How to Support Your LGBTQ Child: A Guide for Parents

Written by Amy Thompson

September 25, 2021

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There is a lot of information and misinformation about the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community. One of the most important things for parents to know is that they can support their LGBTQ child and still be an advocate for family values.

Supportive parenting can help LGBTQ children become more confident and proud of who they are.

As a member of the LGBTQ community myself I was aware of the importance of family support when one of my children came out to me. I hugged her and celebrated this life-changing moment with her. 

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately not every child receives validation and support when they choose to come out.

While some parents might feel like they have all the time in the world to figure out how to do this right, others might need a little guidance.

Below are some ways to recognize if your child is LGBTQ, educate yourself about what this means, what not to do, and what you can do to support your LGBTQ child.

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There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are many ways to help your child explore their identity and develop a positive self-image.

Is your child starting to show an interest in members of the same sex, both sexes, or presenting gender appearance different from their biological sex?

This might be a sign that they are LGBTQ. While there is no surefire way to know  (short of them telling you) it is important to be aware of their behavior and to communicate with them about it in an approachable and positive manner.

For example, you might want to ask them if they have ever had a crush on any of the genders. Be inclusive — don’t assume their crush is the opposite gender or restricted to one gender only. It’s important for parents to be aware and talk openly with their children.

“According to a 2013 Pew Research Study, the median age LGBTQ+ people reported coming out to others is 20 years old.”

goodhousekeeping.com

The most important thing you can do is openly display an attitude of acceptance so your child feels comfortable coming out to you on their own terms — and in their own time.

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My Child Just Came Out to Me. What Now?

The LGBTQ community is still stigmatized and people struggle to accept that gender identity and sexual orientation are a real thing. Understanding and accepting the struggles of the LGBTQ community can help parents love and support their children. It can also help children accept who they are. 

However, parents need to keep in mind that some of their fears are valid and have some basis in reality. The truth is, LGBTQ+ youth are at an increased risk of being bullied, mistreated, or attempting suicide. However, there is a huge difference between being afraid of something and taking steps to prevent it. Check out this valuable resource Most LGBTQ are Cyberbullied. Here’s How to Stay Safe Online for help with LGBTQ Bullying in the digital age.

LGBTQ people share the same human rights as any other person and have a right to safety, dignity, and respect. But By educating yourself, being an advocate for your child, and supporting them with open and loving conversations, you can significantly reduce any risks of harm.

“In a study of LGBTQ+ students in grades 7-12, students who have been bullied at school or are not accepted at home were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide and have higher rates of depression and substance abuse.”

riseandshine.childrensnational.org

Kids might also be afraid to come out to their parents because they fear that their families will not accept them. However, there are many things you can do to support your LGBT kids! Read on for some ways to help your child feel safe and accepted.

The Importance of Family Support for LGBTQ Youth

Don’t reject or criticize them. Give them space to feel and process their feelings about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Listen to them. Teach them by example that there is nothing shameful about being LGBTQ, and that people from all walks of life are LGBTQ.

“This can make all the difference as research from The Trevor Project found LGBTQ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40 percent less likely to report a suicide attempt in 2019.”

 

parents.com

Your LGBTQ child needs to know that you love them just as they are and that they are always welcome in your family. Be open with them. Once your child has come out, it is essential to address any concerns head-on. This will help them see that you are there for them.

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What Not to Do – Tips for Parents of LGBTQ Youth

“DON’T Ignore it.

DON’T Say you “knew all along.”

DON’T Tell them “this is just a phase.”

DON’T Use religion to shame them.”

familyequality.org

Can I Change My Child’s Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity?

As a parent, you want to be able to do anything in your power to help your child. You may also feel like you want to protect them from harm and early exposure to certain things.

But sometimes, parents can go too far. It’s not uncommon for fearful parents to try to force their values onto their kids through the power of suggestion or even force through punishment by putting them in conversion therapy alternatively known as a “pray away the gay” program.

But is it possible for a parent to change their child’s sexual orientation or gender identity?

