As families gather for the holiday season, LGBTQ+ individuals and allies may be preparing to interact with relatives who have different opinions or questions about LGBTQ+ issues. This can lead to some challenging and potentially tense conversations, and we hope the following tips can encourage smooth conversations that lead to more abundant support of LGBTQ+ youth.
1. Prioritize safety
Is this conversation going to cause someone in the room to feel invalidated, attacked, or afraid? If so, have the conversation at a time and place where the person who will be negatively impacted does not need to be present.
2. Is there willingness to learn?
If someone is bringing up a topic for the sake of argument, and is not interested in changing their mind, the best tactic might be to redirect the conversation to something else.
3. Validate concerns – within reason
For many – if not most – people, the idea that there are more than two genders is very new. It’s a huge adjustment to make for many people, and directly threatens their understanding of the world and their role in it. This does not excuse hateful language or actions, but some validation that this conversation probably feels new and overwhelming can help de-escalate a conversation and allow the confused person to ask more genuine questions.
4. Center the most impacted
Even if someone doesn’t understand, doesn’t approve, or doesn’t believe that more than two genders exist, they probably still care about children. Put all the terminology, frameworks, and politicalization aside and focus on the fact that LGBTQ+ youth are struggling, and that there are proven ways to help. Share the statistics about suicidality, feelings of mattering to their community, depression, and assault. Focus on how adults can help support and protect these kids – no matter their personal opinions.
5. Take care of yourself
Remember this is culture change work, and does not happen in one conversation. Your mental health and wellbeing matter, and it can be helpful to take breaks, step away, call a friend, and take some time to decide if you want to come back to the same conversation.