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Why Parenting A LGBT+ Child Is Different: Take It From A LGBT+ Child

Discussion in 'For Parents and Family Members of LGBT People' started by NicoC123, May 14, 2018.

  1. NicoC123

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    Over 2 years ago I posted some advice to parents of LGBT+ kids and teens. While that post was well received and carried advice I still regard as highly important I feel that I have some new additions and some changes to the things I have said. I will post a link to the post below for those interested. I feel the need to rewrite or add to this post because when I wrote that post I was having issues with my parents and wanted to list the things they should have done better. While those issues have not been resolved, and some have even worsened, and new have arisen I am in a much better place now than I was then, and I believe the advice in that post is still very applicable. Just a warning this article is going to be very very long so grab a snack and prepare yourself. While long winded there is some very good advice in here. Trust me these are things I wished my parents had done and know many other queer kids wished they had had when growing up. That being said there is more you can do than what is in this piece. Talk to your child above all and see what it is they want!


    Parenting is hard. No matter what little one you are in charge of taking care of it is going to be a journey and not always a fun one. Parenting is regarded as one of the most rewarding things one can do and is seen, too many, as the final frontier of their lives. Parenting is a wonderful pursuit that is necessary to keep the world turning because no one is going to release a bunch of babies into the world and say "go get 'em" it just doesn't work that way. Between careers, bills, sports games, musicals, school, friends, extracurriculars, and so many more things that go into having a child it is hard to be the perfect parent. This goes for all parents. So, in saying that, let me preface this entire post with this: you will never be a perfect parent. You will screw up, you will hurt your child, you will get hurt by your child, and you will have some rough times. That is okay. It is actually a good thing. You, nor your child, can grow without adversity. It takes a while, but most kids are forgiving and will forgive you if you try. With all I have listed here it seems a daunting task to be a parent, and I am listing things that I know as a child of parents not even as a parent myself. I can't imagine some of the hardships that come with being a parent. So now we add the element of having a LGBT+ child. In this post I will outline some ways to parent your LGBT+ child. It is different. Understand that now. There is so much that you will need think about in terms of a queer child that you wouldn’t necessarily have to with a straight cisgendered child. This is because society has coded a lot of behaviors into our bodies that LGBT+ lives subvert. I could make an entire post just on this, but maybe later.


    To start I am going to say that parenting a LGBT+ child is not the same as parenting a straight, cisgendered child. There are a lot of obstacles to take into account that you and your child will need to go through to make their journey easier and maybe a little more fun. Remember that your child wants to celebrate who they are as a person. Celebrate with them! They may not want pride flags drug out and plastered in every room of the house, but they want to know that you are thinking of them and the issues that surround them. I think we should talk about some of the issues that surround LGBT+ children so you, as a parent, can better understand what your child might be going through and how to help them through these.


    Understand that your child has to look through media such as movies, music, and books with very little to no representation. While the straight person went through adolescence with many cliches and hopeless romantic dreams to attach themselves to. Straight people are given frames for their childhood and romances while queer kids have to fly in completely blind. Now imagine growing up without the princess and prince charming who told you what your relationship looked like. Imagine growing up without all the feel good romantic comedies that gave you something to look up to or forward to. Queer kids have to wonder what their relationships look like and it doesn’t look like your relationship for a lot of reasons.


    Most queer kids go through their adolescent life without being in relationships they end up in relationships much older in life. This goes with friendships with other queer people as well. Finding friends like you is very important and the lack of queer friends in the inner circle of queer kids is harrowing and damaging. Finding people who you can safely talk about your problems with that can relate is a catharsis we all need. Every kid needs to be able to talk about parent troubles, crushes, and school yet not every child needs friends who understand homophobia and having a infrastructure that does not understand you. The last two dig a bit deeper, and not all straight friends are going to be able to understand. This also translates to romantic relationships. Many queer teens and pre-teens do not find someone to be romantically involved with which is due to the fear of coming out and going out in public with a significant other. This means no dances with someone you like romantically, this means no awkward movie dates, this means your first kiss in your twenties, this means missing a lot of milestones that most kids desire. This may not seem like a huge deal but imagine your high school career without your sweethearts and proms.


    Your child will have to face homophobia. I am reluctant to touch on this subject in this article for a couple of reasons. First off, no matter how progressive this world gets homophobia will still run rampant in society. Maybe not one day, but it still does today. Second, you can’t stop it. You should not feel guilty if your child experiences homophobia, but I am here to help you soften those blows. Your child will experience funny looks, hate speech, bullying, maybe even physical violence at some point in their life. This is horrible and hopefully one day isn’t a worry. As a parent you take a role in not adding to the abuse they take in. I’m going to say that plain and simple.


