How to be a supportive ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community
If someone you know has come out to you as LGBTQ2S+, here’s how you can be an ally.
If your friend has just come out to you, you may be feeling many different things right now. You may be proud of them, shocked, confused, worried or upset. All of your feelings are OK and may change over time. It’s important to deal with your feelings and to be honest, but it’s also important to be respectful. If you want to be supportive of a friend who has just come out to you, one of the most important things you can do is say, “Thank you.” Thank that person for having the courage to share this part of themselves with you.
What do I say to them?
You may not know what to say to your friend right now, and that’s OK. In fact, you may want to say to your friend, “I don’t know what to say, but I still want to be your friend.” Knowing that you aren’t going anywhere and that you care about them will mean a lot to your friend.
What do I do now?
Your friend has trusted you with some important information. Show your friend support by respecting their decision to come out to you. Here are some other things you can do:
- Be there: make yourself available to help your friend. Listen if your friend needs to talk.
- Offer support: ask your friend what they need from you and how you can be supportive of them. Find out if your friend has come out to their parents/caregivers. If not, and if this is something your friend has decided to do, offer support while they face this potentially big task.
- Educate yourself: learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ2S+-identified people by talking to your friend or doing some research online.
- Stand up for others: LGBTQ2S+ young people are at a higher risk for bullying and harassment. It’s important to do your part to help your friend and others by standing up for them, if it’s safe to do so, and reporting bullying and harassment to a safe adult.
- Show respect: don’t “out” your friend to others. It’s your friend’s decision who and when they tell. Also try examining your own attitudes about sexual orientation (for example, do you use “that’s so gay” as an insult?). Show respect by using respectful language.
- Take care of yourself: if you’re struggling with the news that your friend is LGBTQ2S+-identified, talk to a safe adult or reach out to a Kids Help Phone counsellor.
- Know when to get help: if your friend is in distress, and you’re concerned about their well-being, it’s important to tell someone such as a counsellor, doctor or another safe adult. If you’re afraid of outing your friend, know that you can get help for them without sharing their sexual orientation with anyone. You can also call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.
I’m not sure I can accept that my friend is LGBTQ2S+-identified
If you’re struggling with accepting the news that your friend identifies as LGBTQ2S+, you may be feeling angry or even hurt. It can help to remind yourself that your friend isn’t different and you’re not different — the only thing that’s changed is you now know that your friend identifies as LGBTQ2S+.
Even if you don’t like what your friend told you, it’s important to respect their decision to tell you. By coming out to you, your friend showed a lot of courage, honesty and trust in you. If you respond to your friend with disapproval or anger, they may regret telling you and feel rejected. Keep in mind that LGBTQ2S+ young people are at a higher risk of suicide, in part, because of lack of acceptance. Acting non-judgmental will help your friend feel cared for as a person, even if you disapprove of their sexual orientation.
Will this change our friendship?
There may be big changes in store for your friend, but your friendship doesn’t have to change. Your friend still has all of the same qualities as before — identifying as LGBTQ2S+ doesn’t change that.
Another worry that people sometimes have is that their friend is coming out to them because they’re attracted to or in love with them. Just as you’re not attracted to every opposite-sex person you meet, your friend isn’t attracted to every same-sex person they meet, either. Unless they say otherwise, your friend probably feels the same way about you as you do about them — just friends.
My parent/caregiver is LGBTQ2S+-identified
It can be challenging to have a LGBTQ2S+-identified parent or caregiver, especially if you have not known their sexual orientation or gender identity all along. It’s important to talk to someone about your feelings such as a friend, guidance counsellor or another safe adult. Try to remember that a parent’s or caregiver’s sexual orientation or gender identity doesn’t affect how much they love you. It also doesn’t mean that you’ll be LGBTQ2S+ or that they’ll be disappointed in you if you’re not.
More info on LGBTQ2S+:
- LGBTQ2S+: What does it mean?
- On identifying as LGBTQ2S+ and coming out
- Stephen’s story on coming out
- 6 inspiring transgender icons
- Counsellor tips: What to expect at your first Pride
- How to be a supportive ally to the LGBTQ2S+ community
- Can’t make it to Pride? You can still be an ally.
- Puberty, transitioning and other important things to know
- Gender identity and gender expression