In a lot of ways, parenting LGBT children is much the same as parenting straight children. All kids need their parents’ love in addition to all of the basics like food and shelter. You’ll definitely face some challenges, though, and you’ll need to be able to channel your inner mama (or papa) bear at a moment’s notice. Essentially, treat your child with the love and respect that you show everyone, but these extra tips can help you become a much better parent.
Show Your Love and Support
Your child needs to know that you love her no matter what. Though some parents always had a feeling their child might be queer, many are surprised by the news. Since it’s still fairly common for parents to disown children who are in same-sex relationships or who are transgender, it’s important for you to let your child know that you won’t do this to her. A sudden announcement might change all of the dreams you had for her future, but she’s still the same child you’ve loved all along.
Seek Out Support
There are a wide variety of support groups available for LGBT youth and their parents. Since LGBT children are more likely to be bullied and commit suicide, you really need to find the support that your child needs. This might be in the form of a meet-up group, a school counselor who understands or even an online forum for making friends. Parents might also appreciate the support they can receive from groups like Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Keep the lines of communication open. Your child might be feeling down because there’s no chance that the guy he has a crush on is going to reciprocate his feelings. He might be getting teased or bullied by classmates. When there are emotional struggles going on, grades can drop and children can feel isolated. A good parent stays on top of these things, lending an ear or any other type of support as often as possible.
Learn the Lingo
The world is a rapidly changing place, and if you want to be a part of your child’s world, you’ll need to learn some of the lingo. For instance, a girl may look “butch” – manly or boyish – but still identify as a female lesbian, and not be transgender. A teen might present as feminine and want to be called “she” even though she has male genitals. It’s perfectly acceptable – and in some cases preferred – to ask someone their “preferred pronoun” so that you don’t mis-gender someone. It can take some getting used to and you might make some mistakes, but it’s important to try your best.
Speak Up About This
As a parent of an LGBT child, you have to become a fierce advocate. Don’t be afraid to speak up when people are making derogatory comments about queer people. Help others understand the importance of using proper pronouns. Talk to your child’s teachers and school administrators if there are problems. When you are outspoken on these issues, you then become a resource for someone else with a child who has just come out.
Stay Quiet on This
On the other hand, coming out is a very personal thing for most LGBT kids. They should decide when and how people find out about their sexuality. Don’t pass your child’s news around the entire family unless you know that your child wants this. Talk to your child about who they want to know and who should remain in the dark. Ask what she’d like you to do if someone asks outright. Remember that once you tell one person, the news can pass around quickly. If you’re struggling with the news and need to talk it over with someone, consider heading to a support group for parents of queer kids. You’ll be able to get the support you need without outing your child to someone who shouldn’t know.
Throw Assumptions Out the Door
Everyone has images of what it means to be queer – the flamboyant gay man, the butch lesbian, or the obviously-a-man drag queen. These stereotypes don’t fit everyone. Your gay son isn’t suddenly going to start to like musical theater and start dreaming of moving to San Francisco.
Your lesbian daughter isn’t necessarily going to want to be a mechanic. Likewise, there’s not always a “boy” and a “girl” in a homosexual relationship. You may have a girly daughter who’s attracted to other girly girls. Your gay son may be into sports. Being with someone of the same gender doesn’t mean that there’s never going to be grandkids. Don’t make assumptions about who your child is and what he or she will become. Life has many paths to take.
Being the parent of an LGBT child can be challenging at times because there are people out there who will judge your child negatively. The most important thing that you can do as a parent is not be one of the people who judges him or her. A child who receives unconditional love from a parent is a child who grows up to be a secure adult.