Parents and Family
Every child’s worst fear is that by coming out their parents will reject them. You have a choice; you can help your child feel accepted and loved, or you can add to their feelings of isolation. Coming to terms with what can sometimes feel like a bombshell does not happen overnight. It can take days, weeks, months or even years.
The key is to learn how to handle your negative feelings so you can continue to have a relationship with your child. For some this will be a slow process, but it is important to understand that it will be an ordeal for your child as well as for you. Your child is the same child you gave birth to – it is vital you don’t forget this. Sexuality is only one small part of the person they are.
During the process of “coming out” parents of LGBT youth will often experience:
- Shock and confusion: How did this happen?
- Denial: This can’t be happening, Not in our family, Maybe it’s just a phase.
- Anger: How could he/she do this to us?
- Fear: What will happen to my child? How will they be perceived by the community?
- Shame: What do I tell people?
- Grief: My son/daughter will never get married, have children(grandchildren).
- Guilt: Was it something that we did/didn’t do?
- Isolation: Feeling that no one will understand.
- Concern: How will our church/religion react?
- Acceptance: My child needs my love as much as they did before they “came out”.
As parents we need to realize our children did not choose this sexual orientation. It is not a fad or phase. We are born with our orientation just like eye colour, there is no choice. Homosexuality may not be the norm for us but we need to recognise that it is for our children.
What can I do to make it easier for my child?
Remember that your child’s sexual identity is a small part of their lives, just because they have “come out” doesn’t mean their whole world revolves around sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ask your child before you “come out to others on behalf of your child. Don’t betray your child’s trust, they may not want others to know just yet.
Praise your child for talking to you about it. Fear of rejection is a big factor when deciding who to tell and when. Many LGBT youth will have struggled for years before deciding to disclose. At best they believe they will be a disappointment to their parents, at worst they believe they will be abandoned by their family. If your child turns to you to disclose personal information, you must be doing something right.
Educate yourself, there are numerous websites and information booklets that will have the information to make this journey better for both of you. A good place to start is PFLAG- Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Better still involve your child in your education, they probably can answer most of your questions, just remember to listen to the whole answer before you make any judgements.
Why didn’t I know?
In some way, shape or form all young people are looking for their parent’s approval, which can make coming out to parents a really big deal. LGBTIQ young people can be really good at hiding their feelings, especially to those who matter most. Fear of disappointing parents, rejection by loved ones or fears of being kicked out are all reasons for not disclosing. Don’t take it personally if you are the last one to be told, it just means your opinion matters the most.