The truth is, there is no way to change your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Attempting to do this is futile at best, and severely damaging mentally and emotionally to your child at worst.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and many other respected organizations have condemned efforts to change a young person’s sexual orientation. The consensus is that these interventions are not effective, involve some risk of harm, and can be very expensive. In addition, there is no scientific evidence that a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity can be changed.

Whatever the motivation for being protective, one thing is clear: Parenting is hard work. It takes patience, love, and dedication. So what’s a parent to do? Accept your child for who they are!

“Even if you have a gay best friend, a closet full of rainbow t-shirts, and are committed to being 100% affirming, do not force your child out of the closet.”

grownandflown.com

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What to Do – Tips for Parents of LGBTQ Youth

“DO Tell them you believe and love them, and thank them for telling you.

DO Ask about what kind of support they need.

DO Commit to being an ally to the evolving LGBTQ community.”

familyequality.org

 Here are some parenting tips for supporting your LGBTQ child:

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#1. Communicate and Love them Unconditionally.

Provide a safe and supportive environment for your child. By talking about your child’s sexual orientation and gender identity, you can teach your child that how they’re feeling is not a problem, it’s not shameful and it’s a completely normal part of growing up and discovering your true self!

By discussing these kinds of issues, you will be teaching your child to have a positive and realistic perspective on their own identity.

For some parents, confronting their children about this may be too difficult to do. In those cases, a therapist or support group can be an excellent resource.

Parenting can be exhausting. The stress and anxiety can be overwhelming. Helping your child (and yourself) navigate LGBTQ issues can be an added strain to an already stressful and challenging situation. Make sure you get your child (and yourself) the support needed.

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#2. Educate Yourself.

LGBTQ is an initialism that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer.

These are sexual and gender identities and are forms of sexual orientation. The acronym “LGBTQ” is meant to be inclusive of all of these groups and is used in the social sciences and some other fields to describe a wide variety of identities.

Parents, are you interested in learning more about social justice and the LGBT community? There are many different types of gender identities and sexual orientations. This article is an excellent resource for you! I want to help your child navigate through the LGBT community in a positive way.

What is sexual orientation?

Sexual orientation is a term used to describe the type of sexual, romantic, emotional, or spiritual attraction someone feels toward people of the same gender, another gender, or more than one gender.

Sexual orientation falls along a continuum.

On one end are people who are primarily attracted to members of the other sex. These are people who identify as heterosexual. On the other end are people who are primarily attracted to members of their own sex. These are people who identify as homosexual.

In between these two extremes are many different identities that can include being bisexual (attracted to more than one sex), pansexual (attracted to all sexes and genders), or queer (a rejection of binary thinking about sexual orientation).

Sexual orientation is not always clear-cut and can change over time.

Classification of a person’s sexual orientation may be complex and fluid. Sexual orientation is most often determined by self-identification–a person who identifies their sexuality with a certain term or phrase they are comfortable using themselves.

“Although all of the terms and acronyms may sound overwhelming at first, you can really show your child that you love and support them by learning the correct terms for their identity. There are many specific terms for gender identity as well as numerous categories of sexuality with their own glossaries. Luckily, organizations like PFLAG have very comprehensive glossaries of terms on their website and digital publications like Refinery 29 have slideshows of the LGBTQ flags that also define the identities the flags represent.”

pflag.org

What is gender identity?

Gender identity refers to the internal sense of self as male, female, both, or neither. It is not simply your sex assigned at birth.

It’s important to note that sexual orientation and gender identity are two separate entities.

All humans have a gender identity. Gender identity plays an important role in how you express yourself, your sexuality, and how society perceives you. It is a social and cultural construct, not a biological one. Society has assigned certain roles to each gender, male and female, which have been normalized as the societal “norm”.

Your gender identity can be at odds with the sexual anatomy you were born with – known as being transgender – or it can match what you were assigned at birth – known as being cisgender.

People who experience gender dysphoria may or may not desire to explore different options for transitioning their bodies to reflect their true internal gender to lead more authentic lives.

Life is too short to not be who you are. All persons regardless of their gender identity deserve to live an authentic, safe, and happy life.

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#3. Be Their Biggest Advocate.

