This National Coming Out Day, an ambassador from Just Like Us walks us through the do’s and don’ts of showing up for the LGBTQIA community
BY KHUSHI BAJAJ
Love – whether platonic, familial, or romantic – is one of the best things in our lives but unfortunately, too many LGBTQIA folks have found rejection, sadness, and even abuse in places where they have hoped to be able to rely on it. Therefore, whether your loved one sits you down for a serious ‘coming out’ conversation or just happens to mention their orientation in the middle of a conversation, how you respond is extremely important in making them feel safe, respected, and seen. Not being queerphobic (or as I like to call it, being a decent human being) is the obvious first step, but it does not end there. There is a major difference between not being problematic and being an active ally. Here are a few things that you should and should not do if you’d like to show up as the latter:
DO: Understand that this is a significant moment for them
The first step to showing up as an ally for your loved one is learning to listen.
Do not rush them, do not try to complete their sentences, and do not be dismissive. Whether someone has been out to other people for years or this is the first time they are coming out to anyone, there is always at least a little bit of anxiety related to how the other person might respond.
If they are choosing to let you know something about themselves, they are looking to be loved for who they are, and not despite it. If someone comes out to you, you are blessed to have been trusted to get to know them a little better. You need to show that you understand that and that you intend to keep showing up for them.
DON’T: Make the moment about you
Please, for the love of all that is celestial, do not make this moment about you. Do not sigh at your son that you always wanted to walk your daughter down the aisle or ask your best friend if they are secretly into you, and don’t think of the existence of an LGBTQIA person in your life as a credential that makes you more progressive.
Our loved ones do NOT exist as satellites in our orbits, and when they talk to you about their light, your instinct should never be to stand in their spot. Instead of thinking about how you can be the main character in their journey, think about how now that you know more about them your relationship has even more space to love them in their entirety.
DO: Let them know they are loved and respected
Tolerating someone is not the same as loving them. If your loved one comes out to you and you say something like, “It’s okay, I don’t have a problem with LGBTQIA people”, that is NOT acceptance, it is simply the absence of a rejection. If you actually love this person, you need to say it either with your words or your actions when they come out to you. No, it is not always obvious, and no, it is not their responsibility to “know what you mean”. Say it, show it, and stand by it.
DON’T: Badger them with intrusive questions
Someone coming out to you is not an invitation to ask intimate questions or try to verify how queer they “really are” by your standards. No matter what you do, do not start treating your loved one like an exotic specimen when they come out to you instead of an actual human being who deserves respect and privacy. Understand that just because they have shared one bit of themselves with you does not mean that you are entitled to learn everything about them.
They might or might not want to share specific parts of who they are based on their comfort, personal journey, and safety at different times, so please respect that. After all, like most significant moments in the important relationships of our life, this one too is about love, kindness, and being seen.
DO: Understand how you should support them
When a loved one comes out, it is possible that they tell you their preferred name, their pronouns, and their labels. Make sure to always use them, and to ask them how else you can support them. Please make sure though that you ask this out of genuine kindness to understand their specific perspective of your relationship. Do not make it a habit to expect them to keep putting in emotional labour to educate you on ‘all things allyship’ so that you don’t have to put in any actual effort in educating yourself through research and social engagement.
Khushi volunteers as an ambassador for Just Like Us, the LGBTQIA young people’s charity. LGBTQIA and aged 18 to 25? Sign up here!
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