There’s no wrong way to explore your sexuality or gender – it’s yours to own. And there’s no reason to feel pressured to define your sexuality or gender if you're not ready yet. Being able to fully live your sexuality and/or gender is an important step for LGBTIQA+ people, and having a supportive community around you can make things easier.
While all of your friends and family can provide support, feeling part of the LGBTIQA+ community can provide solidarity and sense of belonging. While everyone’s situation is different, there are a couple of things you can do to find a supportive community where you can be you.
Why community is important
It’s really important to surround yourself with a strong community that supports you regardless of your gender or sexuality. These are the people who respect your sexuality, support your personal journey, and offer empathy and advice. They’ll be the people who you can trust and turn to for support when you’re struggling.
Who these people are depends on who you have around you. We all have different relationships and living situations, and this may play into who’s in your community. But there are other ways you can connect with people too.
Talk to your friends and family
When you need someone to talk to, friends and family can often be the best port of call, even if they don’t share the same sexuality or gender as you.
Remember that it’s really up to you to choose who to share your sexual orientation or gender identity with, and you should feel no pressure to share it with anyone at all. It’s your call.
You might find that talking to a friend about your mental health or emotions can be a helpful way to work through things.
Find the people who support you know matter what. It’s important to live with and spend most of your time with people who make you feel accepted and welcomed. Some of your friends and family may not fully understand your sexuality or gender at first. This often changes, but until then, the people who do accept you can help you navigate trickier times.
Find youth and community groups
Attending community groups can help you make lifelong friends, especially those in the LGBTIQA+ community. Linking in with queer support groups and talking to gender and sexually diverse friends can be really helpful for improving your headspace. Research LGBTIQA+ groups in your area and see if they have any events or community meetings coming up. You could also offer to volunteer for these groups, meaning you can make new friends while also giving back to the community!
If you’re struggling to find your community offline, there can be great communities to connect with online. You could find people through Facebook groups, following queer Instagram accounts, exploring Youtube channels or exploring places like Tumblr.
Online spaces can also help you be a part of a community, including:
Own your space
Being comfortable in an LGBTIQA+ space and belonging to a support group is important. Whether you feel comfortable identifying as queer, transgender, non-binary or anything else, owning your space can really help provide confidence in finding your own community. Just know that there’s a huge global community behind you who care about you, even if they’re tricky to find at first.
If you don’t feel safe or supported, it could be worth finding another community – they exist, and there’s plenty of diverse groups out there. These include heaps of queer events that might be in your area – you can find a guide to them here.
Coming out and Inviting in
Coming Out, or as we like to frame it “Inviting In”, about your sexuality or gender identity is a different experience for everyone. For some it can be an easy and positive experience and for others it may not be.
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Reach out for help
Identifying as LGBTIQA+ should never leave you feeling alone. Sometimes when we’re struggling, we may not reach out to new communities – but this is the best time to do it. It’s a great way to remind yourself that you’re loved and that other people are experiencing the same things you are.