Updated: May 27
If you’re reading this you’re already on a helpful track to supporting your child. If you believe your child or adolescent, whether biological fostered, or adopted, is lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, or queer (LGBTQ) please keep reading.
I’d like to first ask you to get grounded. If you’re feeling safe and calm in your body you may imagine a time when a family member rejected you for being different. Perhaps it was a hurtful remark about being different than your siblings or peers. (I will specifically refrain from including anything here for comparison because I want your imagination to go wherever it needs to and I don’t want to limit you with my understanding of LGBTQ rejections and overgeneralizing this experience to other minority groups.) When you have a memory in place of what it felt like to have someone reject you based on a perceived difference I want you to imagine what it would have felt like to have an angel in your corner affirming and embracing you. Hopefully this article will support you toward being that angel for yourself and your family.
The Family Acceptance Project provides a poster with helpful ways that you can love your child/adolescent who is questioning their identity or sharing about who they are. The poster also talks about the risks of what can happen when we are not accepting. This is a crucial time when the way we respond can actually impact someone’s body, psyche, self-image, and future years.
What happens if you have intersecting identities that say things other than the poster? For example, in certain parts of the world people are still stoned for being their authentic gay selves. Does that mean we need to tell gay folks in the US how great they have it, certainly not? We can be gentle with ourselves understanding our own intersecting identities. I encourage therapy for yourself while processing your child’s gender or sexuality. It would be important that this is specifically a non-oppressive, anti-racist, mental health professional such as a psychologist, counselor or clinical social worker who is committed to acknowledging your intersecting identities, including your parenthood.
One helpful author discussed “coming out” as a Eurocentric concept. While coming out has been beneficial for some, Mr. Mychal Denzel Smith discusses the concept of inviting in, which you can check out here. What would the world be like if we invited LGBTQ young people in? We can invite people in by sharing our pronouns when introducing ourselves, by not assuming they are interested in a gender different than theirs, and by looking at our own gender and sexuality beliefs. There’s many other ways we can invite people in. Creating a safe environment to come into is a more helpful approach than expecting a child to come out.
Here are five things from the poster and my experience that you can do starting today to support your child:
Show gentleness and affection when you find out they are gay or LGBTQ.
Use simple reflection when listening. A simple reflection is a description or observation of what you hear without interpretation. We often think we know what someone means or how something will turn out. It is important to be present and reflect what you hear your child saying, not what you think they mean.
Affirm they are okay and that they’ll be okay. We don’t know what okay looks like for them, but you are their angel. You are their mirror to know that they don’t have to engage in disassociating activities (such as drugs and alcohol) and that they are okay enough as they are right here and now. They are enough as they are in this moment.
Allow your child or adolescent to attend therapy or talk with a supportive person about their intersecting identities.
Get involved in the community. Do something visible for yourself and the LGBTQ community. Your child may notice their caregiver at events or attending meetings in support and acceptance of who they are rather than that rejecting stuff we talked about earlier. In years of supporting parents with gay and transgender children, I have noticed this to be one of the ways children notice their caregiver caring.
Please reach out if you’d like more help on creating an inviting space or being an angel in your child’s story.
Meet Our Guest Author
Dr. Hannah Alia Joharchi, Ph.D., serves LGBTQ people from all backgrounds in her private practice, Soft Heart Psychology, and as the psychologist of a county gender center in California. Dr. Joharchi is someone who attempts to build safety around layers of privilege. She builds the rapport needed to repair attachment wounds and heal from traumatic experiences. Check out her latest blogs and feel free to reach out to her on her website.
At PlayfulLeigh Psyched, we are commited to supporting children, families, and inviduals of all genders and sexual orientations without limitations. If you are looking for a therapist for yourself or your child in Maryland or Florida, schedule a free 15-minute consultation. If you are located in California, we highly recommend Soft Heart Psychology!