LGBTQ kids and teens face bullying, discrimination, and violence disproportionately. Bullying can affect a child’s physical and psychological well-being and their ability to learn in school. Discrimination can lead to high rates of depression and suicide.

This adversity can lead to homelessness, incarceration, and even death. LGBTQ kids often don’t get the support they need from their parents or guardians.

“Navigating the world as a child is hard especially when you feel like you don’t “fit in.” As a parent of a queer child, you can support them by just listening to them and validating their feelings as they find their place in the world. In fact, the LGBTQ organization PFLAG stresses how important it is to give your child ample opportunities to express their thoughts and feelings to you. By listening to their struggles and offering validation, you give them the perfect outlet for their complex feelings as they grow into themselves.”

pflag.org

When it comes to LGBTQ children, you can do a few things to make sure they feel loved and supported.

Whether your child is out or not, the important thing is that they know you have their back.

You can advocate for your child in many ways, from talking about acceptance in schools, advocating for transgender rights in public spaces, and attending LGBTQ community events together — these are just some of the things you can do. Keep reading for information on connecting with LGBTQ family resources for yourself and your child.

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#4. Connect with LGBTQ Resources.

Being part of a family in the LGBT community can be challenging. Parents and their children in the LGBT community may need to deal with bullying and discrimination, or they may want to make sure that their child is able to have a happy childhood just like any other kid.

“If your circle consists mainly of people who look and believe just like you, consider going outside your comfort zone and befriending coworkers and neighbors who are LGBTQ, or join organizations that include queer people and their families.”

diversitybestpractices.com

As laws and attitudes change, so does the landscape for LGBT people. But there are still many challenges to be faced.

Now more than ever, it’s important for families to have the resources they need to help them raise happy, healthy kids.

From understanding sexual orientation and gender identity terminology to learning tools for talking with your child about sex and sexuality in a healthy way, these resources will help you create a safe space at home for your LGBTQ family members.

Below are some of the top resources for families who want to learn how to best support their LGBT family members:

1. PFLAG

PFLAG started with support for families. For more than 40 years, they have been providing publications, toolkits, and other resources to ensure that family members of LGBTQ people get the support they need. These resources allow families to then further support, affirm, and advocate for their LGBTQ loved ones.

2. The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project provides crisis resources, peer support, research, public education, and advocacy for LGBTQ youth. The Trevor Project’s mission is to end suicide among LGBTQ youth by providing hope and tangible support.

3. Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

The Human Rights Campaign’s mission is to achieve equality by educating and persuading others to support LGBTQ people’s rights.

4.  Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)

GLAAD’s mission is to support and amplify the voices of the LGBTQ community through media that reflects the beauty of who they are. By telling their stories, we can make the world a better, more inclusive place for all.

5. Family Equality

Family Equality is a nonprofit organization that has been working to advance equality for LGBTQ families, as well as those who wish to form them. Its mission is to build community, change hearts and minds, and drive policy change.

6. Ultimate Guide to Resources for LGBTQ+ Students.

This ultimate list of resources is for college-bound LGBTQ students and includes information about “scholarships, resources, clubs, anti-bullying hotlines, and more.” Thank you to Anna Jones and her youth LGBTQ group for suggesting this valuable resource.

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Love is Love.

There are many things parents can do to help LGBTQ children. Regardless of how your child identifies or whether your child chooses to come out to you, always remember to make them feel safe and loved.

Whether it is through education or simple actions of acceptance, your efforts will pay off with your child’s happiness, confidence, and wellbeing.

LGBT families have unique needs and experiences that can be tough to navigate without support or information. So what are you waiting for? This article contains some general information about raising LGBTQ youth. If you have comments, questions, please check out the resources listed above.

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    • Hi, I’m Amy! I’m obsessed with getting organized and managing my family life while trying to preserve sanity! I strive to make motherhood as drama-free as possible, and my goal for Drama Free Momma is to help other momma’s do the same. When I’m not blogging, I love traveling, all things Sci-fi, my two dogs, cappuccinos, social justice, planning themed events (it’s like an art form), and creating happy childhood memories for my two beautiful children!

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