With growing awareness and acceptance of the LGBT community in the world, more young people are coming out to their families and being open about being gay.
This time can be challenging for both the young person coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity and for the family who may find it difficult to accept the news.
However, hard as it may be to come to terms with the fact your child is LGBT, it’s important to do so. Young people with parents who disapprove of or reject their LGBT status are up to 8 times more likely to attempt suicide by adulthood.
Educate Yourself and the Rest of Your Family
There are still a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be LGBT or to have a gay child. One of the best ways you can support your child and start coming to terms with this change in your family dynamics is by learning more about gender and sexual identity.
It’s important that you show support for your child by demanding that other family members respect them and treat them kindly. Make it known that homophobic or intolerant attitudes are never acceptable to you or your children.
Many parents think that being gay or transgender is a phase that their child might grow out of and that it’s not possible to understand sexual identity until adulthood.
This isn’t true, however. Research shows that children often realise their own sexual orientation at a young age. This is a part of their identity that external influences will not change. In other words, people are born gay – they’re not made that way later in life. Children tend to have their first attraction to another person (same sex or otherwise) at around the age of 10, and children as young as 2 or 3 are aware of their own gender identity.
Support Your Child’s Identity
It’s not always easy for parents to accept the “new” identity of their child. This may be doubly true for parents of transgender youths as it can come as a huge shock that the child they raised identifies with a different gender to the one they were born with.
Parents of children who are attracted to members of the same sex may also struggle to come to terms with this fact, especially if it is at odds with the family’s religious beliefs or cultural background.
It’s perfectly normal to feel surprised, and even upset at first when your child comes out to you. However, it’s important to respect and support your child and understand that gender identity and sexuality is not a choice and not a way to rebel or hurt you.
The fact that your child has chosen to show you their true identity means that they trust you and are actively seeking your support.
Adolescence can be a difficult time for any child, but young people struggling to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity have to process their own feelings and at the same time deal with external pressures from society.
Many young LGBT people feel confused and isolated, and these feelings can lead to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems. 33% of young Australians identifying as LGBT have harmed themselves as a result of homophobia, and up to 50% of transgender people have attempted suicide.
These statistics may seem alarming but there is a way to reduce them. Family support and acceptance can help to reduce the risk of mental health problems in LGBT youth. Providing a supportive environment with open channels of communication will encourage your child to discuss their feelings and problems before they escalate into a more serious issue.
Help Your Child Connect with Community and Resources
There are several Australian-based support groups for LGBT people that can provide information, support, and contacts with others going through the same thing.
People in the LGBT community and their families can sometimes benefit from talking with a professional counsellor to work through the issues surrounding sexual identity and social pressures.
As it can sometimes be hard for parents and children to talk openly together about these issues, a neutral and supportive environment with someone to guide the topics of conversation can help all parties to work through their feelings and communicate effectively.
At our Clinical Psychology clinics in Perth, we can provide support and counselling for young people who identify as LGBT and their family members.
Get in touch today to make an appointment or find out more about how we can help you.