As we grow and develop, so does our awareness of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression. Some youths are sure of one, or both at a young age, while others may need to explore them as part of normal development. This can be ongoing and does not follow a specific timeline.
As you think about and experience your gender identity and sexual orientation, it’s normal to feel lost sometimes. It is common to feel alone or scared when you’re having these feelings. Consider reaching out to people who care about you and can understand what you’re going through. You’re not alone and there are people who might be able to help you.
Who can help if I’m struggling with issues around my sexual orientation or gender identity?
-Parents, guardians, or other trusted adult family members -Close friends and their parents - Other LGBTQ young people, in your community or online - Your doctor -Your school’s Gay Straight Alliance -A supportive teacher, school counselor, or coach -A mental health professional -A minister, rabbi, priest, or spiritual mentor who you know is LGBTQ friendly
How can I help support my LGBTQ friends and family?
Being an ally is about supporting equal rights and justice for LGBTQ people. Allies help friends know they aren’t alone and have someone standing by them and for them.
How to be a good ally:
Educate yourself. To understand what is affecting your friends, learn about what LGBTQ people have experienced historically. Take the initiative to find out through books, videos (YouTube), personal blogs and more.
Listen closely. One of the most important things you can do is listen to as many people in the community as possible. Listening to a varied group of voices is one way to understand the issues that affect the people you care about.
Don’t make assumptions. You cannot tell what a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation is just by looking at them. Don’t assume that you know (unless you already know them). DO assume there could be LGBTQ people everywhere that you go. Believing that everyone around you is cis/straight does not help LGBTQ people.
If you see something, say something. Bullying or offensive language is hurtful. If you witness this, say something. Anti-LGBTQ comments and jokes should not be tolerated. Speak up to your friends, family, or co-workers and let them know that you find such talk offensive. If you see a young person being hurt or bullied because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, let an adult who can help know.
Never “out” someone. People need to come out in their own way and on their own terms. Do not tell someone that a friend is LGBTQ without their permission…ever. This will break trust and possibly endanger them. In some situations, they may be at risk for homophobic bullying and violence if people find out they’re gay or trans.
If you or someone you know would benefit from a safe space, extra support, and validation, we have LGBTQ+ friendly clinicians on staff.
Written by Amy Silf, LCSW