My loved one just came out to me as LGBTQ. Now what?
Congratulations! If your loved one came out to you, that probably means they hope you will accept their revelation and continue loving and supporting them as you always have.
You may have questions you feel uncomfortable asking your LGBTQ loved one (or they might not have the energy to explain the basics to you, because sometimes that feels like having to justify their existence - even when they know that's not your intent).
This little primer is meant to help you with some of the most common questions about gender, sexuality, and identity. It's not meant to be comprehensive, so feel free to use it as a springboard for any other questions you might have.
First of all, let's start with some definitions. The Genderbread Person is one of the best, simple explanations of how gender, sex, expression, attraction, and identity all intersect. If you're not LGBTQ, you likely haven't thought too deeply about these things, but it's actually a really great exercise for everyone. You can read this guide and use this little worksheet to make your own Genderbread Person!
Wait, aren't there only two sexes: Male and Female?
Certainly not, according to biology. Read this article from Scientific American to see how The Idea of 2 Sexes Is Overly Simplistic. Human beings are a beautiful spectrum of biological sex, gender identity, attraction, and social expression!
If you take a step back from trying to arbitrarily categorize people by guessing (or demanding) what's in their pants, you might (hopefully!) begin to wonder why that's even a necessary exercise. It should be okay for your loved one to live their life without all that extra scrutiny. In fact, there's zero evidence that trans people inhabiting the spaces consistent with their gender identity create any kind of danger for others. Quite the opposite: your LGBTQ loved one is 4 times more likely to be a victim of violence than your non-LGBTQ loved ones.
But scripture says...
If you're grappling with religious dissonance, please read "Five Things to Remember when the Bible is Used Against the LGBTQ+ Community."
This very gentle and thorough "Analysis of the Seven Scriptures Often Referred to as The Clobber Verses" will walk you through the misuse of Christian scripture against your LGBTQ+ loved ones.
How do I use the singular “they”pronoun? It doesn't feel right!
It can feel super awkward to modify your vernacular to keep up with the times. The APA style guide blog has a wonderful primer for singular they/them usage. You almost certainly already know how to do it - it's just that most of the time it's unconscious!
For further reading, enjoy "Singular “they” and the many reasons why it’s correct," a slightly snarky but very educated blog post from a postdoctoral scholar in the Language and Cognition Lab at Stanford University. Bonus points for C.S. Lewis and Biblical references!
I love my LGBTQ family; how do I support them?
This research-based pamphlet from the Family Acceptance Project offers basic information to help you support your LGBTQ loved ones, to reduce their risk for depression, suicide, substance abuse and to promote their well-being. Below is much of the same information in graphic form.
The bottom line is that unconditional love, acceptance, and support is essential for the wellbeing of every human being - espcially those who face the danger of a prejudiced society. If you are commited to truly loving your LGBTQ family member, there is no room for "Love the sinner, hate the sin" in your thinking or actions. And that's not just about your particular LGBTQ person (because of course you love them and won't say anything unsupportive to them), but the way you think of and refer to and interact with LGBTQ people in general shows your loved one the truth in your heart.
This might mean you're facing an enormous paradigm shift! This is an area where finding a qualified therapist could be very helpful. Your local chapter of PFLAG has a whole team of people ready to answer your questions and help you navigate your journey. Please be gentle with yourself as you untangle old beliefs, and ask your LGBTQ family member to be patient as you learn. It takes time to form new habits and remember new names/pronouns; you're going to mess up, no matter how earnestly you try. Let them know you're learning with love.