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How to Accept Someone Close to You Admitting They're Gay
If a close friend or family member has come out to you, you may be feeling a whole range of emotions. But if this is a relationship you want to hold on to, you will have to accept this person for who they are. By accepting your friend or relative without judgment or criticism, you'll be giving that individual the love and respect they deserve as a fellow human being.
Finding Ways to Be More Accepting
Recognize how it feels when others don't accept you.At some point in your life, you've probably felt unfairly judged or criticized by others. This may have been over your interests, your personality, or something you said/did. Now imagine how hurt your friend or relative would be if you rejected them based on something they had no control over.
- Put yourself in the other person's shoes. Being rejected over something so fundamental to your identity would be devastating, and you owe it to the people in your life to be kind.
- Nothing you say or do will change who your friend or relative is, but the way you treat that individual will make a world of difference to how they feel.
Practice radical acceptance, and remember it's not a choice.Radical acceptance requires you to completely accept someone the way they are, without any resistance or desire to change that person. The easiest way to do this is to remember that people do not chose to be gay; that individual was born with that sexual orientation, just as you were born with your own sexual orientation.
- Recognize that people are born with their sexual predispositions.
- Your friend/relative did not "choose" to be gay any more than you "choose" to be heterosexual.
Supporting Someone While They Come Out
Be supportive, no matter what.If you have any negative feelings about this individual being LGBT, keep them to yourself. It took a lot of courage and vulnerability for them to come out to you, and expressing any kind of disapproval would be a serious insult.
- Remember that even if you disapprove of this individual's orientation, you're not going to change anything.
- Expressing any kind of judgment or disapproval will only make your friend or relative feel hurt, and it may put a strain on your relationship in the future.
Thank them for trusting you.Your friend or relative probably only chose a few people to come out to at first, and they considered you someone worth telling. This is a huge sign of friendship and respect, and you should acknowledge it as such. Thank this person for feeling comfortable enough to tell you, and let him or her know that you value your relationship.
- Say something like, "I understand that it took a lot of courage to say that, and that you probably haven't told many people yet. Thank you for trusting me and opening up to me."
Show affection by giving them a hug.It may have taken your friend/relative a lot of courage to come out to you. They may have been nervous, as other friends or family members may have had negative reactions. Show this individual that you care about them by offering a hug and reaffirming your friendship.
Keep the line of communication open.This individual may have more things they want to talk to you about, such as other friends' or family members' reactions. You owe it to them to be there and listen if and when these (and other) issues come up in conversation.
- Don't force them to talk about things if they don't want to.
- Let them know that you're always there if they want to talk, and leave it at that.
Be an advocate so others in your life can come out to you.You may have other friends or relatives who are gay but feel afraid to come out to their peers. By consistently showing support for LGBT individuals and speaking out against homophobia, the people in your life will know that they can trust you and feel comfortable coming out to you, too.
- Talk about current issues like marriage equality.
- If you hear anyone use the word "gay" in a derogatory way or say any hateful slurs, speak up and tell that person it's not okay to say those things.
Being a Good Ally
Identify and abandon any stereotypes or biases you may hold.Even if you're not overtly homophobic, there's a chance you may have adopted certain biases or stereotypical images of LGBT individuals. Those biases/stereotypes may have come from the media, from other friends, or even from family members, but they're inherently offensive and inaccurate.
- For the sake of your friend/relative, and to better yourself as a person, educate yourself on being LGBT.
- Remember that it's insulting to make generalizations about LGBT individuals, just as it would be insulting to make generalizations about any group of people.
- Treat them as an individual and respect their personhood.
Learn and use the correct vocabulary.There are many different terms used in the LGBT community, and your friend or relative may ask you to use certain terms while refraining from the use of others. Consider this a basic human courtesy, as it would be very insulting to refer to any other person you know by a name or term they didn't prefer.
- Many LGBT individuals use the term "queer" as an identifier of their sexuality. It should not be used to mean "weird" or "abnormal," as many LGBT individuals find these outdated uses of the word offensive.
- If you're not sure what terms are preferred, simply ask your friend or relative which words to use and which words to avoid.
Treat them the way you've always treated them.Remember that at the end of the day, nothing has changed between the two of you. They've conveyed a deep trust for you, and you should be accepting and appreciative of that trust. However, just as you shouldn't challenge your friend or relative's sexual orientation, you should also avoid going to the opposite extreme, like defining your friend as "your gay friend," for example.
- Treat them like you would treat any other friend or family member. Acknowledge and respect this individual's orientation, but don't define them by it.
Speak up when others are mean or homophobic.Depending on the culture you live in, your friend or relative may be subject to ridicule, name-calling, or even threats/acts of violence for being gay. If you witness anyone engaging in homophobic behavior, you should speak up for this person and stand by them in solidarity.
- Standing up for your friend/relative doesn't mean engaging in acts of violence, as this will not help anyone.
- Speak up and be an ally by telling others that it's offensive and ignorant to use homophobic slurs.
- Try to educate others and remind them that LGBT individuals deserve the same decency and respect that all people deserve.
Offer to tag along to an LGBT organization meeting or event.Your friend/relative may want to attend an organizational meeting or event geared toward LGBT identity and orientation. If you feel comfortable doing so, offer to go with this individual if they're nervous about attending for the first time. You'll be showing support while also educating yourself in the process.
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