    These are several very broad issues that your child will go through that you can help with. There are so many other things that your LGBT+ child will experience that a straight cisgender child won’t. The only reason they aren’t talked about in depth here is because these are some of the biggest issues you can help with. In the rest of the article I will touch on other smaller issues and ways you can help you child move a little smoother through adolescence because that is part of your job. When you had a child you signed an invisible contract to love that child no matter what. You signed on to do a good job and to teach your child how to live on their own and love them through it all. This is something I will not sugarcoat. If you in anyway do your child wrong intentionally you have failed as a parent. If you do your child wrong and apologize and try and fix what it is that has happened you are doing just fine. I want to stress that being a parent is not easy and you stumble and fall. The only thing you can do that is wrong is hurting your child physically, emotionally, and mentally with the intent to do so. You can help your child more than you think and raising a child who identifies as LGBT+ is not an easy task because of the world we live in today. It helps to understand that it is a journey for you and your child and that needs to be a discussion, a collaboration. They are going to teach you and tell you things as you do the same, and you need to be open to that. This isn’t impossible it isn’t even hard with enough work and love for your kid. So let’s get into it!


    If and when your child comes out there are a few things to do to make it easier for them. This is quintessential in the process because it is the first impression your child gets about how you feel about them and their sexuality. First let’s go over the things you shouldn’t say when your kid comes out. When they come out to you, whether you “knew” or didn’t, never tell them that you already knew. Not that this is particularly bad or harmful it just isn’t necessary. Don’t ask why they didn’t tell you sooner or why they hid or lied. They had reasons. Whatever they were your child didn’t feel safe to come out and that is okay. These also aren’t great things to say because you are turning their coming out into a situation about you. For right now it isn’t. What your kid needs to hear is that you love them and nothing has changed. Despite the fact that a few things are going to change, this is still your child and you still love them and they are still the person you know. You might find out a few new things about your child and a few new interests if you are open to hearing them. Just telling them you love them isn’t really enough they are going to show you different interests if you let them and you should. There is a lot in queer culture that kids are a little reluctant to share if the environment isn’t open, but they want to share it with you. When they feel comfortable they will show you a whole other side of them that you might not have known existed.


    Also in this realm is to let them know if you are having a hard time with their coming out. This is going to hurt you and them a bit and that is okay. They need to help you come to terms with their sexuality just as they had to. This does not mean you get to sit in your stubborn, unaccepting ways. You need to actively try and move past your issues with your child’s sexuality so that you may better aid them in their coming out and life. Like I said this isn’t easy. It may change a lot of what you pictured for your child in the future, but the bottom line is it is their future not yours. Let them have the future they want and deserve and help them achieve it. In the end you will have a much stronger relationship and your child will be much happier.


    Next, ask them questions! They want to talk about it and though they may not jump right out and give you the full story they want you to understand. Ask them about their crushes and when they knew and how they knew. Do not ask them why they think they are queer. Do not ask them if they are sure. Do not ask them if they think it is a phase. Do not ask them invasive questions about sex and their bodies (this is especially true of transgendered individuals). Let them know you want to know all about them. They are going to want you to do some research, but if they can mold their family life to be comfortable for them they are going to be much happier. Asking questions is going to encourage them to be more open and honest especially if you are accepting and constructive in receiving their answers.


    Now this sentiment is biased in favor of your child. Let’s face it your children are not perfect. They will make mistakes and you need to let them, but you also need to guide them in the right direction. When I say be open, loving, and accepting I mean do not come in with the intent to condemn your child for being wrong. If you are calm and level headed with their answers to all of your questions you will have a much more constructive discussion. You need to trust your instincts as a parent, but understand your child is trying their best as well and that needs to be taken into account. You aren’t going to be able to help them with everything and they have to fly into a lot of situations blind. This leads to a lot of stumbles and that is fine. Let them stumble do not get angry for them tripping.


    Like I said above, representation is a problem for LGBT+ kids and teens. It very much helps to expose your children to some media that involves LGBT+ characters. Not only does this allow your child to explore media that looks like their story it also shows that you are open to queer content in your home. Like I said you don’t need to throw up pride flags but opening your home to the queer community lets your child release a massive amount of tension they hold in their body. Have movie nights with queer characters and maybe read books together with gay main characters. Going on outings to see movies with queer representation. While it might be awhile for another movie to pop up in theaters when it does happen invite your child don’t expect them to invite you. It is hard and slightly embarrassing to open that door to your parent try and help them open it. There may not be a good amount of mainstream media with queer characters but there are a few.


    This next one may be a little awkward but can be a fun way to either embarrass your child or connect with them. Many queer kids don’t get to talk about their crushes or people they are into. You see many mothers pointing out guys to their daughters and many fathers pointing out women to their sons. It isn’t hard (and it is a great way to mess your kid if you are a parent who likes that) to point out people of the gender they like. It is something fun and again it opens up your family sphere to them and their queer identity. While your child might get into it or bashfully tell you to stop it is an open door for them and that is very important. Don’t get carried away though and remember to respect your child’s privacy on their sexual and romantic orientation.


