A Letter to Family and Friends
To our family and friends,
A question that I often get asked is how to be supportive when someone you love shares that they are questioning their gender or sexual identity or are coming out as LGBTQ+.
I am quoting the University of Michigan’s following message because it speaks what is in my heart about the coming out process: “Everyone does so differently. Many are confused and have questions. Some are relieved they know what’s been on their loved one’s mind. And others are hurt they weren’t told sooner. You may feel a mixture of all of these emotions and more. Regardless of how you’re feeling, it’s helpful if you can reassure your loved one that your care for them has not suddenly disappeared. Let them know you will try your best to support them through this process. It’s okay to tell them it could take some time to adjust” (https://caps.umich.edu/article/coming-out-tgnb).
It’s important to know that rejection, rather than acceptance, is something often spoken about by my students; and when telling their coming out stories, the one that has the most impact on them is most often their experience of coming out to their parents or guardians. If you are here on our webpage, it means that you are looking for ways to improve your understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community and/or to help your loved, whether in their coming process or in connecting them with the resources they need to navigate their journey. We thank you for being here and for wanting to make their journey an enriching one.
Parents, guardians, family, and friends have a crucial impact on the lives on LGBTQ+ individuals, especially our youth, and stable and supportive relationships are critical in maintaining one’s well-being. It’s important to know that the Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020 (ages 13-24) states that given our minority status and systemic discrimination, LGBTQ+ people are faced with higher risks of depression, trauma, anxiety, and other mental illness, which can easily accelerate into various other issues such as drug and alcohol addictions, self-harming, and even suicide. Aiding in this, nearly 30% of LGBTQ+ youth (ages 13-24) reported they have been kicked out, rendered homeless, or ran away because of their living conditions and parental/guardian treatment/rejection. The Trevor Project’s survey points out how safe spaces and social support and affirmation positively impacts the well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals.
This well-being starts at home, and it starts with you. The support of our friends and family is needed now more than ever and that’s why we’re here to help. Below you will find all the tools and resources needed for encouraging and supporting your child, your friend, your sibling, your grandchild, your niece/nephew/nibling, no matter their identity.
Best, Liz Cannon, PhD
LGBTQ+ Resource Center Director