Today’s families are increasingly diverse. That’s why we need to make an extra effort to be sure that all family members, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, feel accepted, valued, and supported.

For LGBTQ+ individuals, family acceptance and support can and will significantly impact well-being and overall quality of life. It’s common knowledge that LGBTQ+ individuals who’ve been shunned by family members, parents in particular, generally suffer greatly from the effects of rejection, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.

Creating a more inclusive and supportive environment within families not only strengthens and eases relationships but also promotes equality and respect for all. Often, however, misunderstandings about sexual preference and old notions about homosexual or queer tendencies or lifestyles can ruin these relationships.

That’s why it’s so important for families to learn how to foster inclusivity and support for LGBTQ+ family members. Just a little knowledge could actually save a life and, certainly, could salvage an important relationship.

Educate Yourself

The first step in creating a more inclusive environment is to educate yourself about LGBTQ+ identities, experiences, and challenges. Take the time to learn about different sexual orientations, gender identities, and the issues that LGBTQ+ individuals face, including discrimination and prejudice.

Resources such as books, articles, documentaries, and online forums can provide valuable insights and perspectives. In addition, organizations such as PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) have been around for decades and eagerly offer educational materials to those who need to develop a better understanding of their queer family members. Chapters are located throughout the country.

Open Communication

Encourage open and honest communication within your family. Create a safe space where LGBTQ+ family members feel comfortable expressing themselves without fear of judgment or rejection. Listen actively, validate his/her/their feelings, and be willing to learn from their personal experiences. Avoid making assumptions and listen carefully to what is said. Using language that may be hurtful or offensive is destructive, so keep that out of the mix.

Respect Pronouns and Identities

These days, we hear a lot about using an individual’s preferred “pronouns”. These can be confusing but, for many queer individuals, these pronouns are super important, so respect the chosen name and pronouns of LGBTQ+ family members. Become accustomed to addressing all of your family members by their preferences. This demonstrates acceptance and validates their gender identity.

If you’re unsure about someone’s pronouns, don’t hesitate to ask respectfully. Just making this effort lets your family members know that they matter.

Advocate for Equality

Take a stand against discrimination and advocate for LGBTQ+ rights within your family and community. This might be hard for you. We’re always so worried about what others may think, but if you’re truly supportive of queer rights, you’ll take a stand.

This doesn’t have to mean going to protests or doing anything radical. However, you can start by speaking out against homophobic or transphobic comments and behaviors within your circle of friends or family. You can support initiatives that promote equality and inclusion for all and withhold support for businesses that preach anti-queer rhetoric. By actively challenging discrimination, you help create a more accepting and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ family members.

Celebrate Diversity

Embrace the diversity within your family and celebrate LGBTQ+ identities and achievements. Attend Pride events, participate in LGBTQ+ cultural activities, and show your support in visible ways. By celebrating diversity, you send a powerful message of acceptance and inclusion to LGBTQ+ family members and the broader community.

Provide Emotional Support

The life of a queer individual can be challenging, especially for those who clearly exhibit queer characteristics that are judged by others on the outside. As a cis-gendered family member who is determined to make a difference, you need to offer unconditional love and support to LGBTQ+ family members, especially during challenging times. Be there to listen, offer guidance, and provide reassurance when needed. Validate their feelings and experiences and let them know that you are there for them.

Create Inclusive Traditions

Incorporate LGBTQ+ inclusive traditions and celebrations into your family gatherings and traditions. For example, acknowledge Pride Month, celebrate important LGBTQ+ holidays, and include LGBTQ+ themes, like rainbows, in your family events and activities. These may seem trite, but by making inclusivity a central part of your family culture, you reinforce acceptance and support for LGBTQ+ family members.

Seek Support Networks

If you are struggling with any of this, consider connecting with LGBTQ+ support networks and organizations that provide resources and assistance for families. These networks can offer valuable guidance, education, and community support for both LGBTQ+ individuals and their families. By participating in support groups and events, you can gain insights, share experiences, and build meaningful connections with others who understand your journey.

You might also consider individual counseling, especially if you find you are resisting ways to connect to your queer family members. A counselor can assist you in sorting out your feelings and doubts.

Be Patient and Flexible

Creating a more inclusive and supportive environment takes time and effort, especially if family members have been resistant thus far. Be patient with yourself and your family as you navigate this journey together. Stay open-minded, be willing to learn and grow, and adapt to the evolving needs of LGBTQ+ family members. Remember that change is a process, and every small step towards inclusivity makes a difference.

Indeed, fostering inclusivity and support for LGBTQ+ family members is essential for creating a more loving, accepting, and respectful family environment. By educating yourself, practicing open communication, respecting identities, advocating for equality, and providing emotional support, you can create a safe and affirming space where all family members feel valued and accepted for who they are.

Sometimes, taking advantage of family counseling is a smart step towards achieving these goals. Dr. Ellie Bolgar and her associates are well-versed in the challenges of creating a diverse, accepting household and can help you take the necessary steps towards creating a more peaceful and cohesive family unit, regardless of sexual orientation. For more information on scheduling a family counseling session, call 604-371-0198.