Your child has just come out, and you don’t know how to react? Have you just come out, or are you planning to come out? Is it difficult for you to talk about it with your parents? Are they uncomfortable with the subject, perhaps even awkward or even rejecting it?
After reading it, you may want to have your parents read it too… One idea, among others, is to facilitate your exchanges with them. So, your child has come out, as we say, that is to say, that he/she has “come out of the closet”, telling you that he/she feels gay, lesbian, bi, trans or in questioning (we also say LGBTQIA+).
You may feel happy that he or she has shared this part of him or herself with you, but you certainly have questions or concerns or simply don’t know what will happen next. Coming out can be tricky, and we, all parents and children alike, wish we could adjust some of the reactions or responses we’ve experienced early in the process. So, without further ado, let’s dive into this blog and learn some of our tips to help you through your child’s coming out.
1. What to avoid: Ignoring the question
Your child has told you that he or she is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. For many parents, this can be a shock to their perceptions. Perhaps no one in your immediate circle will be able to understand what you are going through. You may also feel guilty for not accepting your child’s identity immediately. We understand your feelings. But it would be better if these feelings did not lead you to avoid the subject altogether. It is understandable to have conflicting feelings.
But it’s best not to let these concerns make you forget that your child has just revealed a very important part of him or herself to you. Accepting your feelings is one thing, but recognizing the courage your child has shown is crucial. Don’t be afraid to ask your child how he or she is feeling, to let them know that you are processing this new situation, and most importantly- as we’ll see later- it would be great to talk to them in an empathetic way about your reactions.
2. Ask questions
Your child’s sexuality or gender identity may be something new to you, so it’s natural to have questions! Many parents feel they have no one to turn to for answers, but the first thing to know is that you have a wealth of information at home. Your child has probably already wondered about a lot of things as he or she tries to figure out who he or she is, so the first thing to do if you have questions would be… to ask them directly.
You can also ask him/her if there is anything, in particular, you should know or understand (e.g. the meaning of certain words) or if there are any books, you should read or shows you should watch. Don’t be afraid to ask if he or she has friends to share their experiences and questions with and what it’s like at their college, high school or university.
It’s best to start by asking the questions you feel comfortable with. You can always look for information in other ways for the others you don’t want to ask, or that you think he or she won’t want to answer, you can always look for information in other ways! An association which specializes in dialogue between parents and children on these issues, has produced some very useful brochures, including one entitled “Our child is homosexual”, which might be very useful to you. You can also contact them directly.
3. What to avoid: saying “I always knew”
Perhaps you always had an intuition that your child was gay/lesbian or transgender. Maybe you noticed a particular attraction before he or she even understood the nature of his or her feelings, or you noticed certain identifications with personalities and drew conclusions about what it all meant in terms of identity, and maybe you were right. But that doesn’t mean that they were in tune with you at those times or that your observations were directly related to their identity awareness.
What’s important to understand is that your child went through a particular journey to get to the point where he or she felt comfortable coming out to you. Telling him or her that you “always knew” can really devalue that whole journey and make him or her question his or her appearance or behaviour in a damaging way. So it’s better to acknowledge the importance of this journey by asking him or her how he or she understood it rather than talking about you.
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