Despite all the progress our world seems to have made in recent years (and decades) around LGBTQ rights and equality, coming out can still be an intensely emotional and personal experience for many. Whether it’s with a parent, a friend, or your mailman, coming out means making yourself vulnerable and facing the potential of rejection. We have come up with few dos’ and don’ts’ when your kid comes out to you.
Even if you feel objectively fine about your kid coming out, ignoring it can send the exact opposite message to your kid or make them think that you zoned out for the whole conversation and didn’t actually hear what they said. Remember that coming out is a process and should entail more than one conversation. You’re bound to think of more questions later on, so it’s totally ok to respectfully return to the conversation when you and your kid have the mental space to do so.
Say ‘I already knew’
Some LGBT+ people take comfort that people were already aware, while others are upset the “secret” was obvious all along. Even if you already had your suspicions, it’s best to wait for them to ask whether you already knew, rather than blurt it out.
Rather than concentrate on specific clues, try connecting on an emotional level. “You’re my child. I knew something was different about you and I knew you would tell me what that was when you were ready” is better than commenting on, for example, a high-pitched voice or a tendency to play with dolls or dress in clothes not normally associated with their gender. This could help to forge a bond between the two of you.
Ask lots of questions
ask them open questions which show your child that you are a safe and accepting person to talk to, and that you are comfortable discussing this with them calmly, such as, ‘I am happy for you to tell me anything, but I also don’t want you to feel I am prying – how much do you want to tell me?’ And of course, simply invite them to tell you their story so far: how did they realise, what is their thinking, how do they feel?
Ask about what kind of support they need
There are lots of questions you can ask your kid to gauge what kind of support they need right now. Are they ready to come out to anyone else in your family, or do they want to keep this between the two of you right now? Do they feel comfortable being out at school, or is there a bullying situation that needs to be addressed? Is there a LGBTQ youth program that they want to try out to meet other LGBTQ kids in their area?
Commit to being an ally to the evolving LGBTQ community
LGBTQ terminology and understanding of identities is always evolving. If you child comes out as asexual, biromantic, and gender expansive, take the opportunity to learn more! Learn about the history of the LGBTQ rights movement and discover LGBTQ icons that you and your kid can look up to. Support organizations that are working to make the world a better place for your kid and other kids like them.
Tell them you believe and love them, and thank them for telling you
If you do nothing else, tell your kid you love them. Trust me, you cannot say these words enough right now. The fear of parental rejection is very real for most kids, so anything you can say to show them that you believe what they are telling you, and that it doesn’t change your love for them, is truly the best gift you can give them.