Children in the world have it tough for a lot of reasons from being abused to being treated as property by their parents instead of like autonomous human beings. I’d say you’d be hardpressed to find many that have it tougher than children who fall under the LGBTQ+ label. Those children will be more likely to have trouble with peers, romantic interests and finding their place to fit in general, but perhaps the most stressful moments come from wondering how their family might handle it. But do any of us really know what we’d do if our child comes out to us as LGBTQ+ ?
As far as we know, our girls are cis-gendered which is hard enough as a teenager. Being a tween and teen is hard enough in general when things are considered “usual”. My girls have had friends who have come out as gay and bisexual but when they were younger, I was their parental sounding board. I’ve been asked multiple times what I would do if my girls were gay or bisexual. Every time, without hesitation, I answered I’d love them. Nothing would change. Who they love has no bearing on how I love my children. The only thing I ask is that their love is reciprocated and they are happy.
I have no real experience with a child who has come out as part of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m only speaking from a place of what I hope I’d do. I know it would be more difficult when actually in the situation because there would be more to consider than just what ifs but the main priority is to make life as easy for my child who is struggling with how to navigate coming out to their parents and the world.
Here are a few pieces of wisdom gleaned from the internet on what to do if your child comes out to you as LGBTQ+
Ensure that they know that you love them
The most important thing to do is to ensure your child that one of the primary fears of queer youth doesn’t come to pass: the loss of parental love. So many children have been disowned by their parents for coming out one way or another, even leading to homelessness. The very first thing you should do, even if you are confused about what their admission means for them and for your family, is to let them know that you love them and support them. If you can’t do that, then none of the other advice here is going to be very applicable. Being able to have empathy and love for your child after they reveal an important truth to you is an essential skill for parents, no ifs, ands, or buts.
Encourage them to share what it means to them
You shouldn’t pry into their personal lives too much, nor should you offer an endless barrage of questions to them. However, you should make it clear to your child that you are interested about their life and available to talk at anytime. This goes outside of their sexuality and gender, as well. Ask about their day, their friends and don’t be afraid to ask what they like to do. The main thing is to let them know that you care and keep the lines of communication open. Bit by bit, day by day, you should encourage them to share their life with you. This can, in turn, lead to them sharing more about their sexuality and identity, too.
Back them up, no questions
It might not happen often or immediately, but your child is very likely to face prejudice from others. Sometimes, it can come from places within the family. You should try to be their soft place to land. One of the most difficult parts for parents to navigate is when more conservative, often older members of the family take a stand against the sexuality of the younger members or act insensitively towards them. Stand up for your children. Parents, not wanting to rock the boat, can freeze up and fail to defend and support their children. However, at that point, the boat is already rocked. You don’t necessarily have to do anything inflammatory, simply let your loved ones know that you support your child and don’t want to hear any bigotry in their direction. You can’t control what other family members do, but you can control how you react and you can refuse to stay where your child is mistreated or made to feel humiliated or marginalized.
Should you try to help them find gay spaces?
Helping your kids feel accepted, supported and loved in the home community is one thing, but what about outside of that? They may have peer groups at school and otherwise, that accept them, but you might, like any parent, want your growing child to be happy in the relationships they find. Of course, this applies mostly to parents of children on the older side, those who are approaching or crossing into adulthood. While you don’t need to help them find the top gay chat line or gay bars near you, letting them know that you support them if they want to explore building a social life in gay spaces and being open to meeting their friends can help a lot. Be there for the choices that they make and if they want help, be there to offer it, but don’t try to take over their life.
What about their rights?
It’s a typical open-minded response to care about a cause but not to fully understand the situation until it affects you directly. That said, if you want to show how much you truly support your child and their ability to have all of the rights that they deserve, including the rights that non-queer people already enjoy, then getting involved can be well worth it. When it comes to things like gay marriage rights, fighting conversion therapy and taking a stand against the gay erasure that’s affecting young queer people across the country, even taking a stand alongside your local LGBTQ+ community can help a lot. Put your actions where your words are.
Consider finding your own support system
Being the relative of someone who is part of the LGBTQ+ sphere might not be quite as much of a challenge to navigate, but it can still be helpful to be in dialogue with people who are going through the same situation. This relationship with your child is always evolving and, as such, having people you can feel comfortable talking to (in a supportive way) can do a lot of good. You can make sure you get a good understanding on what you do right, what can go better, and what you might want to avoid during this journey with your family.
Accept responsibility when you do something wrong
Your response might not always be perfect. You might fail to speak up when you should have done or said something that comes across as insensitive. Your immediate reaction may be to defend yourself, to assure your child and yourself that you have no ill-will. But in doing so, you can easily minimize the harm that’s done to queer children by aggressions, micro and macro, not to mention the hurt done to your own child. Even if it comes late, apologizing when you’re wrong is a vital skill for a parent to learn, and you should be able to clearly see and correct your wrong-doing.
If you have any reason to suspect your child might be about to come out, or they already have and you’re worried you’re not doing enough to support them, or you simply want to make sure that you’re the best parent you can be, reading and learning about what you can do is important.