Nick Guillory is a self-made entrepreneur currently running his own social media agency. He also serves as a social media consultant to the Human Rights Campaign.

Coming out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community is a deeply personal and courageous journey for folks. So having people they trust to support them along the way is vital. I remember coming out to my parents and it being a complete shit show. But I was glad I did it, and I found that it’s essential for the people surrounding you to have a supportive and understanding vibe! It’s especially helpful to have someone in the community to relate to and get guidance from. In honor of National Coming Out Day, I’m sharing tips for friends and family members on how to create a safe and empowering space for your loved ones as they navigate their coming out process.

Tip 1: Show unconditional love and acceptance.

They could be feeling sad or alone, so show them that you value and support them, and their decision to come out. Grab their hand and let them know that everything is going to be alright! Remind them that you will always support their happiness and mental health because the journey can take its toll.

Tip 2: Allow them their space.

Not everyone wants to be bothered. I know for me, I often wanted to be by myself. Everyone’s different, so don’t just assume one way or the other—and feel free to ask! If they ask for space, respect their need for privacy and allow them to share their journey on their terms. 

Tip 3: Share your experience.

It can be a real comfort to have someone who’s been there before. When relevant, share your experience and what you learned from it. It can be a useful tool for people when looking for guidance during their coming out journey.

Tip 4: Recognize that everyone’s experience is different.

It’s important to know the difference between sharing your experience and pushing your method. Everyone’s circumstances are different, so recognize that your experience may be different from what they’re going through. If your loved one seeks advice, be sure to let them know that coming out is a unique experience for everyone. Come from a place of encouragement and let them know that it’s okay to explore their own path. We’re all different, at the end of the day.

Tip 5: Educate yourself.

Don’t expect the person to teach you anything. We all have access to a wealth of information. Do the work and learn about the LGBTQ+ community—even if you’re a part of it!—and the terminology, particularly the terminology the person coming out is comfortable with. Take the burden off of them by educating yourself and others.

Tip 6: Connect them with support networks.

It can help to have an outside perspective during the coming out journey. Offer to assist your loved one in finding a community outside of just friends and family where they can connect with others who share similar experiences. Suggest LGBTQ+ support groups or online communities you’ve heard of or have a personal experience with. These spaces can provide valuable support and guidance from individuals who have been through similar challenges.

Tip 7: Celebrate milestones and achievements.

Recognize and celebrate your loved one’s milestones, whether it’s their first LGBTQ+ event, a new relationship, or even small steps towards self-acceptance. Show your appreciation for their journey and make them feel valued and loved. 

Supporting a family member or friend during their coming out process is an invaluable gesture that can make a tremendous difference in their life and journey. By creating a safe, inclusive environment and offering understanding and unconditional support, you can help your loved ones feel seen, accepted, and loved. On this National Coming Out Day—and every day— let’s stand in solidarity and support all those who are taking courageous steps towards living life as their authentic selves.