Noelle is a 16-year-old girl from Sunnyvale, CA. She enjoys playing piano and electric guitar and hopes to become an intelligence officer in the United States Air Force.
“Mom…Dad…” your son tells you after sitting you down for a serious talk, “I have something important to tell you. I’m gay.”
Maybe you’re shocked; maybe you’re scared. Maybe you’re disappointed, or you’re angry, or you knew it all along. Whatever the situation, coming out to parents is a scary event for a teen, and your child needs your unconditional love and support. Here are five steps to being a supportive parent after your child has come out as LGBTQ.
1) Realize that your child has not become a different person.
Sexuality is not something that spontaneously changes overnight. If your son has told you he is gay, chances are, he has known for quite awhile. The world is not always kind to openly LGBTQ people, particularly youth, and your son’s decision to open up about his sexuality was not made lightly. By coming out of the closet, he has not become a fundamentally different person; he has simply chosen to stop hiding a piece of himself.
2) Open your mind, ears, and heart.
Understand that your child is revealing to you an important piece of themselves. Acknowledging that you are not straight is a scary experience; your daughter is undoubtedly asking herself, will I be bullied? Will I be unable to marry the person I fall in love with? Will my family accept me for who I am? Though she might be scared or worried because of her sexuality, she chose to let you in anyway. She trusts you enough to show you who she really is; live up to that trust. Keep your mind, ears, and heart open, and listen to what she’s trying to share with you. As your child, she is undoubtedly worried that you will judge her, but you can use this experience as a way to open up your line of communication with her. If she sees she can confide in you and be honest about herself with you, she will likely continue to do so.
3) Understand that your child’s life is no less fulfilling now that s/he is openly LGBTQ.
Your immediate reaction may be, I’ll never see my son get married! I’ll never meet my grandchildren! My child will never lead a full life! However, this is not the case at all. Understand that a homosexual person leads no less of a fulfilling life than a heterosexual person does. LGBTQ people can marry in many countries and states, adopt children, and experience all the happy occurrences your child would have if he was heterosexual. The difference is, now he will get to experience it all with someone he truly loves!
4) Feel free to ask questions!
Above all, your child just wants to be loved by you. If you’ve had little to no interaction with non-heterosexuals, ask about it! Show your child that you don’t love her any less because she has come out to you. By asking in a friendly and non-judgmental manner, how long have you known? or when did you first realize that you are gay? you are showing your child that you are both accepting of who she is and willing to learn more. Your son or daughter will be relieved to see that you hold a genuine, open-minded interest in his or her life, and will probably be more than happy to continue the dialogue.
5) Show your child that you love him/her.
When I came out to my mother, I know it shocked her. I did not drop hints, nor did I sit her down and lead up to the confession with a planned speech; my coming out was a random outburst during a car ride. I knew my mother was not homophobic, but I was still scared to finally be open about my sexuality with her. However, her reaction totally calmed me down and reassured me. After I told her I was gay, we had a casual, relaxed conversation about it — What female actresses did I find attractive? Did I know other LGBTQ kids at my school? Was I part of my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance? Then, we naturally moved to a different topic of conversation. When I got home, I was so relieved because my mother had shown me that our relationship had not changed. I was not a different person in her eyes — I was still the daughter she knew and loved, and she would always accept me for who I am.
The key to being a supportive parent to an LGBTQ child is to express your love to him/her on a daily basis. Your child will undoubtedly experience some rough times, whether from homophobia, or from unfortunate LGBTQ current events, or from unrequited crushes. Show your teen that you are always there to lend an ear or a hug; your child trusted you enough to come out to you, and if you show your support and unconditional love, that trust will only grow deeper.