Your Child is Coming Out: Now what?
So, your child just expressed to you that they might be gay/lesbian/bisexual/trans. You’re blindsided, you’re confused, you’re unsure of what to do next.
You feel like you are an open and accepting person, but THIS IS TOO MUCH.
And it’s ok!
Your feelings are valid and completely normal. Many parents report having the fear of people treating their child differently. It is also normal to experience a feeling of sadness, almost like mourning dreams around your child, such as having a traditional wedding, and having biological children.
Many parents of LGBTQ+ children have a difficult time adjusting to their children coming out, according to a new study by researchers at George Washington University. Their research explains that the first two years are the hardest for parents. Even while accepting of LGBTQ+ people, it can be different when it is your only child. As a parent you are also “coming out with them” as you will be learning how to assimilate to it.
When parents are supportive, it leads to better outcomes in our children’s mental health. Support at home can reduce incidents of depression, suicide, or other risky behaviors. LGBTQ+ youth with high levels of family rejection are 8x more likely to report having attempted suicide, 6x more likely to report high levels of depression, and 3x more likely to use drugs or have unprotected sex.
Let’s start by going through a small rundown of the term LGBTQ+. It stands for (L)esbian, (G)ay, (B)isexual, (T)ransgender, and (Q)ueer or (Q)uestioning. The plus symbolizes the different diversities that expand that acronym such as non-binary, pansexual, and more (other blog coming soon discussing that in detail).
Lesbian - A female who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other females
Gay - A male who experiences romantic love or sexual attraction to other males.
BisexualSexual and romantic attraction toward male and female.
TransgenderPeople whose gender identity is different from the sex they were assigned to at birth.
Queer/Questioning A person who does not fit either sexual orientation and/or gender; someone who is in the process of exploring their gender, sexual identity, and sexual orientation
Now that we have an understanding about the acronym. Let’s talk about how we can keep ourselves well as parents during this transitionary period. First, I want to really emphasize that it’s ok if you’re not perfect at this. It’s ok that sometimes you feel that you’ve said something wrong, gotten a term incorrect, or let a comment slip. This is new information for you and you have not experienced this in your own personal life. Yes, this could be a phase, but children are evolving a sense of self and learning about themselves at every turn. Our biggest advice is to keep remembering to be open to learning and listening.
Here are some examples to help you AND your LGBTQ+ child throughout this time:
Do your own research and it’s ok to ask your child questions! Take time to learn about the terms, the issues LGBTQ+ youth face, and your own child’s experiences. Do your best to listen actively to help you gain a better perspective and understanding.
Reach out to a support group or surround yourself with knowledgeable people. If you have family members or friends that are LGBTQ+, include them into your conversations. Show your child that it’s ok to be LGBTQ+. There are also plenty of organizations with groups around the country to join. We will include them below!
Remind them that you love them and that your love towards him/her won’t change. Coming out is hard on a child. It’s often a cause of a lot of anxiety and worry throughout their life. It’s important to reassure them frequently, especially at first.
Encourage other family members to support your child. Make it the norm to stand up for your child, change boundaries in relationships (i.e.: distance yourself), challenge homophobic commentsk, and encourage family members to check in on your child periodically and offer love and affection during this time.
Talk to religious leaders about your struggle and/or help it become more LGBTQ+ supportive. We will also include a couple of links below of some organizations that focus on religion and LGBTQ+ folks.
Talk to a trusted friend or therapist about your specific struggles with this transition. It will help you gain clarity and help you navigate this time.
General for families:
LGBTQ+ and Religions: