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  • Writer's pictureHeather Gibson, MA, LMFT

How to be an Effective Ally: 7 Steps to Support Your LGBTQ+ Loved One

Written by: Katie Mattea, AMFT


June, nationally recognized as Pride Month, provides us all with a beautiful opportunity  to recognize and celebrate the LGBTQIA+ folks in our lives. What’s more, this month reminds us of the continued discrimination and hardship your queer or trans loved ones may be facing in their lives. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 survey, queer and trans youth and LGBTQ+ folks of color experience a disproportionate amount of mental health struggles, including suicidality. While these results are disheartening, it uplifts me to write that you can make a difference by affirming, advocating for, and supporting those in your life who are part of the queer community. If this is unfamiliar territory to you, or you’re not sure how to start, that’s okay! I implore you to begin your journey as a true ally by taking these steps:


Listen and hold space


The first step you can take in supporting your LGBTQ+ loved one is to not take any steps! Or rather, this means taking a step back, opening yourself to someone, and truly hearing what they have to say. This small, yet powerful step is the first step towards creating safety, intimacy, and trust for someone who may not have those in other areas of their life. The key to supportive listening is just that! Listen, take in what they have to say, and hold space for them to share about themselves or their experiences safely and without judgment. 


Believe them!


If someone in your life says they are gay, they are gay. If someone in your life confides in you that they are trans, use their preferred name and pronouns. If someone describes their experience of discrimination, oppression, or injustice, believe them. If someone in your life is unsure of who they are, that’s also okay! You can provide affirming support to your loved one by offering them belief and respect over doubt every time.


Acknowledge and accept


Sometimes, the unfamiliar can be uncomfortable. If you’re someone who doesn’t have much experience supporting a queer or trans person in your life, you may have some preconceived notions and thoughts about the community. However, you are likely reading this article because you want to support your person, and one of the best ways to do that are to become aware of the biases you already have. I invite you to: 


1. Look inward, observing and accepting any biases or assumptions you already have. 


2. Be curious about where these biases come from, why they exist, how they have formed.


3. Shift these biases by making a conscious and intentional choice to think and/or act differently.


Learn and unlearn


Part of shifting your biases and learning more about the queer community means unlearning what you have likely been told or taught up to this point. This means unlearning the version of LGBTQ+ history, oppression, science, and legislation that has been made socially “palatable”  and taking the initiative to uncover the truth in data and facts. One way to do this is by learning directly from queer and trans activists, such as Schuyler Bailar, Christina H., Alok Vaid-Menon, and many, many more.


Compassion 


One widely misunderstood concept is that you have to understand someone to hold compassion for them. While knowledge would likely make this easier and learning about the community is also important, the truth is that your LGBTQ+ loved one likely needs your warmth, your kindness, and your compassion so much more than they need your understanding. At minimum, it would help to express things like “I see you”, “I hear you”, “Thank you for telling me”, and “I love you”. 


Ask and support


It is up to you to take the next step for your loved one. This means learning about the community, engaging in activism, and taking all the aforementioned steps listed above. However, when it comes to emotionally supporting your queer or trans person, they would likely appreciate the following question greatly: “How can I support you?” Answers may vary anywhere from simple love and listening, calling them by a new name or using their pronouns, offering them resources, or joining them in their fight for equality and justice. If you are ready to take that next step for your person, it is okay to ask them what they need from you in order to feel supported, affirmed, and celebrated not only this month, but always!


Mistakes


If you make a mistake in your journey towards supporting your loved one, such as misgendering someone or making an assumption, it is vital and incredibly helpful to simply apologize and move on. We are all flawed humans, it’s understandable. But it is advised to not center yourself if you make a mistake. Instead, it is best to quickly and sincerely take accountability, move on, and intentionally do better in the future. By not centering yourself when a mistake occurs, you uplift your loved one’s voice, center their experience, and support them in an open and safe way.


If you’ve made it this far, it is apparent that you are inspired to know more about supporting your loved one. Please know that this is not an exhaustive list! I encourage you to continue learning, unlearning, and holding safe and compassionate space for your queer or trans loved one. If you are needing more support in this journey, or you or a loved one having LGBTQ+ specific mental health needs, Positive Change would be proud and honored to help you further. To inquire or enroll in our services, please contact our administrative team at (619) 733-6414, info@pccounselingcenter.com, or fill out this form on our website. Happy Pride Month to all!





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