Coming out involves acknowledging, understanding, and sharing one’s gender identity and sexual orientation with other people, explained Healthychildren.org, a trusted source for parents. This journey may be quick and easy for some, but for others, it may be longer and harder. Parents of LGBT children need to remember that they are unique and will have their own feelings and experiences.
The Coming Out Experience of LGBT Respondents (2013)
In a report by Pew Research Center, a non-partisan fact tank, 54% of LGBT respondents said they have told all or most of the important people in their life they know they are LGBT (versus 23% of those who answered some and only a few/none). 77% of gay men (versus 13% who said some and 10% who answered only a few/none) and 71% of lesbians (versus 23% of those who said some and 6% of those who said only a few or none) stated that they have let all or most of the important people in their life know they are LGBT.
Meanwhile, only 28% of bisexuals said they have let all or most of the important people in their life know they are LGBT compared to those who answered some (32%) and only a few/none (39%). 27% of all LGBT respondents said they were younger than 10 when they first felt they might not be straight. 41% said they were between 10-14 years old when they first felt they might not be straight, while 19% and 11% said they were 15-19 years and 20 years or older when they first questioned their sexuality, respectively. 2% of all LGBT respondents said they were younger than 10 when they first told a friend or a family member they were LGBT.
However, 43% said they told their friend or loved one about their sexuality when they were 20 years old and above. Only 8% and 31% said they were 10-14 years and 15-19 years olf when they first told their friend or loved onw about their sexuality, respectively. 56% of LGBT participants said they have told their mother about their sexual orientation or gender identity (versus 34% of those who said no). 39% told their father (versus 39%) and 86% informed their close friend (versus 13%).
70% of gay men and 67% of lesbians told their mother about their sexual orientation. Likewise, 53% of gay men and 45% of lesbians informed their father about their sexuality. However, only 40% and 24% of bisexuals have told their mother and father about their sexuality, respectively. Among those who have not told their mothers, 34% of bisexuals and 16% of gay men and lesbians said their sexual orientation never came up with their parents or that raising the subject was not important to them. A similar pattern was found among LGBT adults who said they have not told their father about their sexual orientation.
Another reason for not telling their mother or father about their sexual orientation or gender identity was because they were worried about how it would affect their relationship with their parents. Among the respondents, 22% of those who have not told their mother and 20% of those who have not informed their father gave this explanation.
When Your Child Feels Different From Other Kids
This may emerge throughout childhood; however, your child may not understand what these feelings mean. Your child may explore gender and relationships before kindergarten. Hence, them coming out and sharing these feelings of being different from other kids may happen anytime.
For other children, their gender identity becomes clear around puberty as they start to develop stronger romantic attractions and gender characteristics. It is common for LGBT teens to feel nervous, scared, or isolated from their peers, especially when they feel that they don’t fit in or “are given a hard time for being different).
As a parent, you can support diverse friendships and social involvement without placing emphasis on gender expectations. Advocate for safe places where your child can explore interests without judgment or being subjected to harmful stereotypes. It is also recommended to converse and check regularly with your child about their social circles, romantic attractions, interests, or any bullying or teasing that might have occurred.
When Your Child Tells You They Are LGBT
It takes immense courage and strength for your child to open up about their sexuality and identity, especially if they are unsure of how you or their loved ones will react. They may fear disappointing or angering their families or being physically harmed or disowned. When your child comes out to you, be sure to respond in a supportive way. Accept and love them for who they are. Try to understand what your child is experiencing and feeling. There will be disagreements between you and your child, but they still need your support and validation in order for them to grow into a healthy teen and adult.
Make it clear to your child that slurs or jokes about gender identity, gender, or sexual orientation are not tolerated. Express your disapproval when you encounter these slurs or jokes in the community or media. It is also recommended to celebrate diversity by providing your little one access to books, movies, and materials that show the LGBT community in a positive light.
You can also state celebrities who champion LGBT rights and people who stand up against social stigma. Support your child’s expression and converse with them about their clothing choices, hairstyle, jewelry, friends, and room décor.
Be Involved With Your Child’s School
Maintain frequent contact with your child’s teachers so that you will know when issues such as bullying arise, stated John Hopkins Medicine, which seeks to improve the health of the community and the world. Don’t be afraid to speak up if the school is not taking your concerns seriously, reminded Johns Hopkins pediatricians and adolescent medicine specialist Dr. Renata Arrington Sanders.
She added, “Parents forget that they have a huge voice in the school system. You do have power.” It is challenging to provide support sometimes, but don’t give up and leave your child behind when you are needed most. “Remember, your child is having more difficulty with this than you are,” said Dr. Errol Lamont Fields. He added that your duty as a parent comes first. If you’re struggling to do it alone, you can reach out to a pediatrician, a school counselor, close family members, and community organizations.
Parents should be open-minded about their child’s sexuality and identity. Parents should also not criticize them or force them to follow traditional gender norms. Be your child’s support system who will stand up for them amid prejudice and discrimination.