Happy Pride Month! Supporting the LGBTQIA community during this time and beyond is extremely important to us. We spoke to Dr. Lee Phillips, an award-winning psychotherapist and Certified Sex and Couples Therapist (CSCT) with over 13 years of experience about the coming out experience as well as ways that you can show your support for this community. Dr. Lee has created two very successful, safe, nonjudgemental, sex-positive, empathetic and warm practices in both NYC and Virginia, where he helps his clients achieve their goals. Using holistic approaches to treat the whole person and not just the symptoms, Dr. Lee has helped LGBTQIA populations and patients with depression, sexual challenges, anxiety disorders, trauma, bipolar disorder, substance use disorders, chronic pain, chronic illness, disabilities, and disease. He also offers advice on his Sex & Chronic Illness Podcastto connect with individuals all over the world. Keep reading to learn more about our interview with Dr. Lee.
Here’s How You Can Support the LGBTQIA+ Community During Pride Month and Beyond
If you are a friend or a family member of an LGBTQ person, it is important to ask questions, but do this through a curious lens with empathy. Coming out is not an easy process, and it is actually a lifelong process because we are always meeting new people and we find ourselves in continuous new environments. I recommend friends and families also join support groups. Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is an excellent organization where people can find support and resources.
Some friends and family members may want to attend a public pride event. This is a fantastic way to witness gay culture. Family and friends can also volunteer at several LGBTQ organizations. This can create a sense of closeness and education for family and friends. Family therapy can also be helpful for family members because they may find themselves struggling or adjusting. A therapist can help the family process their thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental and shame free environment with the hope they can eventually come to terms that their child or family member is finally happy for who they are and the courage that it has taken to come out.
How to Best Celebrate Pride if You Haven’t Come Out to Your Friends and Family
For people who are not out to their friends and family and they wish to celebrate pride, I recommend seeking information on the internet and exploring various websites about sexual orientation and pride. The Human Rights Campaign (HRT) has resources as well as the Pride Foundation. Online support groups are also helpful for those who are curious about pride and for maintaining confidentiality.
You do not have to attend a public event to have pride. Coming out does not necessarily mean you are completely coming out to the world. You can identify as an LBGTQ person and be yourself. In other words, just because you are not out to friends and family you can still possess confidence, self-respect, and solidarity about your own sexual identity by still celebrating gay culture and history. You can also attend a virtual pride event. The Equality Institute has a virtual gay pride event. Please visit The Equality Institute for more details.
Tips to keep in mind before coming out and the best ways to share it with others
Everyone is on their own coming out journey. It is important to trust those around you and to ask yourself if you are going to be supported. People often will come out to their close circle of friends first, and this may only be one or two people. Family can be difficult depending on the family dynamics and if you come from a conservative family. It is okay if you choose not to come out to your family. The goal is to feel safe. Family is often the first to love you and the first to judge you. There is a myth where people think that if you are proud of your sexuality, you need to come out to everyone involved in your life and that is not necessarily true. Coming out in various cultural contexts (at family and community levels) can be psychologically, emotionally, and/or physically dangerous to some people with multiple oppressions. If you choose to come out to your family and friends, here are some tips:
Give yourself some time to practice how you’ll do it and what you’ll say.
Identify the people or person in your life that you think will be the most okay with the news, and come out to them first. You can often get a sense of how friendly someone is to LGBTQ people by how they react when the topic comes up in conversation.
Do some research so that you have information about being LGBTQ in case your loved ones have questions. You may be more comfortable coming out by writing a letter or email rather than telling someone in person. That’s totally fine.
After you decide who you’ll come out to, what you’ll say to them, and how you’ll say it, be prepared to wait as they digest and accept the new information. Give them the time they need.
Don’t assume that everyone will react with prejudice … go in with an open mind. Some people may surprise you with their openness and acceptance, and many folks already know other LGBTQ people in their lives.