Coming out

Supporting your LGBTQ child

Estimated read: 6 minutes 

Many young lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people have negative experiences when they reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity to their family and friends. For many it can be a liberating and exciting phase of their life and having a supportive family can make all the difference.

Key points: 

  • It’s important to create an environment where your child feels as though they can safely tell you anything
  • If you have a LGBTQ friend of family member they can be a great source of information, especially on how they felt coming out to their family
  • Doing your part to support your child and creating a non-judgemental space where your child feels safe and free to express themselves and explore their identity can make all the difference

 

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Some quick tips:

  • Listen compassionately
  • Do not make assumptions
  • Do your research
  • Be supportive

You think your child might be LGBTQ?

The truth is you cannot know for certain. If you believe that your child is dropping hints or ‘showing signs’, try not to assume, if they want to tell you they will in their own time. Facing rejection is difficult and living without the support of friends and family can have a greatly negative effect on the wellbeing of a child. It’s important to create an environment where your child feels as though they can safely tell you anything. For instance, make positive comments about the LGBTQ community when the subject does come up, do not allow any anti-LGBTQ sentiments to go by uncommented on and admit where your knowledge is lacking.

Do your research

If you suspect that your child may be LGBTQ then it can be worthwhile to find out more about the community, you may think that you know all you need to but if you’re not a part of the community then it’s likely that you have something to learn. Having your knowledge limited by what you see in the media can lead to misinformation and harmful stereotypes.

Speaking to people you know who are LGBTQ can be a way to broaden your understanding, if you have a LGBTQ friend of family member they can be a great source of information, especially on how they felt coming out to their family and how you can make it a positive experience for your child.

Groups like FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) or Stonewall have many resources that you might find useful.

When they come out

When your child does come to you and tells you that they’re LGBTQ, it is important that you listen to them and believe what they say. Do not say things like that you ‘knew all along’ or that it was ‘obvious’ or that ‘it’s just a phase’. Everyone’s journey is unique and people discover things about themselves at different times, and saying these things can undermine and diminish their sense of self and the strength it takes to tell someone else.

The fear of parental rejection stops many from sharing this part of themselves with their parents, and they feel as though they have to hide a part of themselves. So it shows a great deal of trust and bravery for your child to come out to you. It’s important to say that you believe them and that what they’ve told you won’t change how you feel about them. Show that you’re going to be there to support them.

Supporting your child

Now that there is wider acceptance, awareness and representation of the LGBTQ community, more and more people feel safe coming out, especially after the advent of legal same sex marriage and the Equality Act of 2010, though this does not mean that LGBTQ people are fully accepted or always safe. Doing your part to support your child (whether they’re sure or questioning) and creating a non-judgemental space where your child feels safe and free to express themselves and explore their identity can make all the difference.

Further resources  

If your child is LGB, then there are organisations that have lots of resources and even helplines that you might find helpful: Stonewall and FFLAG. If your child is transgender then there are more specialised organisations that provide support, resources and information: Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids.

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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