The LGBTQ movement has made some landmark strides in the past decade. The “Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell” policy was repealed, health insurance discrimination has been prevented, and same-sex marriage has been legalized nationwide. This, in combination with greater awareness and visibility of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in society and the media, has helped LGBTQ teens find the courage to come out to their families and friends.
Though it is easier for teens to come out today than in generations past, that does not mean they do not need support, and plenty of it. Here are a few important ways you can support LGBTQ teens in coming out:
1. Encourage Authenticity
There are different levels of coming out. Some teenagers may find the courage to say the words, yet still have a hard time fully expressing themselves. If left unchecked, this muted self-expression can lead to anxiety and depression down the road. Try to find ways to let young people in your life know they can be 100% authentic around you.
2. Help Create Safe Spaces
Take a look around your local community to see if there are safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. If not, what can you do to change that? You might want to consider contacting school board officials and encourage them to adopt inclusive policies. Another way to ensure your community is safe for LGBTQ teens is to not tolerate hate speech. There are also many resources online that offer the best practices in creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth.
3. Join the Fight
Though the LGBTQ movement has come a long way, there is still much that needs to be done to ensure full LGBTQ equality. You can join the fight and stay up-to-date on local, state and federal advocacy.
If you know an LGBTQ teen who needs some extra support and encouragement while coming out, you might suggest they speak with a professional counselor who can facilitate communication with family members and also offer coping tools and strategies.