, it’s still important to make sure that your loved one feels comfortable with you sharing what they have told you. If they are not, you can always seek advice in a way that protects your loved one’s identity.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. If you make mistakes, or don’t know everything you feel you should – don’t stress too much. Apologise to your loved one, own your mistake and move on.
- Get support for yourself. Talk to someone you trust, a councillor or check out this support group for the parents of queer & gender diverse youth: Holding Our Own.