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What advice would you give to parents and family of LGBT people?

Discussion in 'For Parents and Family Members of LGBT People' started by LostInDaydreams, Oct 25, 2020.

  1. LostInDaydreams

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    Hello everyone,

    For November’s featured discussion we asked you to share what advice you would give to parents and family members of LGBT people. But the thread is still open for further replies and advice!

    This could be:
    • Advice on how to respond and support their LGBT children and other family members in specific scenarios (e.g. coming out).
    • Advice on how to support their children and other family members through the additional day-to-day challenges that come with being LGBT.
    Please share your experiences and together we can create a helpful guide for parents and other family members who visit Empty Closets looking for advice on how to support their LGBT children.

    ***​
    As we grow up, we all pick up messages directly and indirectly from our parents, wider family and the world around us, including from friends and all forms of media. My daughter is now seven years old and for the last few years I have been aware that she is forming her own ideas about both gender and relationships, which are largely influenced by what society around us portrays as “normal”. In the moments where this becomes apparent I try counteract these message, but as a parent, the best thing to do or most appropriate thing to say is not always readily apparent. They don’t give you a handbook!

    I also tell my daughter that she can talk to me about anything, but from my own experiences as a child, I know that this is often easier said than done. We can often feel pressure to meet the expectations that we perceive our parents and family have of us, or fear the possibility of a negative reaction. This is sometimes with good reason - only a week ago my stepdad informed me that he would not be watching Strictly (Dancing with the Stars for those of you on the other side of the water) this year due to there being same sex couples, which has made me think twice about coming out to him and I’m in my 30s.

    However, I do believe that the majority of parents and other family members have the best interests of their children at heart. Parents aren’t perfect though, and they do sometimes make mistakes, which to them might be well intentioned. Clear and open communication can help, but is not always easy with the high emotions and tensions that can exist within families. So, please share your experiences here and help parents and other family members find the best way to support their LGBT children.

    Parents and other family members can also take a look at PFLAG, which is a charity organisation that offers support and advice to patents and families of LGBT people, and there is also EC’s own For Parents and Family Members of LGBT People sub forum.
     
    #1 LostInDaydreams, Oct 25, 2020
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 2, 2020
  2. Spartan 117

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    I have noticed a few members join our forum over the years saying that they suspect their children are LGBT, and that they're not sure the best way to bring it up with them.

    The advice our members usually give them, and I think it's good: is to create an atmosphere that they know it's safe to come out and talk about their feelings.

    You could go straight in and ask, however, it's quite a scary question to be put on the spot with. They might say 'no' defensively, or perhaps they don't even know the answer yet.

    The best solution, in my book, is to gently drop into conversation that you're open-minded towards the LGBT community. That could be commenting positively towards LGBT characters on television, or (depending on the situation) even saying to your child something like "if you brought home a boyfriend/girlfriend it wouldn't bother me" or "if you were trans, I'd support you".

    They might not respond straight away, but at least they know that it's safe to talk to you in the future - and that you'll make an attempt to understand how they might be feeling.
     
  3. musicteach

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    I think Spartan hit the nail in the head. (I finally got the reference to your username btw†). Just providing a safe, loving and supportive environment is so important.

    † Correct mere if I’m wrong but it’s from Halo, yes? I was looking at the music recently and there’s a movement called “Spartan 117” and it clicked swing your name.
     
  4. DecentOne

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    Let your family members or children know that they can be themselves. If as a kid they like peanut butter on pickles, you can say "wow, I wouldn't have picked that combination, but good for you if you like it!" If they are adults saying they've always wanted to try something new, encourage them to do so safely.

    Show them you are celebrating diversity around you, with your comments about new things being more open to wonder and curiosity, and talk about how you met someone different from yourself and learned something from them. They will learn you are a supportive person, and absorb it.

    In my case I was taught that I had a unique heritage, and to be proud to be different. It was taught in a way that we could be glad about it, and talk about it in ways that showed my positive attitude, and also realize other ethnic and national heritages had things to be proud of too. My family did not tell ethnic/immigrant jokes.

    We'd also chosen a religious house of worship different from my friends, and were taught not to denigrate others but instead be proud we all had the power of choice, freedom of religion, and could find lots in common too. Try to stay away from messages of hate, and speak up (even if just in your living room to your kids) that you don't agree with hate speech.

