LGBT Mental Health

10 Ways To Support A Loved Who Is Questioning Their Sexual Orientation Or Gender Identity

Last time, we gave tips on what to do if a loved one explicitly comes out to you. But what should you do if your child, close friend, or sibling “sort of” comes out to you? By this, we mean they are not really sure if they are gay, straight, or something else entirely, and they don’t know what to do about it. Chances are they are feeling scared, confused, and afraid of losing your love or friendship, but at the same time are in need of a sounding board. 

“Being queer is a struggle,” says Venue Aves, Punong Babaylan (Head Shaman) of the U.P. Babaylan, the longest-existing LGBTQI student organization in the Philippines and in Asia. “This is why it’s important to be a safe space for queer people, especially if they are questioning, because research shows that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community are more vulnerable to developing mental health problems — including suicidal ideation — because of the problems that arise from society’s prejudice and non-acceptance of them.”

Here are some ways you can support a loved one who is questioning their sexuality or identity: 

“How they arrive at or express their sexuality is a journey; their identity does not have to be pinned down or labelled right away.”

Venue Aves, Punong Babaylan (Head Shaman) of the U.P. Babaylan
  1. Explicitly assure them that your relationship will not change. This is the most basic way that you can support your loved one. Say you love them, that they’re still your BFF, that you think nothing less of them. “The support and reassurance has to be explicit because more often than not, the one who is questioning will be afraid that your relationship will change or become complicated by their confession,” Venus says. “By being clear and affirming with support and encouragement that is unconditional, you allow your questioning loved one to express what they really feel.”
  2. Thank them for their trust. Even if your loved one knows that you’re an ally, verbalizing their fears can still be a really intense experience that takes strength and courage. Thanking your sibling, friend, or child shows that you honor this courage as well as the trust that they have for you.
  3. Don’t force them to come to a decision. Pushing them into a “gayer” or “straighter” direction — even if your advice is well-intended — puts undue pressure on the one who is questioning. Instead give them room to figure things out on their own. “How they arrive at or express their sexuality is a journey; their identity does not have to be pinned down or labelled right away,” they point out. 
  1. Listen more than you talk. Even if you are curious, questions like “Are you sure?” or “What if you’re just confused?” only adds to the pressure and complicates an already sensitive issue. If you must ask, ask what help or support your loved one needs from you. Otherwise, just listen, nod along, or be a shoulder to lean on. 
  1. Accept the fact that you cannot do everything. “Even if you are a safe space, the rest of society may not be,” they explain. “So if you can, ensure that your questioning loved one has access to support groups outside of your trusted circle.”
  2. Educate yourself. Do your best to understand the reality of being a member of the LGBTQ+ community. “Learn about Sexual Orientation, Gender Equality, Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC),” they say. “Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch shows that show the experiences of LGBTQ+ people. These are all readily available online.”
  3. Educate others. If you follow social media accounts that promote LGBTQ+ equality, repost their content. “If your partner or parents are struggling with your child or sibling coming out or questioning, make the effort to talk to them and remind them that their loved one is still the same person and your love should not change,” they advise.
  4. If a close co-worker is the one who is questioning, strive to make the company more inclusive and accepting of diversity. “Petition your manager or HR department to invite organizations like U.P. Babaylan to give talks on SOGIESC, which can lead to the formulation of diverse and inclusive policies and make your workplace a safe space for queers and questioning individuals,” they suggest.
  5. Check-in on them regularly. “It’s really scary not to be straight, so communicate with your loved one often to make sure they are okay and to assure them that you are there if they need anything,” they explain. 

Refer them to a mental health professional if — and only if — your loved one has a history of mental health concerns or is displaying signs of depression, anxiety, or suicidal ideation. “But do not tell them to talk to a psychologist solely because they are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity because homosexuality and transgenderism are not medical illnesses that need to be treated,” they add.  

  1.  Respect their privacy. Just because your loved one is processing their sexuality with you does not mean they want to be out to the rest of your family or friends, or even plan to be. Even though your intentions may be good (i.e. you want to be the one to tell your parents to spare your sibling the fear and anxiety), always ask your loved one first if that is what they want you to do. Outing someone who is LGBTQ+ without their permission can damage relationships or put them in awkward situations that they are not prepared for. 

It is important to create an inclusive environment for everyone. By simply affirming, supporting, and respecting your loved one’s questioning thoughts and feelings, you can already make a difference in their lives. 

