When your child may be Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning:
Children who are LGBTQ have unique concerns and, more than ever, need the unconditional love and support of their parents. There is a wide range of emotions and adjustment that accompanies this revelation and it takes courageous children to risk coming out to their parents, family, and friends. For some, it is so impossible to consider that they choose tragedy over their own authenticity.
Some parents are not surprised at the news and some are shocked and devastated. Know that wherever you and your child are in this process - and it is a process - you are not alone and there is support available.
Being a teenager is a confusing time under the most typical of circumstances, and being LGBTQ can make it significantly more stressful and daunting. These kids often feel isolated, extreme stress, fear, shame, guilt, and embarrassment despite the fact that sexual orientation is neither a choice nor a preference.
Every child deserves to feel safe and secure, respected, heard and understood. Each one of us deserves to be our genuine selves. Some parents have a difficult time coping with their children's sexuality and, in those cases, being neutral is much better than being negative or judgmental. Professional counseling is often helpful and recommended to help navigate unfamiliar territory in a healthy, constructive way.
If you suspect your child is coming to terms with an LGBTQ identity, it is helpful to demonstrate unwavering support, rather than just voicing it. One way to do this is by getting involved with LGBTQ organizations and making your home as LGBTQ-friendly as possible. PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), found at www.pflag.org, is a valuable resource as you begin this journey with your child.
This may be hard to understand: parents cannot presume to know their child's sex/gender identity better than their child and, therefore, parents need to honor where their children claim to be. If you harbor suspicions or stumble across evidence that suggests that your child may not be straight, it is important to make sure your child feels accepted. Genuine demonstrations of support and unwavering love speak volumes, even when an individual in question is not ready to talk about, or even think about, their sex/gender/sexual identity themselves. Understanding one's own sexual orientation is often a very traumatic experience for kids who are struggling to decipher who they are in a culture which is often unaccepting. Society is becoming more accepting, and it still very difficult to be in a minority.
It is important to deem LGBTQ identities equally worthy of love or there is a risk of inadvertently making any differences implicitly unacceptable. When parents assume their children are straight, which is an unfair assumption, it contributes to the sense of humiliation and failure that many LGBTQ people experience.
The Trevor Project (www.thetrevorproject.org) is a suicide prevention web site for those kids who are feeling especially helpless and hopeless to help them remain safe. Researchers have found that suicide rates among LGBTQ youth are significantly higher than among the general population. Bullying of LGBTQ youth is a contributing factor in many of those suicides, something we hear about with unacceptable frequency. "Family acceptance" is an excellent site for faith-centered families who are trying to reconcile their religious convictions with homosexuality. Each link carries an important message that will provide you with hope, understanding and encouragement. www.familyacceptance.com
Remember, your child is the exact same person you have always cherished, and you are the exact same parents your child has always loved. That never has to change, and my hope for you and your child is that, with honesty, understanding, and acceptance, your bond will be strengthened by the truth.