How to support a loved one with coming out

As we continue to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues, Hayley Keatinge, Head of Business, shares how she supported her brother when he first came out to their family.

​I have an older brother, a little brother and a little sister, and the age gap between myself and my little brother is about 8 years. We grew up in the rural, small-town borders in Scotland with our mum and dad. Everyone who lives in the borders doesn’t tend to leave and there’s not much in the way of diversity. 

My little brother, Christopher, moved to London after finishing university in Cheltenham. Coming up to Christmas one year, he rang me and told me he’d met someone romantically, to which I asked if it was a boy or a girl. Christopher told me that it was a boy and he was telling me because then he knew he’d have to tell our mum and dad. 

My dad is Irish and from a Catholic family, while my mum is from a non-religious background. That Christmas, Christopher told them that he’d met someone named Alistair. I was confident it was a serious relationship because Christopher wouldn’t have told us unless he was ready. 

My mum found it hard to begin with; mainly she was worried that Christopher was no longer in the safe rural environment that we’d grown up in and that he’d find life more difficult as a gay man. She’s since realised that society is very different now to when she was growing up. 

My dad, even though he had a staunch Catholic upbringing, is of the opinion that you should take people as they are and, as long as you’re kind, nothing else matters.

Being a support system

Christopher and Alistair have now been together for 7 years and they’ve just bought their first house in London. Alistair is part of the family, we adore him – he and Christopher are perfect for each other. They talk openly about their surrogate fund that they save into and Christopher is really happy. To me, that’s all that matters.

Because of Christopher’s positive experience in coming out, it’s easy to think that everybody’s experience is equally as positive. But if Christopher didn’t work in London in an inclusive industry like advertising, and was in a more stereotypical, male-dominated role, his experience might’ve been more isolated and difficult.

My advice to others supporting a loved one who has recently come out is to be measured in your response. People will always want you to be honest and someone is already going to have an idea of how you’re going to react before they tell you. Although my mum and brother are very close, he knew I would be the temperature gauge for her reaction.

If someone is choosing to share with you their personal experience, be honoured that they’ve trusted you because they see you as someone who is going to support them. Somebody will always ask you what your opinion is if they want to know and, if they haven’t, just listen. Ask them what their concerns might be and support them in their decisions.

If you believe somebody is saying something derogatory, unhelpful or unkind, don’t be afraid to call them out on their behaviour. Equally, if you unmeaningly say something that somebody finds offensive, be open to their feedback. Listen, apologise, and learn from it. We’re not all experts but we can all try our best to better.