If you are a queer person or know someone who is questioning, Balur Kanlungan ( is an online wellness community for LGBTQI+ youth in the Philippines and provide avenues for members of the community to be exposed to the LGBTQI rights movement.

For those who want to talk to mental health professionals, MindNation offers 24/7 teletherapy sessions with licensed psychologists and WellBeing Coaches. Rest assured that all conversations will be kept secure and confidential. Book a session now through FB Messenger or email [email protected].


LGBTQ+ Facts vs. Myths

Even though there is now increased awareness about sexual orientation, gender identity, expression, and sex characteristics (SOGIESC), many myths and misconceptions, about lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers (LGBTQ+) still abound. This misinformation cause members of the LGBTQ+ community to face stigmatization, discrimination, and harassment, leading them to experience mental health concerns like depression and anxiety at higher rates than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. 

We asked Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY) to provide the straight facts to the 8 most common myths and misconceptions applied to our LGBTQ brothers and sisters.

“Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders.”

Amber Gonzales Quiban, Director for Policy and Campaigns of the Philippine Anti-Discrimination Alliance of Youth Leaders (PANTAY)

Myth #1: LGBTQ+ people are just going through a phase/experimenting/confused.

Fact: This misconception is especially prescribed to adolescents, as they are labeled as “misguided” and “confused” for feeling and/or experiencing a sexual attraction to someone of the same sex, both sexes, or for identifying with a gender different than the one assigned to them at birth.  But decades of research have shown that being an LGBTQ+ individual is an identity; it is a part of who they are and not a choice, lifestyle, or phase that someone grows out of. 

“If it were a phase or we were just experimenting, then it would have been an easier choice to just choose to be straight and not have to face the stigma and discrimination that comes with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community,” Amber explains. “But being gay, bixesual, or transgender is who we are, it is our reality.”

Myth #2: LGBTQ+ people are mentally ill; if they receive therapy, they will be cured.

Fact: Although homosexuality and transgenderism were once thought to be mental illnesses or diseases, both the World Health Organization and the American Psychiatric and Psychological Associations have declassified them as such. The WHO even went on to emphasize that homosexuality is a natural and non-pathological variation of human sexuality.

Furthermore, studies have proven that psychiatric attempts to “cure” lesbians and gay men are not only unethical and inhumane, they have failed to change the sexual orientation of the patient. “Conversion therapies cause more harm than good because the trauma that the person experiences can lead to the development of mental illnesses like anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders,” Amber points out.  

Myth #3: They became LGBTQ+ because they were brought up the wrong way.

Fact: There are no studies that show that children from dysfunctional families are more likely to grow up to gay, bisexual, or transgender any more than children who were raised in loving homes. 

Additionally, many scientists and researchers have studied a variety of reasons that may contribute to a specific sexual orientation or gender identity, including genetics and environmental influences. To this day, there is no consensus that sexual orientation or transgenderism is determined by any single factor or even a combination of factors.

“No one is raised to become gay,” Amber reiterates. This is why when LGBTQ+ members are asked  “When did you choose to be gay/lesbian/bi/trans?” most of them would say that there was no sense of choice regarding their sexual orientation and gender identity; that is just the way they feel. “It’s like asking a heterosexual person ‘When did you choose to be straight?’ There’s no answer to that,” she adds.

Myth #4: I should not expose myself or my loved ones to LGBTQ+ peers/relatives or watch shows with LGBTQ+ themes to prevent them from becoming gay, bisexual, or transgender. 

Fact: Learning about or spending time with people who are LGBTQ+ does not influence the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person or harm the well-being of minors. What it can do is help build empathy and respect towards others, potentially reducing homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia for years to come. 

Myth #5: There is no such thing as trangenders. Transwomen are gays, and transmen are lesbians. 

Fact: Transgender is an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Transpersons have been documented in many indigenous, Western, and Eastern cultures and societies from antiquity until the present day.

“Gender is a social construct, it varies from society to society and can change over time. This means you can break it,” Amber stresses. “And we should not stop people from breaking gender norms because at the end of the day, these gender roles are just imposed upon us.” 

Myth #6: Letting transgenders use the bathroom matching their gender identity is dangerous.

Fact: One of the main arguments against trans-inclusive bathrooms is the perception that sexual predators can gain access to female-only bathrooms. “If people are worried about men who would disguise themselves as transwomen to enter female bathrooms to sexually harass women, then transwomen are not the problem,” Amber stresses. 

Amber also stresses that having a bathroom exclusively for transgenders is counterproductive. “Creating a separate bathroom is just a form of exclusion,” she explains. “We should not be made to feel bad using the restrooms of the gender that we identify with. Creating gender-neutral restrooms would be more inclusive and affirmative.”

Myth #7: Letting my son play with dolls or my daughter play with cars will affect their gender identity.

Fact: Research has shown that behaviors such as playing with feminine toys or wearing feminine-colored clothes do not cause a boy to become gay or transgender, just as those same activities do not cause a girl to become heterosexual or cisgender. 

Myth #8: If someone comes out to me, it means they are attracted to me. 

Fact: “We don’t come out to people because we are attracted to them; we do because we trust them and they are a safe space for us,” Amber emphasizes. “Coming out entails so much fear and burden so when someone comes out to you, be thankful and proud of yourself because someone believes in you and they are willing to risk their lives just to come out to you.”

As an ally and a friend, it’s important that you take a stand for LGBTQ+ rights and join in the fight for equality. By educating yourself about what it means to be LGBTQ+, normalizing conversations related to LGBTQ+ matters with loved ones, and calling out myths and microaggressions, you can play an active role in helping build a kinder and more inclusive community. 

To our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters and allies in the Philippines, you are not alone. MindNation’s psychologists and WellBeing Coaches are available 24/7 for teletherapy sessions if you need someone to talk to. Book a session now through FB Messenger http://mn-chat or email [email protected]

Mental Health 101

Empathy vs. Sympathy: Why empathy matters more

Empathy is one of the most important aspects of creating harmonious relationships, reducing stress, and enhancing emotional awareness.

Empathy is the ability to emotionally understand what other people feel, see things from their perspective, and imagine yourself in their place. It is putting yourself in someone else’s position and feeling what they must be feeling.

Empathy vs. sympathy

Empathy is often interchanged with sympathy, but while the two are related, they do not mean the same thing.

Sympathy is a shared feeling, usually of sorrow, pity, or compassion for another person. You show concern for another person when you feel sympathy for them.

For example, when someone experiences the death of a loved one, you feel sympathy towards that person. You may feel sad for them, but if you have not experienced a death in your own family, you might not have empathy for their situation.

On the other hand, empathy is stronger and deeper than sympathy. It is the ability to put yourself in the place of another and understand their feelings by identifying with them.

Why empathy is important

Without empathy, people will go about life without considering how other people feel or what they may be thinking. It becomes easy to make assumptions and jump to conclusions about others, and this often leads to misunderstandings, miscommunication, divisiveness, conflict, and fractured relationships.

Empathy encourages us to work out our differences more productively and maintain harmonious ties with people who may think and act differently from us, thereby reducing stress.

Empathizing with others also helps us regulate our own emotions. Emotional regulation is important because it allows us to manage what we are feeling, even in situations that are very upsetting, without becoming overwhelmed.

Lastly, empathy promotes helping behaviors. Not only are we more likely to engage in helpful behaviors when we feel empathy for other people, but other people are also more likely to help us when they experience empathy.

Tips for Practicing Empathy

If you would like to build your empathy skills, there are a few things that you can do:

  • Pay attention. Listen to people without interrupting. Pay attention to non-verbal cues like body language, as these can reveal what a person is really feeling.
  • Be curious. Instead of attacking someone for having a belief that is different from yours, engage in a calm, rational discussion and ask questions to find out why they think the way they do. More often than not, the answer lies in their life experience, which, while different from yours, is not wrong. Then examine your own biases and find out why you think differently from them.
  • Imagine yourself in another person’s shoes. Get out of your usual environment. Travel to new places or new environments, and mingle with the locals. Doing this will give you a new perspective of the world, and a better appreciation for others.
  • Be open to feedback. This is especially true in the workplace; don’t be afraid to receive constructive criticism from others. Humility is an important part of being an empathetic individual.

If you’re up for a challenge, try this: have a conversation with a stranger every week. It can be the security guard at your office building or the owner of the food stall where you get your lunch on weekdays. Doing this expands your worldview and improves your ability to empathize.

When we become sincere in developing understanding of others, we improve relationships and promote harmony in the community.

Written by Jac of MindNation