Your child has come out as LGBTQ. This is a momentous occasion. And, it is also one that can be fraught with challenges and difficult conversations. How do you respond? Should you tell other family members? How do you support your child without “othering” them? It’s okay to have questions. In fact, it’s great that you are here reading this blog and taking active steps to educate yourself! Education is the first step to advocacy. In this blog, we will be giving our advice on how you can best support your child once they’ve come out as LGBTQ+.
Showing Your Support and Love
One of the common reactions that parents have when their child comes out is to tell them “I’ll love you no matter what!” It’s a well-intentioned phrase in an attempt to express to your child that you love them no matter how they identify. But, this statement isn’t as supportive as it seems. It alludes to the idea that being part of the LGBTQ+ community is a negative thing, but that you love them despite it.
Using LGBTQ Affirming Language
So ask yourself, what language can you use instead? How can you express your love and support for your child without othering them? For example, you might say “I’m so glad that you shared this part of you with me. I love and support you.” It’s important that you share your support and love in a way that feels affirming.
Asking the Right Questions (and Really Listening to Their Answers)
Another aspect of showing your support is to learn more about how you can be there for your child. This means asking questions. Make sure that you ask open-ended questions in a gentle way. You shouldn’t push your child to share anything that they’re not ready to share yet. And remember, coming out is often a journey and not a destination. They may not have all the answers yet.
What pronouns do they use?
You may want to ask what their pronouns are and how they would like to be referred to. For example, they may use she/her, she/they, he/they, or he/him pronouns. They may also go by a different name. It’s important to be open-minded and understanding of your child’s needs.
How can you best support them?
In addition to asking about their pronouns, we also suggest that you ask how else you can support them. Every person and their needs are different, so ask your child how you can be there for them. Is there anything you should do in a different way? Anything you can do more of?
Listen to their answers and follow through on what they’re asking for
Remember that asking these questions is only part of the process. You actually have to listen and apply their answers. If they let you know that they use pronouns different from the pronouns they were assigned at birth, use those new pronouns! You might make a mistake a time or two, but it’s important to try.
Give them time and space
Your child is likely to have a lot on their mind after coming out. They may feel worried about how you will react, how other family members will react, and if they will be accepted. Asking questions shows that you care and want to learn more about their experiences. But remember that they may need time to answer. Give them space and make sure that they know that you are always there for them.
Advocating for Your LGBTQ Child With Family and Friends
In some families, coming out may not be received with open arms. You might have family members or friends who make hurtful comments or ask invasive questions. They may believe that being LGBTQ is a phase or that it’s “just a choice.”
Some people instinctively avoid bringing up their child’s identity to avoid these sorts of conversations. But, this can make it seem like your child’s identity is some sort of “big secret” or that you feel ashamed of them. Instead, you want to show others that you support your child.
Take a stand. Stand with your child.
Be kind and clear in the way that you speak about them, and advocate for them around friends and family. But, it’s important to make sure that you ask your child first if they are comfortable with others knowing about their identity. They may want to tell some family members themselves, or may not be ready to come out to certain people. So be sure to ask for their permission first, but then stand with them and show your support.
In regards to the fact that your child may not be “out” to everyone in their life, it’s important to discuss code-switching. If you aren’t familiar with the term, code-switching is when a person alters the way they speak or act depending on the context. For example, someone who is LGBTQ may dress and act in a different way around their family than they do with their friends.
They may use different pronouns in their friend group than they do with their family. Or, they may feel more comfortable expressing themselves at school than they do at other events. This isn’t them “tricking” you or hiding anything. It’s simply a way for them to feel safe and comfortable in different environments.
Code-switching can be very exhausting. Plus, they shouldn’t be “punished” for trying to make themselves comfortable. You can certainly ask them how you can support them or make different environments more comfortable for them. But, remember that this is their reality and that they are the expert on their own experiences.
The Bottom Line
Coming out is a process, and there is no one right way to do it. The most important thing you can do as a parent is to be open-minded and understanding of your child’s needs. It’s okay if you have questions. Just make sure to ask them in a respectful way and be prepared to actually listen to their answers.
At the end of the day, they are still your child. They are still the same person you have known and loved their entire life. So show them your support, love, and understanding. Grow with them, listen to them, and be their biggest advocate.
Begin LGBTQ Therapy in Orange County, CA
Coming out is only one of the many challenges that LGBTQ teens and adults can face. Therapy with Moxie Family Therapy can be a great resource for LGBTQ individuals who want to process or explore their identity. It’s also helpful for those who want to work through other challenges in their life with a therapist that they know understands their identity. If your child is interested in working with an LGBTQ-affirming therapist, you can follow these steps:
- Contact Moxie Family Therapy
- Find a therapist that’s the right fit for your child
- Start working with an LGBTQ+ affirming counselor
Other Therapy Services Offered at Moxie Family Therapy
Our team is happy to offer a variety of mental health services in addition to LGBTQ therapy. Our Orange County, CA-based practice is also happy to offer support for women, children, teens, young adults, and couples with a variety of services in person and online. We also offer mental health services including therapy for anxiety, trauma, clinical supervision, art therapy, counseling for adoption, therapy for therapists, and play therapy. Please learn more about us by visiting our blog or FAQ page today!