Parent of an LGBTQIA+ Person
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR CHILD IF THEY ARE LGBTQIA+
It can take you by surprise when your child reveals a part of their identity that you weren’t expecting. You might feel worried, confused, or unsure of how to tackle the unique challenges that comes with being an LGBTQIA+ young person. It’s ok to feel this way – parents like to think they have all the answers but sometimes they just don’t. It’s important to learn the facts so that you can better support your child through their identity development. If you don’t know where to start, here are some helpful tips.
Telling their parents can be the scariest part of coming out – if your child tells you that they’re LGBTQIA+, responding with love and acceptance is the best thing you can do for your child who is probably feeling pretty vulnerable in this moment.
Research has shown that when LGBTQIA+ young people feel accepted and supported by their parents, their mental health outcomes improve drastically compared to those that don’t.
You don’t need to be an expert, or even know what to say. The best thing you can do is tell your child that you love them, you are there for them, and thank them for being brave enough to tell you.
If your child tells you they are transgender or non‐binary, take a gender affirming approach. A lot people believe that using their child’s preferred pronoun might “encourage”, “indulge” or “coerce” them into being trans or non‐binary, so they continue using the same pronouns they’ve always had. This has been proven to be false and is actually more damaging in the long‐run to your child’s mental health. Using the name and pronouns that your child has chosen for themselves shows them that you care about their identity and respect their sense of self.
Research has shown that when transgender and gender‐diverse young people feel affirmed by their parents (their parents use the correct pronouns and names), they experience a significant decrease in suicidal ideation and mental illness.
Keep an eye out for signs of bullying. LGBTQIA+ young people are often unfairly targeted for being different, so look for changes in their behaviour (such as becoming withdrawn or irritable), sudden changes in friendships, or problems at school. Keep in regular contact with their school and teachers so you know of any problems if they arise.
Stay connected to and interested in your child’s world e.g. who their friends are, what they like and don’t like, what’s happening at school etc. Showing genuine interest in their lives helps them feel more comfortable with talking to you about more complex issues such as gender and sexuality.
Reaching out to other parents with similar experiences can be really helpful if you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure how to support your child. There are many support groups and networks for parents of LGBTQIA+ young people that you can connect with online including:
PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays): www.pflagaustralia.org
Parents of gender‐diverse children: www.pgdc.org.au
Transcend (peer‐led support network for parents of transgender children): www.transcendsupport.com.au
AIS Support group (support for parents and family of intersex people): www.aissa.org.au
“Being part of a parent community is what has kept me going on this journey. I didn’t really understand how important being connected and supported by a network of parents was going to be. Just as my child has found her tribe – I needed my own. Being a parent of a trans, gender‐diverse or non‐binary child (of any age) can be an isolating, confronting and challenging experience – it can also be one of joy and celebration. Finding the joy and celebration came through sharing my challenges, isolation and story with other parents and carers. Whilst I didn’t know many of them personally all had common ground with me. I found it empowering and overwhelmingly positive.”
— Karyn, parent of Lottie, 10
(Parents of Gender Diverse Children)
Some things to remember
It is not “just a phase”
Identity development is a crucial part of adolescence. Don’t dismiss your child’s evolving sense of self as a temporary phase – it’s a part of who they are.
There is no “cure”
Being LGBTQIA+ is neither an illness nor a burden. It’s just a part of someone’s identity, just like being sporty or creative. It doesn’t need “fixing”.
Don’t look for blame
Nothing and no‐one has “caused” your child to be LGBTQIA+ – celebrate your child and who they are.