Advice for Parents When Your Child Comes Out

WHAT IT MEANS WHEN MY CHILD SAYS THEY ARE GAY…
Sexual orientation is a person’s emotional, physical, spiritual, intellectual and sexual attraction and the expression of that attraction. Gender Identity is a person’s understanding, definition and/or experience of their own gender, regardless of assigned anatomical sex. Transgender is an umbrella term used to refer to people whose anatomical sex does not reflect their self-identified gender. Sexual orientation and gender are separate—gender is an identity of self and sexual orientation is an identity of relationships. Please visit www.pflag.org for more information about how to support a family member.

  • Approximately 10-20% of youth self-identify as LGBTQQ
  • Although a subject of debate, sexual orientation and gender identity are likely among the many characteristics with which people are born
  • Negative experiences, like sexual abuse or dysfunctional parenting, do not influence sexual orientation
  • Neither you nor someone else is to blame for your child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity—identifying as LGBTQ is as natural as having blue eyes or being right-handed

 

HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD…
Children often find it difficult to come out to their parents. LGBTQQ children often spend months, if not years, discovering and deciphering their identities. Sharing with their parents can be difficult. Parents often are in shock or grieve after a child’s revelation. It is important to remember that for your child to keep their sexuality secret would be to keep a large part of them from you—telling you is a sign of their love and need for your support and understanding.

  • When your child comes out to you, start with a statement of support instead of judgment.
  • You may feel shock, denial, guilt or grief; they are understandable given our society’s attitudes towards LGBTQQ people—process your emotions and realize your child is the same as before their statement.
  • Consulting a therapist to “cure” your child of their LGBTQ identities is a pointless endeavor as these identities are not diseases, but rather natural expressions along a continuum of sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.
  • Do not confide in family or friends without your child’s consent and make sure you have time to process your emotions so that you don’t communicate negative emotions.

 

THINGS TO CONSIDER…
LGBTQQ youth can be at risk because they are a minority and because schools and other professionals often have little experience working with and supporting these youth. Society is changing positively; however, progress is often accompanied by backlash.

  • Depression strikes LGB youth 4-5 times more severely than their heterosexual peers (Timmelman, T.L., 1990)
  • 97% of high school students report hearing homophobic remarks regularly from peers (“Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth: Report of the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth,” 1993)
  • LGB youth are 2-3 times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Rotheram-Borus, M., Hunter, J., & Rosario, M. (1994). Suicidal behavior and gay-related stress among gay and bisexual male adolescents. Journal of adolescent research, 9 (4), 498-508.
  • 82.9% of LGBT youth reported that faculty never intervened or intervened only some of the time when present and homophobic remarks were made in school (GLSEN, The 2003 National School Climate Survey)
  • Often people struggle with LGBTQQ people “flaunting” their homosexuality; however, heterosexual displays of affection are present every day on campuses. The same standards should apply to LGBTQQ students.
Continuing to support your child as you always have is critical. Every child has different needs and will require parents to communicate differently. Educating yourself about the issues faced by LGBTQQ youth will be the first step in supporting your child.