Let’s start with the basics. What does being supportive mean?
TO ENCOURAGE: to agree with and give encouragement to someone or something because you want him, her, or it (I add them) to succeed.
TO HELP: to help someone emotionally or in a practical way.
TO PROVE: to help to show something to be true.
TO ACCEPT: to accept something and allow it to happen.
So, if support may be defined as an agreement with and encouragement for an idea, group, or person, what does this have to do with LGBTQ+ youth parents?
We all agree (or so we should) that all parents who recognize their kids want the best for them. I’m not a mother, but I’m sure parenting isn’t easy at all. Instead, I’m a daughter, and my role isn’t easy as well. I’m different from my family members and, growing up, I’ve experienced some difficult moments related to that. Despite all the fights I’ve done to obtain my freedom and recognition as the person I am today, I’ve never had to fight for my sexual orientation or/and gender identity in order to feel supported.
Sadly, for many LGBTQ+ young people, talking openly with their parent/s and family may be one of the scariest parts of coming out - and sometimes not even an option. We are used to assuming that if you grow up in a loving atmosphere, everything will be fine. But it is not always like that: sometimes the parents everyone sees as open minded and caring are also the ones reacting in the worst, unexpected and unsupportive behaviors. They may feel betrayed, victims of disrespect, perhaps even lost.
How can you be the most supportive parent for your LGBTQ+ identifying kid/s?
- Search for LGBTQ+ parent organizations. You’ll meet other queer families and receive support from them! They may be in different stages of their journey to not only be a good parent but, especially, to be a good ally and that can be very helpful to you as examples of what you can do step by step.
- Recognize and accept that you may not have all the necessary tools your kid/s needs, no matter how hard you try. It’s not about you but about them.
- Don't rush the process! Try moving step by step and respect their time.
- Respect your kids’ autonomy and will and do not talk about their identity with others unless say it's okay.
- If your kid/s told you about themselves is because they care about you being by their side. The best thing you could do is to be grateful and show them you’re a proud parent.
- Stand up for your kid/s when someone else mistreats them because of who they are. Be on their side and let it be clear.
- Avoid saying “I love you no matter what”, “I’m just worried about you” and other shaming words or phrases. There’s no blame to in being who you are.
- You don’t need to be an expert in queer related topics but, instead, to let your kid/s educate you and be a good listener.
- Encourage dialogue but don’t push your child/ren to always share everything. Coming out about their sexual orientation, gender identity and/or relationship style doesn’t mean you’re allowed to know all the details about their sexuality and sex life.
- If you don’t feel good about your first reactions and behaviors to them, remember that it is never too late to be a supportive parent. If you don’t have the possibility of rebuilding the relationship with your child/ren try not to think about yourself as the victim you’ve never been but, instead, do something good for someone else who’s in a similar situation. Be an ally, volunteer for queer associations, be one of those people who encourage other’s parents to avoid your mistakes and be supportive and loving.
If you struggle to happily accept your kid/s for the person they are, imagine being rejected from who should be an anchor in everybody’s life: family. You can still learn from them, from your errors and from helping others.
Step by step.