Youth are not only coming out as LGBTQ+ in larger numbers than in previous years but also at younger ages. There’s no school for parenting and as with many other things, your kid coming out might be one you’re not sure how to properly handle. If you are a parent to an LGBTQ+ youth and are a bit confused on how to be there for them, read below.
It’s a process not just the one conversation
Just like with any other part of their identity, coming out is progressive as kids discover who they are. Whether you notice different signs as the years go by, different clothes, hairstyles, mannerisms, or simply find yourself one day in a conversation with your kid expressing who they are, always know there’s been a long process internally regardless of how it looked from the outside. A process that might have been more or less confusing, emotionally charged or even sometimes painful or scary, considering how hard it can be to go against what society has instilled in us from before we could even remember. So (please), with this in mind, refrain from treating their coming out as “a phase” or making comments like “I always knew it”, as it minimizes their journey and everything they’ve been through to get to this moment standing in front of you.
Keep in mind the relevance of this moment
As mentioned before, coming out is a crucial moment in the life of most LGBTQ+ youth. They’re exposing themselves as someone religion and society have marginalized and mistreated, and the first reaction of their parents is crucial. Chances are parents are the first people kids come out to, so again, their reaction can leave a mark on how they see themselves and on how they feel their parents see them.
Minds and arms always open
Your kid just came out to you and you simply didn’t know what to say? Hug them. That same hug you gave them when they were little and felt scared at night, that support and parental protection is exactly what they might need right now. Let them know that you love them always, and that nothing will ever change the way you feel towards them. Thank them for trusting you and sharing this with you. Don’t feel upset if you feel like they’ve been keeping this from you, it is their path and they came to you when they were ready to do so.
Walk the path with them
They don’t feel themselves on the clothes you got them? Go shopping together and let them chose what they feel comfortable in. They identify with different pronouns or even a new name? respect that, call them the way they want to be called. These things are part of your kid’s identity, of who they are, they must be taken into account and respected. Even if it might seem like small things to you, it makes a big difference to them.
Feel free to ask them on matters you don’t know about, on how they specifically feel about certain things, yet research on your own so as not to burden them with your entire learning process. Community centers as well as resources available online are a great way to start. If you haven’t had much contact with the LGBTQ+ community start by reading about identity, sexual orientation, pronouns and take it from there. It is also useful to read on how other LGBTQ+ coming out experiences were so as to gain perspective on what to expect on how that same conversation looks like from your kid’s side.