What To Do When: Understanding your LGBTQ teen

Hi Julie~ 

My daughter came home last week and said she thinks she is gay, or rather she said she is bi-sexual. I like to think I’m a fairly aware and open person, and if this is how she identifies then I want to support her. However, I’m at a complete and total loss of what to do. Right now, I left it at, “Okay, thanks for telling me. Can I have some time to think about it?”  What do I say? What do I need to do?  

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One out of four families has someone in it who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Even more may have kids who question their sexuality at various points.

I have worked with many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning kids and their parents to come out and transition. I’ve witnessed the feelings parents experience and their responses when a child says, “Mom. Dad. I have something to tell you.” I’ve seen shock, denial, guilt, blame, grief, suspicion, religious confusion, and more. I’ve also seen overwhelming love and even relief with parents expressing,  “Phew, now I know what’s been on her mind,” or for some, “It’s about time!”

While most LGBTQ youth face the same growing-up and teen challenges of their peers, they also have to cope with tremendous bias and judgment because they are not straight. Many of these kids fear that they will lose your love and support.

Without any doubt, our LBGTQ kids need to know that we will love them — no matter what. They need our help to be safe and find their way in the world. Here are three ways you can begin to offer support, empathy, and love.

  • Lean in with love. Lots and lots of love. No matter how easy or difficult learning about your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity is for you, it probably was difficult for them to come out to you. Ideally, this would be a natural response. However, for some, a deeply-rooted belief system may interrupt the opportunity to respond and support a child positively. However, please remember that saying, “I love you” or offering a heart-to-heart hug is a powerful way to let your child know you are there for him, her, or them.
  • Listen and then listen some more. Whether your teen wants to talk about their hopes for the future or a situation that happened in school or at work that day or talk about a favorite new artist, give them plenty of time to share their thoughts. The more you can be there to listen to the little things, the more your teen will come to you with the big stuff … and there will always be big stuff.
  • Show subtle support. Subtle support can make a BIG difference. Whether it’s speaking positively about an LGBTQ person you know, or a character from a book, movie, or TV show or simply reflecting out loud about gender or sexuality issues lets your teen know you want to understand and to build trust and support. It’s also helpful to learn the terms so you can open up deeper conversations. The Human Rights Campaign has a fantastic list of glossary terms to broaden your LGBTQ vocabulary. You can find the list here: https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms

Remember that this is a journey. Sometimes the journey is smooth-sailing while other times you may hit some choppy waters. Keep expressing love for your child - and yourself - as much as possible. And, if you are feeling isolated or nervous, please reach out and connect with other parents or families through pflag.org or right here. I’m are always here to support you.

Xxoo

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