Maria Pătcaș XI B
Being a teenager implies exploring yourself, your thoughts, what you like, who you love, and finding out more about your own person rather than discovering the outside world. It is a time of self-reflection, of creating a certain balance between your mind and your surroundings and building the base of the adult you’re about to become further in life.
Adolescence also includes finding your circle of friends, your values and goals, and maybe even falling in love, but regardless of who you thought you have been your whole life, this special time in one’s life will hit like a hurricane.
Nowadays, the internet is also an essential component of personal development. News after articles after millions of pieces of information regarding almost every matter from this universe can be found there. It helps young people find information about aspects they hadn’t even considered being applicable to themselves, but also it connects them with others that are going through the same experience and helps them find comfort.
Sexual orientation and gender identity play a crucial part in an individual’s life. They can both be described by a spectrum, them not being set in stone or predefined or an exact matter. It depends on each person and each experience is different, similar to fingerprints. Every single individual is unique, proven by its DNA. Every person and their identity is valid and needs to be treated with seriousness and belief, and support, BUT this support is often confusing because you might not know how to give it.
For example, your best friend just told you that they are pansexual. They look scared, wishful to see a pleasant reaction, anxiously awaiting your embrace. You, on the other hand, have no idea how to approach the situation. You might find yourself behind a barrier of education regarding this topic or maybe you come from a homophobic household which has taught you to hate and spread loathe for these people, but deep inside, you still want to be there for your friend no matter what.
Education and Terms
Firstly, if you don’t necessarily know what a term means, you can simply go ahead and ask for a clarification, which will show them your interest in what they said or you can skip this part and read about it on your own time. Here, you can find some of the terms related to the LGBTQ+ community, explained: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms, so if you have any questions, check it out, because it might help.
Afterwards, it is extremely important to show that your relationship with them will stay the same and nothing of big proportions will change. Many people who identify themselves with a different sexuality than heterosexual or a different gender identity than the one which was assigned to them at birth are scared of being treated differently than before coming out. Thus, reassurance is the key to establishing a connection of mutual appreciation and support with many people from the community. We’ve also asked some members of the LGBTQ+ community about their thoughts regarding this point of view and they also suggested maintaining a normal environment and state between you and your friend who came out to you and try not to make the situation weird and invalidate their feelings.
That point leads us to the third piece of advice, which represents: expressing your validation of their emotions, regardless of sexuality or gender. People within the community often fear to label or simply don’t know what they truly are, who they represent in this society, but feel that they don’t necessarily identify the same way as “cis-het” individuals. Even if they know and have found a true definition of themselves, it can be confusing and pressuring to label and on top of that, also report it to others. With that being said, telling them that their experience is valid is a thoughtful, wise thing to do.
Lastly, if both of you are okay with it, you can try a simple hug to end the stress and anxiety, let your friend or acquaintance know your intentions and feelings towards what just happened and provide them with a shoulder to cry on if necessary.
If you are a parent and your child comes to you and decides to talk about their sexuality or gender, try to be as supportive as possible as well. We know that different generations come with different mindsets and beliefs, but from a parental point of view, it is your duty to love and care for your kid regardless of these things. Sexuality and gender are there for everyone and no matter how different you think they will be treated when coming out and loving who they truly want to love. One of the most important things for these children is their parents’ opinion and care.
It is unbelievable that so many young people from the community have to suffer the costs of coming out by homelessness, abuse, conversion therapy, and so many other punishments for being yourself. A study from the US shows that 46% of homeless youths from the LGBTQ+ community ran away because of their family’s rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 43% were forced out by parents and 32% faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home. Often people blame their hate on religion, stating that it is immoral to be a part of the community, and come to the solution of therapy to brainwash their children into thinking they are cisgender and straight, or abuse them. All things considered, parents should represent one of the main sources of support, love and care that can be given to their children, no matter the situation and circumstances.
Altogether, these were some simple ways of showing your support and understanding towards a person who came out to you. There are so many other ways to help the whole community by signing petitions, educating others, and such, but caring for the person in front of you who might be struggling is the first and most important thing you can do!
We hope this article helped you find ways to show care for your LGBTQ+ friend! If you are reading this and struggling with being in the community, we are always here to listen to your concerns and help as much as possible!
Stay safe and take care!