I've recently had a few friends come out as being same-sex attracted and one friend come out as a trans guy (that means he was born with a female body but identifies as a male).
I was wondering if anyone had any suggestions for how I can best support these friends? I want them to know that I really care about them, that my friendship with them won't change because of this and that they can always talk to me if they want to.
With my trans friend, one thing I'm really proud of was when I saw him recently at an event, he was lingering around the disabled toilet, which was occupied. I assumed he was waiting to use that one because no one would judge him, and question his gender. I said to him, "Go on, you can do it!," and he walked into the male toilet like a boss. I was so proud of him, I can't imagine how hard it is to be trans. And I was proud of myself for noticing that he could use a little push in the right direction.
So, do you have any ideas of how we can support our LGBTIQ+ friends and family?
Good on you for encouraging your friend. I think doing what you're already doing, like being supportive and open, is great. I think that your friends will likely pick up on your supportive attitude and know that you will be there for them. If you want to emphasise it even more, you could always send them a message or have a chat to them.
Also, it can be good to keep in mind resources for people who are gender diverse. This link: http://au.reachout.com/find/articles/people-you-can-talk-to has some great resources for each state. So if you notice a friend is struggling, or if they just want some info, that link can be very useful. I live in WA and I know quite a few people who attend the Freedom Centre and I have heard good stuff about it.
I suppose with people who are always going to feel marginalised, I'm always going to feel like I could do more. I have friends that head down to the Freedom Centre too (it's in Perth for any one interested, http://freedom.org.au/) and they all rave about how much of an awesome support it is.
I've also tried really hard to start using more gender neutral names, for example, asking people if they have a partner as opposed to assuming a girl might have a boyfriend.
The other day I asked a friend if he had his eye on a girl, and then immediately pulled myself up and thought about how I shouldn't assume he was interesting in girls. I decided to use terms like 'anyone' and 'some one special' etc.
Does anyone else have any tips?
Has anyone had any good or bad experiences of coming out or having some one come out to them? How did you react?
I had a couple of friends who 'came out' in high school. The first told me (and a couple of other people) quite a while before she came out to everyone but although I didn't really know how to react I tried to show my support. By the time she came out to everyone no-one was surprised and no-one gave her shit for it. She was the first to do so in my year so she was pretty brave. The second came out with a "I don't care if you judge me" sort of attitude and she was respected for that.
Crikey deepbreath, all i can say is, I bloody well wish you were around when i was coming out!
You sound like are doing just the right thing to support your mates. I like the way you roll and i think you should just keep following your instincts as they have been spot-on so far.
I didn't come out until just after I left Uni. It took me quite a while to work myself out (I had to kiss a few girls first just to be sure I wasn't into them!!!) and even longer to get up the guts to be open about it. My experience was that nearly everyone I told was about a hundred times more supportive and loving than i thought they would be - and it made such a difference to have that support.
But if you want a few pointers - here are a few random thoughts that might help:
1. After you come out, you are still 95-99% the same person you were before you came out
I think a lot of straight friends worry about how to treat their newly out friends, but the best thing you can do is pretty much just say you are cool with it, you are here to support them, and just get on with being friends. There is no need to suddenly act differently around them - this will only make them feel less accepted.
2. Hang in there while they are settling in
Coming out is really only the first step of working out who you are when you are LGBT - so don't be surprised if your friends go through a bit of an identify crisis while they are getting comfortable in their own skin. It is a really confusing experience and having friends around that are happy to just hang in there with unconditional love while you are 'test-driving' this aspect of your identity is a true blessing.
3. Don't take gayness too seriously - sexuality is pretty funny, whoever you are attracted to
Be respectful and supportive, but don't forget to have a laugh. The best way to show people empathy is generally through humour. There will be a time not too far away when you have a good old laugh with your trans friend about the toilet incident - and that is a good thing. As long as you aren't making fun of them, having a giggle together about it all is probably the quickest way to make everyone feel completely comfortable again.
Ok that is enough of a rant from me. Stay gold DB!
PS. Do you peeps think it is getting easier to come out at school? I reckon shows like Glee must be really helping to make it a non-issue in a lot of schools - but not having been at school for a 'few' years now, I'd love to hear what you think.
Thanks for your support everyone.
Does anyone have any good suggestions for ways to ask a person about which pronouns they prefer you to use for them.
For example, if you can't tell if someone identifies as male or female, how you can you ask them what they'd like to be referred as, without offending them?