1. Tell your LGBT how much you love them.
This may seem a simple task, but with so much hatred thrown against them every day, they probably need you to tell them how much you really care. Remember: love, if unexpressed, ceases to exist.
2. Show your LGBT how much you love them.
A good rule of thumb: “show and tell” them you love them every day in some way. Just because they are gay doesn’t mean they don’t need love like everyone else. There’s no “secret” love language for LGBTs – they are human just like you are, so treat them like everyone else in your life that you love and care for. Dr. Gary Chapmen’s famous book, The Five Love Languages provides some help in understanding the unique “ways” that people want to be loved:
Words of Affirmation
Actions don’t always speak louder than words. If this is your love language, unsolicited compliments mean the world to you. Hearing the words, “I love you,” are important—hearing the reasons behind that love sends your spirits skyward. Insults can leave you shattered and are not easily forgotten.
In the vernacular of Quality Time, nothing says, “I love you,” like full, undivided attention. Being there for this type of person is critical, but really being there—with the TV off, fork and knife down, and all chores and tasks on standby—makes your significant other feel truly special and loved. Distractions, postponed dates, or the failure to listen can be especially hurtful.
Don’t mistake this love language for materialism; the receiver of gifts thrives on the love, thoughtfulness, and effort behind the gift. If you speak this language, the perfect gift or gesture shows that you are known, you are cared for, and you are prized above whatever was sacrificed to bring the gift to you. A missed birthday, anniversary, or a hasty, thoughtless gift would be disastrous—so would the absence of everyday gestures.
Acts of Service
Can vacuuming the floors really be an expression of love? Absolutely! Anything you do to ease the burden of responsibilities weighing on an “Acts of Service” person will speak volumes. The words he or she most want to hear: “Let me do that for you.” Laziness, broken commitments, and making more work for them tell speakers of this language their feelings don’t matter.
This language isn’t all about the bedroom. A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, holding hands, and thoughtful touches on the arm, shoulder, or face—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive.
3. Let them tell their own story and listen.
Coming out is difficult, and it is usually a process. Your LGBT may not feel “safe” telling everyone about their sexuality. You must allow them to tell their own story – they decide who they feel comfortable and able “coming out” to – who, where, and when. Never assume that you can speak for them and can tell their story for them. Further, when they decide to tell their story and come out, as with anything else that is deeply personal and defines we you are, actively listen.
4. Stand up for your LGBT.
Make it clear not only to your LGBT, but to others that you support them and will not tolerate hate speech or jokes made at their expense. This doesn’t mean you need to “go on the warpath” – a simple statement like, I don’t agree or I don’t find that as funny as you do, because my friend/family member is LGBT suffices.
5. Create a “safe space” in your life for your LGBT.
Whether it is your home, apartment, dorm room, office, or social function, make an effort to create a place where your LGBT can be themselves and not have to hide who they are. This is more important that you will initially recognize. Many LGBTs feel they must live two lives – who they are in private and the tailored version of themselves that they are in public. Just having a place where your LGBT can be honest about who they are, and feel able to stretch or breathe helps them feel loved and cared for. It creates a bond with who they really are.
6. Realize that their sexuality doesn’t define them.
Sexuality is important, but it doesn’t define who we are. Imagine how awkward it would feel if I said, “Hi, I’m Randall and I’m straight” as soon as we met. Important? Yes. Does it define me? No. So don’t let sexuality define your LGBT either.