So your child has shared their truth with you, what are you going to do next?
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY CORY WOODWARD VIA PEXELS
Welcome to this week’s IMO AKA In My Opinion. This is a column where we approach some questions, queries and dilemmas we often hear from our readership and offer up some advice. Remember, this is by no means a one-size-fits-all kinda deal, but hopefully these words help you feel less alone.
If you’re reading this, there’s a high chance that your kid has asked to sit down with you for a serious conversation. In your mind you’ve worried that they’re pregnant, or gotten someone else pregnant. That they’re sick. That they have got themselves into a sticky situation. But then they tell you their truth. They may have told you that they are attracted to people of the same sex, that they are attracted to more than one gender, that they are attracted to nobody at all or that they are transgender or non-binary.
Your mind may have spiralled as you processed this new information, you may have found a way to say the thing they needed to hear, or you may have panicked and said the last thing they wanted to hear. No matter what you did, what matters now is what you do next. How are you going to show up for your child? How are you going to show them that they are loved, that they are valid and that you’ve got their back?
Whether you’re a parent who is LGBTQI yourself or not, or your child falls under a different part of the LGBTQI community to you. Here are some steps that can help when wondering how to approach the situation.
If your child has taken the time to prepare what they want to say and invite you into their truth, you’re doing something right. If your child didn’t care what you thought about them, whether you were in their life or not, chances are they wouldn’t spend the energy in inviting you into their truth. Trust me, I came out to my Dad years before I came out to another relative, and there was good reason.
So how should you respond? Love is the answer. Show that you love your child, as they are, and everything else can be worked out along the way through this new chapter.
Get comfortable with apologising
Let go of any image you may have of being the perfect parent. Such a thing doesn’t exist and if your children have kids of their own when they grow up, they too will make mistakes. Some of the best parents I know, whether their kids are LGBTQI or not, are excellent at admitting when they were wrong and apologising.
If your kid comes out as queer, there may be a lot of new language to learn. New names, new pronouns, new phrases. Instead of asking “did you meet any nice boys?” asking “did you meet any nice girls (or boys)?” may be more relevant now. It’s hard for people to make the switch overnight. But it’s even harder for LGBTQI kids to be misgendered or dead named by those they seek the most validation from. The coming out period can be an especially sensitive time.
If you accidentally misgender your kid, or ask if there were any cute boys (instead of girls), don’t make a big deal out of it. Don’t get defensive and reorientate the conversation to be all about you. Quickly and simply say sorry and correct yourself. If troubles arise and a longer conversation is needed, make the time and effort to do so in a safe space and when you can actively listen to what they have to say.
Many parents have the inclination that they are responsible for anything and everything to do with their children. That if their kid asks to go to therapy, it’s an insult to their quality as a parent. We often see this when it comes to coming out as well. Did you do something wrong? Nope! Queerness is not the result of trauma, it is just who your child is.
Whilst it can be enticing to fall into a rabbit hole on the internet, there is a lot of misinformation out there. It’s best to learn by engaging with content made with the community and our allies in mind.
Engage with LGBTQI organisations such as Stonewall to find out about the latest issues affecting the community so that you can sign petitions and advocate for the community your child belongs to in a more informed way.
If your kid has come out as trans, author Marlo Mack has published a raw and honest memoir about her experiences of parenting her trans daughter. She doesn’t shy away from opening up about her mistakes along the way. You are not alone.
Mermaids offers support for trans+ children and their families up to 20 years old.
Disclaimer: I am in no way a therapist, or professional coach in any way. This advice is just based on my own lived experience and would likely change for each nuanced individual. But I hope that you can take something from this. DIVA does not necessarily agree or disagree with the statements made in this column.
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