Updated: Oct 21, 2021
For some of you, it may come as a surprise when your child comes out to you as being LGBTQ+. However, for me, when my daughter came out to me as bisexual at 14, I wasn't overly surprised. The only thing that surprised me was that she wasn't a lesbian.
I remember when she used to watch "Deal or No Deal" with us when she was about 6 or 7 years old, and she used to say how pretty the red-headed Casey was who opened the cases. So when she told me that Phyre was her girlfriend, I figured that pretty redheads were her type.
Somewhat stupidly, I asked my daughter Atlantis if Phyre still lived in Nebraska. When she said yes, I responded with "that's unfortunate." Probably not my best mom moment. I also told her that day that I am also bixexual, a fact I hadn't previously shared because I thought she was too young to be interested in my sex life.
Acceptance is Crucial.
When your child comes out to you, acceptance of their identity shows them that you love them unconditionally. This allows them to be themselves at home, without fear.
Some things you ask tell them are:
How can I support you?
Have you been bullied at school?
What can I do to make you comfortable at home?
Is there anyone you would like me to help you talk with about this?
Also, if your child expresses that they have a gender identity that doesn't correspond to their biological sex, be affirming of that as well. You can ask:
Is there another name that you would like me to call you?
What are your preferred pronouns?
Would you like me to speak to your school or teachers to inform them?
Would you like me to help you seek gender-affirming medical treatment?
Children as young as toddlers have now started to "come out" to their parents, although not always expressing their wants and needs in the same ways as older children or teens. Be open with them, and accept that sexual and gender identity are not "just a phase" and can be an integral part of someone's identity.
According to Youth.org, " it is important for families to express support through such behaviors as
talking with youth about their LGBT identity in an affirming manner;
communicating that their young person can have a happy future as an LGBT adult;
working to ensure that other family members respect the young person;
talking with clergy and help their faith community support LGBT individuals; and
advocating for youth if they are mistreated because of their identity"
Family reactions and support go a long way to mitigate what may be perhaps a negative reaction to the community at large.
Family Rejection Can Have Many Consequences.
If you are finding it a struggle to accept your child's identity, it is important to think about their well being long term, and realize how much your support matters.
Most likely, it has been difficult for them to find the courage to speak to you about their inner reality. I remember my daughter telling me, "Mom, I need to tell you something." She said it in a fearful way, like she was about to drop a terrible bomb on me.
She said later that when she approached her dad that way, he immediately assumed that she was pregnant. Personally, I was really worried that she was going to tell me that she didn't like the new furniture I had just gotten for her bedroom.
Children all crave acceptance from their parents, and even teens need our love and support, even if it is not in the same form as younger kids.
"Research demonstrates a strong link between family rejection of LGBT youth and negative physical and mental health outcomes for them.3 In contrast, family acceptance can serve as a protective factor against depression, substance use, and suicidal ideation and attempts.4 Research has found that compared with LGBT youth who experienced little or no parental/caregiver rejection, those LGBT youth who were highly rejected were
more than eight times as likely to attempt suicide;
almost six times as likely to report high levels of depression;
more than three times as likely to use illegal drugs; and
more than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases."
There is also a high incidence of LGBTQ+ teens who end up either homeless or in foster care due to family rejection.
Children are who they are.
We either choose to accept them as they are, or we alienate them from us. When children and teens feel unloved, they can see taking some form of drastic action like running away from home, or committing suicide as their only solace from a world that has seemingly discarded them.
"Examples of behaviors that should be avoided and discouraged include
blocking access to LGBT friends, events, and resources;
blaming youth when they are discriminated against because of their LGBT identity; and
pressuring youth to be more (or less) “masculine” or “feminine”—and keeping their LGBT identity a “secret.”"
Additionally drastic and harming, can be sending a child to a new school, or a conversion therapy program.
My Child's Identity Violates My Religious Beliefs.
In the US, one of the major factors effecting the way that LGBTQ+ children are treated is a strict Christian upbringing.
When I was younger, I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church, which is one of the more conservative branches of Christianity. Among the reasons I ultimately left the church was the way I saw friends of mine rejected by the church when they were earnestly seeking God.
One of my close friends "came out" to our youth pastor one day before our youth group meeting. He had asked me, and another friend, to come and wait with him while he had that difficult conversation. I didn't hear what was said by our youth pastor, all I saw was my friend leaving through the back door in tears. He was told in no uncertain terms that he was no longer welcome in our church.
For many religious believers, common practices within the church actually have more basis in modern tradition, than actual biblical reference.
The ONLY passage in the Bible that speaks about Homosexuality is Leviticus 18:22: "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable."
Please keep in mind that, in that same long list of commandments in Leviticus, it also tells us not to eat pork, or to use our left hand. I am willing to be that these are commandments that most Christians today tend to ignore. Picking and choosing what commandments to obey and ignore is your prerogative, even if it is a rather dubious practice.
However, after intensive study of the Bible, it also comes into question if Jesus intended Gentiles (which I would assume most Christians in America are) to follow the Old Testament. There are many instances where he advises those that were previously Jewish to keep their covenants, but he never indicates that Gentiles should adopt those customs.
One of the main reasons it is rather dubious to base rejection of LGBTQ+ children on the Bible has to do with the only commandments that Jesus himself gave to his followers.
Matthew 22:34-40 tells us that:
"34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Jesus, the Son of God, told us that love is the most important thing that there is. Later, John the Evangelist further extrapolates on what it means to love God fully.
I John 4:7-12:
"7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (All Bible References in this article are from the NIV)
When we depart from Love, we are departing from God.
Please think on these passages, pray about it, and seek the face of Christ who is the essence of God's love made flesh. According to Jesus, it is not ours to judge, it is only ours to love in the way that Jesus himself did. His is a love that was willing to sacrifice life itself to save others. Should our love for our own children be any less?
Kids Thrive in a Supportive Environment.
When kids feel like they are supported at home, we provide them with a safe place from which to explore the world. In Attachment Parenting, research has shown that children who are securely attached to their parents have better outcomes overall later in life.
For more about attachment: https://www.millenialmom.net/post/attachment-parenting
My daughter Atlantis, and her partner Phyre (who has recently come out as Non-Binary), both graduated this year with high GPA's and early acceptance to their choice colleges.
According to the American Psychological Association, "Warm and nurturing relationships between children and the adults in their lives are the most important factor in developing resilience and overcoming potential negative effects of daily stress. Parents have the power to make an enormous difference in the outcomes of their children's development." (https://www.apa.org/topics/parenting/resilience-tip-tool)
As parents, we can help provide our children with a safe place in which to develop resilience, which will serve them well throughout their lives. This is especially important for LGBTQ+ children and teens, who may face many hostile encounters from a society that still remains intolerant to their needs, despite progress in recent years.
For more about resilience, https://www.millenialmom.net/post/can-your-kids-cope-with-stress
Let me know in the comments if you have experience with your child, or one of your children's friends coming out to you. If you have more tips than what I have provided here, I would love to hear those as well for future articles!
If you enjoy this article, or the video on how to be supportive, please share on your socials to raise awareness for our LGBTQ+ kids!