    I also was told stories of how relatives and ancestors took a stand, in order to be true to their convictions. As a teen I very much loved being loved unconditionally, even if (especially if) I was prickly, and even though my parents were loving for a while it was my grandma who was my go-to person when I wanted an adult to listen with interest and love (especially during any periods when I was counter-dependent with my parents, trying to assert myself and ending up arguing) - so if there is an aunt, uncle, grandparent, or other who can be in that role, be sure your teen has access to them.

    I also agree with the above suggestions by others.

    I think my Mom was hinting she suspected something about my orientation when I was a teen. She'd bring up stuff about how it was good that counselors were changing attitudes about gay people (when the psychological association was removing it from the DSM as a mental illness). I had no idea what to make of that, mumbling "um, that's good to know, Mom" ("gay" didn't apply to me, so it was like hearing the paint-seller's association now would accept all paint colors as valid, but I wasn't trying to paint anything). My parents gave me a book about puberty which was mostly about boys having feelings about girls, but included an example of a teen boy who had a secret crush on another guy in school, pretty rare openness for that era. Another time, years later she brought me to a presentation by a gay man, because she said it was good to see a gay person in a respected positive professional way (ok, we're for diversity, why not?). Even though no one was telling me about bisexuality, at least I knew my family was accepting of gay folks.

    Watch out for expectations. My parents made it very clear they wanted grandchildren. That's a good thing, but if I had ended up with a guy instead of my wife it would have left me feeling "they love and accept me, but I don't live up to their expectations, I am not a success in their eyes" (sure, now two guys can apply to adopt, but back then no). Some expectations are quaint and easily dismissed, but be careful about big heteronormative ones.
     
  5. QuietPeace

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    I am afraid that the only thing that I can come up with is probably not all that helpful for anyone who is willing to come to a forum like this.

    If your religion (or any personal belief system actually) tells you to throw away people for being born who they are - throw the religion (or belief system) away instead.
     
  6. BlueLion

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    I would just tell them to love and support their children / family members unconditionally. In general, society is becoming more tolerant nowadays, at least in Western countries. However, there are still people who don't respect or understand that some of us have different orientations or gender identities. As a result, it's essential that LGBTQ+ people have a safe and supportive family circle, where they can feel free to be themselves and where they can be loved independent of who they are, especially in younger ages.

    I would add that it is important not to put pressure on them to come out. If you'd like that your kid / family member open up to you, it could be interesting to let them know that you're tolerant towards LGBT+ community, as it has been suggested before. However, I'd suggest to respect their own process and let them decide when it's the right time for them to come out.

    Finally, I would tell those parents / family members who might feel a bit shocked at the beginning, that the fact of being LGBT+ is not that important. I mean, their children / family member will keep being the same person. Their different orientation / gender identity is just another feature of their personality. If you think about it carefully, sexual orientation or gender identity shouldn't be more important than their eye colour, their height or their nationality. After all, everybody deserves to be loved and to be happy. Esentially, all of us are human beings and the things that make us different have little importance.
     
  7. Tuesdayok

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    Being a single mom my daughter has recently spoken to me about her bisexuality. When she confided in me, all I thought was no matter what you feel or your sexuality, nothing changes as far as how much I love you, & regardless of that, as long as you are respectful, kind & responsible, to me it is not something for me to judge. I fully support her in every way, & was so proud of her courage to discuss with me such a profoundly personal issue. Having worked with gay people for many years, they are no different in terms of their needs & longing to be loved & accepted. I love my daughter, & will embrace every aspect of her with unconditional love, support & encouragement.
     
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  8. Hope10

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    For ones that are anti gay take time to calm down before responding maybe say we'll talk about this later when I've had a chance to think about it. Please stay calm , it's important not just because of being able to come out to you but about life , I can talk to my biological mom about anything but my adoptive mom is so incredibly over reactive and homophobic I can't talk to her about anything serious because she'll just start yelling
     
  9. johndeere3020

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    I have a unique perspective on this, I am not sure but I highly suspect that my soon to be 16 year old nephew is LGBT. I haven't come out to my bothers kids yet for the sole fact that their mothers family is a bunch of homophobic (fill in the blank). I have mentioned in conversation that whoever my family members love and bring to my house is fine by me. I hope that if he is on the spectrum he has the courage to be himself and not be like his uncle and screw half his life away in shame.
     
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