Coming out

Supporting your child if they are gay, straight, bi or transgender

Many young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have negative experiences when they reveal their sexual orientation to their parents so it is important that you offer your child support in what can be a difficult period in their life. For many young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people it can also be a very liberating and exciting phase and supportive parents and carers have an opportunity to be part of it.

Is your child trying to drop hints?

Some children may try to drop hints to you, either verbally or through their behaviour, that they may be gay.  Being particularly homophobic may sometimes be an indicator. Your child may be trying to deflect attention from their own feelings of being attracted to someone of the same sex.

Some young people may explore their parents’ views about homosexuality – perhaps asking what they think of well-known gay and lesbian people. This may be your child’s way of judging whether it is safe for them to talk to you more directly about how they feel.

Be prepared for hints and invitations to talk about same-sex sexuality. You may find it tempting to talk about same-sex sexuality being a ‘phase’ or arguing against it. But think about what it must have taken for your son or daughter to talk to you in this way and you’ll realise how important it is to take a conversation like this seriously.

Some parents wonder if they should ask their son or daughter directly about their sexuality. There is no easy answer to this. It will depend on the age of the young person, the circumstances and many other factors. Discuss it first, in confidence, with someone you trust. If you do decide that the best thing to do is to ask directly, then don’t ask when you are feeling angry or worried. Ask when things are going well and when you are informed and prepared for the answer.

Brush up on your knowledge

As a starting point, you could ask yourself what you already know about lesbian and gay sexualities. Some parents may have friends or even relatives who are lesbian or gay. For others, their knowledge of lesbian and gay people is limited by what they see on television or read about in the papers.

Then, you need to think very carefully about how you would react if your son told you he thought he was gay or your daughter that she's a lesbian. Some parents have found this particularly challenging. But, if you want to give your son or daughter the back-up and support they need, it will be important to get help for yourself and to counteract some of the misinformation that you will undoubtedly have heard or read.

You could make a start on this by finding out about organisations run by parents of lesbian and gay children. There are telephone information and support lines, websites and support groups that have helped many parents to learn a little more about lesbian and gay sexualities. You don’t have to wait until your son or daughter has talked about it before doing some research or talking with someone. Learning more about lesbian and gay young people may not only be helpful for you, but also better prepare you to support other parents in the same situation.

If you have religious objections to homosexuality, then it will be important to find the people within your own religious community who hold more inclusive views with regard to lesbian and gay sexuality. These people will be your allies. There are also support groups specifically for parents from different religious groups who have lesbian and gay children

When your child tells you

As a parent, it can suddenly feel like all your hopes and expectations for your child have been turned inside-out and you may worry about their future health and happiness. A young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people who has decided to come out often does not know whether their whole world is going to change for the better or worse. They wonder whether their parents will still love them, whether they will still be able to live at home, whether they will still be able to rely on their friends and family.

No parent wants to cause their child distress, but unfortunately many can make an already very stressful time for their child even more distressing when their child reveals they are lesbian, gay or bisexual. All too often young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people end up being thrown out of home and estranged from their whole families, just because the people they love are of the same sex as them.

Some even experience violence from their family. Unsurprisingly such reactions can do a great deal of damage to everyone involved. Coming out can be difficult for both the child and their parents but the most important thing for parents to remember is that your son or daughter is no different than they were before. They are the same person that you have always known, with the same likes, dislikes, fears and dreams. They just happen to be attracted to members of the same sex.

As a parent you may well have questions and concerns about your child being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but you should not let those questions stop you supporting you child through a difficult time. If you are finding it hard to accept your child being gay, or have questions about what it means for you, your child or your family don’t bottle it up. Get some support and talk to people in the same situation. Many parents have had the same thoughts and feeling you may be having now. With support and time to discuss their feeling and concerns they have been able to continue supporting their child through a difficult time.

Supporting your child

 “Ever since he was three, I knew my son was a little different from a number of boys. His friends were nearly all girls and he always had unusual interests. Of course, I didn’t then just assume he would be gay, but I always kept the possibility in mind”

Your support can make a very significant difference to a young person questioning their sexual orientation or a young person who has decided to come out. Do not assume that just because your child is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), he or she will be discriminated against or have a lower quality of life than their heterosexual peers. Recent legislative change has ensured that in many areas of life such as employment, education and health, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people now have the same rights as everyone else.

Times are changing and there are more rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, people living in the UK. They are protected from discrimination at work, they can adopt, foster, and bear children, and they can have civil partnerships to give them all the same rights as married couples. Hopefully, you and your son or daughter can talk openly and enjoy a better relationship because of it.

 

coming out

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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