    This leads to another good point. Do not tell anyone about your child's coming out unless they specifically ask you to do so. Never tell friends or family members or anyone else. Revealing your kids orientation to other people not only takes their chance to do it themselves away it is an immediate breach of their trust and puts many more obstacles in the way of your relationship. This is their thing and it needs to be handled exactly as they want it to be handled. There are very few things in your child's life that you have no say on, but this is one of them. To be blunt once again you control nothing when it comes to your child’s coming out. They get to tell who they want when they want and that isn’t up to you unless who they want to tell poses an immediate danger to them and even then you can only give your opinion who they tell is their choice. It is on their time and it is going to, most likely, be really difficult for them. The best thing to do is ask and listen to what they want to do about their coming out. If they ask you to tell someone do it. If they ask it be kept a secret do it, and if they want to tell the world let them. It is their choice and you revealing or repressing this information only puts a divide between you and your child.


    Next up is an action on your part that can actually be quite fun for both you and your child. Like stated above it is hard to network and find friends who are queer. Finding support and social groups for queer kids and teens is a great opportunity for you and your child to make some new friends. Many parents are looking for support from other parents and you might be one of them! If that is the case go out and meet some new people. Organizations like PFLAG have socials and meetings for teens, parents, and teens and parents. This is a great way to get to know some of your child’s friends and make some of your own. Like said above your child needs a support system of people going through the same things they are, but so do you and this is a great opportunity to meet some people who may know exactly what to do or have absolutely no idea. Either one is great and a perfect opportunity to make your child feel comfortable and safe.


    The last thing I will add that you, as a parent, can help with is a hard issue to handle because it is out of your control and there isn’t much you can do about it. Homophobia runs rampant even in places you think it wouldn’t. You can’t stop it. You can’t protect your child from it. You can give them a safe space to come home to. It is scary not being able to walk in front of your child sword and shield in hand for the entirety of their lives, but this is the way of the world. Your child, if going public with their sexuality, will experience some form of homophobia in their lives. It is taxing and hard to deal with. The best thing you can do is fortify your home for them. This includes being open and willing to listen and talk, turning away guests (INCLUDING FAMILY MEMBERS) who are homophobic or scorn your child, and giving them a space they can relax in by doing the things listed above. This may feel like you aren’t doing anything, but it is much easier to deal with the outside world when your home is a fortress. Knowing you have people who love and care for you is much more powerful than any action you could take against homophobia so give your child that.


    If you have lasted with me long enough to reach this point I commend you, and to me that speaks volumes about you wanting to do right by your child. I know I may have been harsh to parents in some portions of this, but it is necessary to set solid ground rules and boundaries for parents when it comes to a coming out situation. This isn’t you day to day parent/child relationship struggles; this is a whole new ballgame that doesn’t have to be all that hard. The most important thing to remember is that is your baby and you love them no matter what. If that is your first thought then it will be very hard to fail. All of the things listed above are great for opening doors for your child, but they aren’t necessarily needed. I highly highly recommend doing some of these because they will make your child more comfortable, but when it comes down to it you just need to love them and let them take the lead. Don’t treat them differently unless it is a change in your mindset. As a parent your kids need to come first and in the end they will thank you for that. If you try and set boundaries and let them take the journey alone you are going to strain your relationship irreparably, but if you keep this journey a conversation and let them take the lead it will be a road you can take together. Remember love your child that is all you need to do. I hope this helped some parents with questions and if any further questions arise I am always open to help you out! Please do not hesitate to contact me! Also if you feel I have missed something or overlooked something please let me know.


    Thank you for making it this far with me. I know it is hard to sit through and read a lot of this, but it pays off. Your child’s coming out may not be a big deal to you, but it most likely is to them. Let them revel in the dramatics of it all and let it settle for them. This was a very long and draining essay so pat yourself on the back for making it through! I will post more advice coming up for parents and kids alike and like I said I am always open for more questions. Thank you for reading and go hug your children.

    Here is the link to the old post for any interested:
    https://forum.emptyclosets.com/inde...o-parents-of-a-gay-kid-from-a-gay-kid.425216/
     
  2. 18breanna

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    I LOVE this post!! :information_desk_person: This is exactly the kind of thing that makes me feel safer and happier with family :^) Bless!
     
    #2 18breanna, May 17, 2018
    Last edited: May 17, 2018
  3. Chierro

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    I will say, this is great advice.

    On that note, though, I think it should be made clear that this isn’t applicable to everyone. A majority, yes, but not everyone.

    I know personally, when I came out to my family my sister and mom both said they knew. I didn’t care. And the very last thing I wanted was for any of them to ask me about crushes and stuff. Friends? Sure, but family, no way.

    And while LGBT media still needs to make progress, it has come a long way. While TV and movies are lacking in the department of being an LGBT teenager, there are many books that talk about the experience. Parents giving suggestions of books, and parents reading the books themselves, would actually be very helpful. And it’s actually not at all that hard to find lists of LGBT YA books that are recent.

    Overall, though, fantastic advice and post. Just felt I would give my two cents on the subject.
     
  4. NicoC123

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    Thank you so much! I agree that this isn't for all people. I think I wanted to compile a bit of general advice from what a lot of LGBT+ friends of mine had suggested. I think as long as family is putting in the effort then everything will be alright. Thanks for the response!