Written by: Emily Majkrzak, MSW
I remember the day my brother came out to me. He sat on my bed with such a serious demeanor and stated “we need to talk”. He took a deep breath and said “I’m gay.” I could tell this was one of the hardest things for him to do even though he knew how accepting I was. I told him “I know.” He felt so relieved and asked how I knew. In 7th grade I had
asked him point blank “Hey, are you gay?”
He just laughed and didn’t say anything. I had already known then. I was 20 years old when he decided to tell me. We laughed so much but I could just see the relief wash over him.
One of the hardest things for anyone belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community is telling their family. Even if you are accepting of your child, the “coming out” stage is very difficult. I’ve had many concerned parents ask me how they can best support their child during this time of “coming out.” Parents often wonder what is the best way to let the child know they love and support them? My short answer to this question is simple, continue to love them as you always have. Other things you can do include talking openly with them, advocating for them, and alongside of them. It is important to remember that this is all new for them too. Let your child explore and continue to figure out who they are. Keep in mind that although this part of your child is something new to you and possibly to them as well, they are still the same person you love. My brother and I still laugh to this day about our mom. After my brother came out to her she thought he all of a sudden had a great fashion sense (good ol’ mom playing into the stereotypes). Let’s just say he finds one shirt he likes and buys 10 of those in different colors! As a parent it is helpful to be mindful of your own judgements and stereotyping of LGBTQIA+ people. It is important to educate yourself so you can be well informed.
My last piece of advice would be to reach out for support. Those in the LGBTQIA+ community are more susceptible to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and self-esteem issues. Let your child know that they are not alone. Offer to get them a mentor, a therapist, or find some local peer groups. Especially for teens, it can be hard to talk openly with parents, even with a completely accepting environment.
For more resources and ways to connect with others in the community please check out The Trevor Project: