We all remember being teenagers. It was a confusing time where we felt insecure and constantly questioned who we were. At times, as adults, it’s difficult to identify with the youth we are raising. As our kids turn to us for guidance, sometimes we don’t know how to react or respond. It’s important for us to be able to help guide our children in the direction of positive self-talk, self-esteem, and self-advocacy. But first, we need to understand what’s going on.
If your child is part of the LGBTQ+ community, here are a few frequently asked questions you may have:
1. Can someone please explain to me all the words associated with the LGBTQ community?
LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning) and other identities. This acronym includes anyone who identifies with any gender or sexual orientation that is not heterosexual or cisgender.
The term gender identity refers to the gender that someone feels they associate with- this could be female, male, transgender, or nonbinary. Someone who is transgender feels their gender identity is different than the sex they were assigned at birth. These people may express their gender through their outward appearance, otherwise known as gender expression.
Someone who is “cisgender” feels their gender identity matches with their sex assigned at birth. People who identify as nonbinary don’t gravitate towards the male vs female dynamic and feel they have characteristics of both genders. Those that are nonbinary may prefer they/them pronouns. In some cases, people who don’t identify with their assigned sex, may prefer a different name, different pronouns, or both.
On the other hand, sexual orientation refers to who someone is attracted to emotionally, romantically, and/or sexually. Within the realm of sexual orientation, there are terms such as gay, lesbian, asexual, bisexual, pansexual, and more. All these things can be very confusing for any LGBTQ youth who is questioning aspects of their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
2. Why is acceptance from me so important?
According to the Human Rights Campaign, “family acceptance has been found to have a positive association with self-esteem and general health”. It’s vital to a youth’s overall well-being, both mental and physical, that they have family support in their process of discovering and coming-out. The Trevor Project reports that “having at least one accepting adult can reduce the risk of a suicide attempt among LGBTQ young people by 40%”. Social aspects of being a kid are so hard, we all remember the anxiety and the low self-esteem. Allow your home to be their safe place- the one place where they know they won’t be judged, mocked, teased, or bullied. Let them know that with you, they can be whoever they want to be, and you will accept them and love them for it.
It’s ok to not know what to do or how to react. It does not make you a bad parent, and you can learn about all of this together with your child. Do some research, take it one day at a time, and remember that the most important thing is for your child to have your love and support- no matter what.
If you ever need help or advice, please don’t hesitate to reach out and ask for it! There are many organizations available to support both children and their families during this time.
3. What if it’s just a phase?
Children and teens go through phases all the time. For one week straight when they were 4, they only wanted to wear their Cinderella dress to the park. That was a phase. Typically, gender identity and sexual orientation are not phases. While your child may be experimenting with different names, pronouns, and labels, that does not mean that it is a phase- it means they are exploring themselves and learning who they are. This is a time when they need your support the most.
Rather than discount their feelings as “just a phase”, it is important to talk about the struggles and challenges they may face. It is also important for you to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community in order to support your child. All in all, while this may be an unfamiliar experience for you both, remember that with love, understanding, and acceptance- you can get through anything together.
4. How can I help advocate for my child?
Communication is key. Ask your child what they need from you and how you can best support them. This may be simply calling your child by their preferred names and pronouns. This could also be explaining this to extended family and friends. Every LGBTQ youth, despite what they’re going through, needs someone on their side. Having a parent simply supporting them, especially those questioning their gender and sexuality, is key. It’s important to stay involved with the school and advocate for your child in this realm, as well. Parents can make changes when they are willing to speak up on behalf of their child to school administration, teachers, and school boards. This can be done in a variety of ways; educate yourself on the issues, contact legislators, join a local advocacy group or PTA, and even organize events that will spread awareness.
Another way to show your support is by staying informed about the laws in your state or country that protect LGBTQ+ youth from discrimination. You can also stay up-to-date on current events and campaigns related to raising visibility around issues facing the community. All of these measures are important steps you can take to show your support. It is important to remember that, no matter what, the most important thing you can do for your child is love them unconditionally and provide a safe space for them to be who they are.
Need More Support?
We hope this helps you better understand what your LGBTQ youth may be going through and how you can best support them. Remember, you are not alone in this journey! There are many resources available to help families navigate this process and provide support. If you’re needing more personal support reach out today we’d be happy to help! Call Us Today!