My kid says she’s gay (what do I do?)
I get asked this a lot.
The age ranges are startling to me. Given that I didn’t figure it out until I was 20, I’m flabbergasted these kids have figured things out, in some cases, before they’ve learned to read.
Nobody has asked me this who isn’t 100% committed to making sure that the child in question is supported and feels accepted. They want to make sure they’re doing this right. I want to tell you right now: you’re already doing it right. Your kid will be one of the lucky ones.
So I’ve decided to write this up. It in no way replaces talking to someone. By all means, talk, ask. I am always impressed and, honestly, a little overwhelmed (in a very good way) by the people who do ask me. Imagine if all parents wanted so badly to do right by their LGBT kids. It happens about once a week that I see a kid on the internet looking for a place to escape to, because their parents have kicked them out or are abusing them for being queer.
Keep in mind, I really can only speak to sexuality issues. If your child comes out to you as trans, the overall principles will still apply, but it would be best to speak to a trans person or TENI. BelongTo also have a FAQ that seems primarily directed at the parents of LGB children.
Also, I’m no professional. I’m mostly speaking from “what I wish my parents had done”. That’s my only qualification.
As much as we think of gay, lesbian and bisexual as sexuality-related issues, really what we’re talking about is love. So for those of you who have a 6 year old who says he’s gay, you can start talking to him about things he does understand: love and family. You can talk about how everyone’s families are different and how that doesn’t mean that anyone is worth more than anyone else.
You’re going to have to be more observant than most parents. You’re going to have to realise that your child may be more vulnerable at school (and less likely to have the words to explain what’s wrong) than a straight kid would be, and students are not the only schoolyard bullies. You’re going to have to prioritise a very open channel of communication between yourself and your child. That might mean being a bit more grown up with your child that you would otherwise be.
You are going to have to do sex ed. Even if there is sex ed in your child’s school, it won’t cover gay sex. So do whatever you have to do to get over any squicks you might have, so you can tell your child about sex, safer sex, boundaries, decision making, and consent. Cover straight sex (and birth control) too. Sexuality can be blurry from time to time, even for the queerest amongst us.
You’re supportive, and that’s great, but is your kid exposed to positive gay role models? This can mean pop culture and in real life, but it’s important to make sure that she can see herself in happy, successful people that she can tell you like.
Don’t talk about it all the time, but you also don’t want to never speak of it again, because that will seem like rejection to a child who is waiting to see what the consequences are of her revelation. Let her tell you about her feelings and how she’s experiencing this. Even if you have friends who are gay, we grew up in a different world. And while your child’s world is objectively more accepting, the struggles he will face are different.
Remember too, that finding ourselves at a young age means changing our stories a lot. Accept that. Don’t demand explanations if someday she comes home with a boyfriend. It may or may not mean anything. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t matter to you if your child is gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. It should only matter to you that your child is happy, safe and knows she is loved for who she is.
Once your child knows that, you and your child will be way ahead of the game.