While Dutee Chand’s Family Did Not Stand By Her, Here Are 8 Ways You Can Support A Loved One Coming Out

Posted: May 21, 2019
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Dutee Chand’s family has publicly spoken about their displeasure with her relationship with another woman, showing that in spite of Section 377 being struck down, there is still a long way to go.

When sprinter Dutee Chand revealed recently that she is in a romantic relationship with a woman, she received many messages of congratulations. In a conservative society like India, the act is truly revolutionary.

Activist Harish Iyer was quick to point out that in being the first sportsperson in India to come out of the closet, she had created Herstory.

In a world obsessed with HIStory and ridden with the banr misogyny and patriarchy it is important to note that the sportsperson coming out movement is led by HERstory.

— harish iyer (@hiyer) May 19, 2019

Unfortunately, her own family has rejected her. Her sister has threatened to expel her from the family and send her to jail. Her mother too has spoken out against Dutee. This reaction from her family is a stark reminder of the fact that even though Section 377 no longer criminalizes homosexuality, there is still a huge struggle that lies ahead for the LGBTQIA community in India. Hate and ignorance must yet be defeated.

Even for those who are in theory supportive of LGBTQIA rights, a loved one suddenly coming out of the closet can be a disconcerting, confusing experience. The process of revealing ones sexuality can be a stressful and emotional process for the person coming out as well. Needless to say, it is a situation that needs to be responded to with great sensitivity and empathy.

So, what is the best way to respond when someone close to you comes out?

For those who want to be supportive of loved ones who are coming out and don’t know how, here are a few guidelines.

Be respectful of their courage

Remember that as difficult as this moment may be for you, it is much more difficult for your loved one. They have shown immense courage and great trust in you by sharing their truth with you. Be respectful of that. Thank them for telling you.

It is not about you

It is easy in the moment to ask, “How could you do this to me?” or to say, “I always thought you were gay/lesbian.” However, saying so would make the conversation about you or your feelings. And while your feelings are important, at the moment it is more important to talk about how your loved one is feeling.

Keep your religious beliefs away

You may have religious convictions about homosexuality. However this is not the time to share them with your loved ones. What they need in the moment is acceptance and love. Tell them that you love them.

They are the same person you love

Remember that this is the same person that you knew and loved before they came out to you. Their sexual orientation/gender identity is only a part of who they are. They have not changed, nor has your relationship with them. You just know them a little better now.

Support them the way they need

Ask them about how you can best support them and what they need from you and listen when they tell you.

Maintain their confidentiality

Ask them about how confidential their sexual orientation/gender identity is. You may be the first person they are telling, or they may have told others before. In either case, maintain their confidentiality, and don’t make their sexuality a topic of conversation/gossip. If you feel the need to discuss your own feelings about their coming out, do so only with a therapist who will also keep your conversation private.

Show support visibly

In the days following their coming out show your support for them visibly, by calling them/checking in on them frequently. Continue to do activities together that you did before they came out to you. Include their partner in plans (parties/outings) as well, the way you would include their other friends. Don’t let your loved one feel alone/isolated.

Educate yourself

Educate yourself. Learn more about the LGBTQIA community. Knowing more about this part of their life will help you to support them and keep you connected.

This list is by no means complete or comprehensive. These are merely guidelines. Ultimately, it is up to you to find a way to communicate your love and understanding.  At the end of the day, all that anyone wants is acceptance.

Author’s Note: The term ‘coming out’ as used in this article refers to a LGBTQIA person revealing their sexual orientation or gender identity. The writer herself identifies as heterosexual, and has written this piece from the perspective of a cishet loved one of someone coming out. She is open to corrections/suggestions with regards to the content above.

Image source: YouTube & Pixabay

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Vijayalakshmi Harish is a book blogger and writer. To paraphrase her librarian, she is a

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