When I was four, before I had any idea what being gay was or what it meant, I walked up to my mom and asked her, “Mom, is it weird that I have a crush on Nick Jonas?” She told me without the slightest hesitation that there was nothing wrong with me liking a boy, and that my feelings were completely normal. I’m sure at the time she didn’t think much of that moment, but what she said has stuck with me for years.
Being an effeminate boy in the South with an aversion to contact sports set me apart from my classmates when I was little; I was bullied for years. However, even before I came out to my parents, I knew that no matter what happened to me at school or in the outside world, I would always be able to come home to my family. I knew that they would love me regardless of who I was, all because of that one reassuring comment my mom said to me when I was four.
While I was working on this blog, I talked to a man whose coming out experience was disastrous, and I asked him what he wishes his mother had done differently when he came out to her. He said:
“I wish she had listened. I never expected my mom to be a fan of the LGBTQ+ community; I just wanted her to be a fan of me, and she let me down. I wish she had heard me out instead of turning it into a situation about my weight and telling me that being trans was an escape from my issues. It was and still is hard for me to deal with because my mom is my best friend, and that will end if I’m her son and not her daughter.”
Parent(s) and guardian(s), listen to your children when they come out to you, and be open to what they say. Chances are, they will be going through things and experiencing feelings and situations that you will not be able to relate to, and that’s difficult to accept. Heterosexual cisgender parents will not be able to completely understand their LGBTQ+ child, but if they really listen to what their child says, they can help their child feel safer and more comfortable, and that comfort means the world to LGBTQ+ kids like me.
I also talked to an accepting mother with LGBTQ+ children, and I asked her what she would say to someone whose child had just come out to them. What she told me was:
“When your child comes out to you, it’s going to be a big change for you. The road that you see for your child will become more difficult, and that can be a painful thing to be aware of. You will be introduced to a whole new world and a new life that is going to take some getting used to, and you may have to learn some unfamiliar terminology for your child. Be patient with yourself. Your child may also start exploring what works for them and who they want to be, or how they want to present themselves. You have to be patient with them, too. But above all, accept your child, and always love them. Never stop loving them, and never forget to tell them how much you love them.”
To the parents and guardians of LGBTQ+ kids,
Your child wants you to love them. That can be as simple as telling them that you love them, using the pronouns and name that they have chosen, defending them against unkind comments or rude family members, letting them express themselves, and having their back at school. You can’t control every aspect of your child’s life, but you do have power over what your home atmosphere is like, so make it one that your child wants to be in. You know that the world can be a cruel place, and it is even crueler towards the LGBTQ+ community. Make your home a place where your child doesn’t have to feel bogged down by life’s chaos, but can instead feel at peace, loved, and welcome. You are your child’s first teacher, and you have an important opportunity to teach your child acceptance and compassion. Raise your kids in a home of love, and the world will be better for it.
an LGBTQ+ kid.
What can your GSA do to provide a space for students who can’t come out at home?
What would you say to a friend who wants to come out to their parents, but is worried about the response?