Parenting is full of challenges. We face them everyday- food allergies, mental and/or physical disabilities, bullying, and the list goes on.
There’s a point in life in which our kids decide to date and none of us are ever ready for that- it freaks us out. This happens as early as 12 or 13 (Cameron is 13 and hasn’t thought about a girl yet. This is fine with me.) or can be years later. Most of us don’t blink an eye at who they will date, because we just assume they will date someone of the opposite sex, right?
What Happens When They Don’t?
I’ve already thought this one out. I don’t care. As long as my kids find someone that loves and supports them, I honestly don’t care who they date. Race isn’t an issue for obvious reason, and that’s not the topic of the post. I just want my kids to be happy with whoever they love. That’s it. If Lily brings home a girl and they get married, then I get to watch them say yes to the dress or whatever they wear.
My best male friends are gay, and my cousin Jason is now my cousin Julie, thanks to the wonders of surgery. She is brave as hell for coming out as transgender and having surgery. She even changed her birth certificate in Florida. Our family embraced her in her changes and barely batted an eye. There’s really no point in ridiculing someone for being who they are. You can’t change someone’s sexuality.
Being a teen is hard enough as it is today. There’s so much pressure to get great grades, fit in, get into a good college, work, and so on. When you’re a 16 year old girl who likes other girls, it gets a bit harder to be “normal”. You wonder if others would still like you, even your own family. You grew up hearing slurs about homosexuals and you know it’s not going to be great if you tell your parents.
Then there’s the boys who want to date you and you know they won’t stay away forever. All you want is to find a girl that likes you and that you like back, but how does that work? It’s confusing and scary. Bullying is a thing, and LGBTQ teens have it harder.
Coming out is scary. It’s rough. The average age is 17, much younger than it used to be according to a British study found on Everyday Feminism
Teens are smart- they know the risks of telling their families something this big. Some families are accepting, and some families are ready to kick their kids right out of the house, which is a shame.
It’s heartbreaking to know that some kids feel they have to hide this part of themselves, because it can lead to drug and/or substance abuse issues, along with mental health issues, like depression and anxiety. A kid can only mask so much for so long. It does get better, time goes by, people do open their minds to new things.
Sometimes the people they think will have horrible reactions will have the opposite reaction. The negative messages are also an issue- they can send a message that a kid is a bad person, or is “going to hell”, etc. This can just add to already negative thoughts that a kid can have about themselves.
It gets better when LGBTQ kids find others like them- online, in school, through other friends, in other ways. It does help that many LGBTQ kids are out to their friends and classmates. Those friends and classmates, for the most part, are accepting, and can be a great source of support.
What Can Parents Do?
- Let them know you love them. I’m pretty sure this is the biggest part of accepting your child, no matter what. They need to know this. The scariest thing to many LGBTQ kids is coming out. Once they know they have parental support, there is a huge sense of relief. Be as open minded and present as you can be, even if you aren’t quite sure what to do.
- Research. Parenting requires a lot of thinking and reading. We don’t always know what to do. That’s why the Internet exists. There are quite a few websites for parents of LGBTQ kids, including Hopkins Medicine
- Talk about it. This doesn’t mean hound about their sex life, because that’s definitely awkward for everyone involved, but let them know you are there when they need you, if they have questions, etc.
- Remember this is not a “phase”, there is no “cure”, and there is nobody to “blame”.
- Watch out for bullying at school. It’s a reality that LGBTQ kids are bullied at school and other places. If you need to, get involved with the school. You can read Bullying: A Closer Look for more ideas and resources.
- Talk to someone if you feel overwhelmed.
The world of teenage dating can get pretty complicated, this is just a different road. It’s possible to walk together with your child. Cheer them on!
Pics courtesy of Unsplash
Statistics pics courtesy of hrc.org
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