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Parenting and Gender Identity Continued

February 14, 2018
Photo by Brigitte Tohm on Unsplash

 

We wrote last week about teens (and pre-teens) expressing curiosity about gender differences, and non-traditional approaches to sexual orientation. We got such an overwhelming response from families asking questions, that we thought we would share a bit more with you, as well as some (of the many) excellent resources. 

Teens often ask us, teary eyed and anxious, how they should share with their parents that they are considering adopting a non-traditional lifestyle. We like to use that term, rather than ‘alternative’ because it feels more accepting of the decisions being considered.

As an early career clinician, I would sometimes be skeptical when teens asked these questions and struggled to identify what – if anything – might have “caused” this to happen. I WONDERED how you could “know” that you were bi-sexual or gay if you had never had a sexual experience. And I also wondered if the teen would “grow out of it”.

Families would also WONDER about things like, “Did I do something wrong?” or “What will people think of my child? Of me?” or “How will my child manage a potential future full of bullies and shaming?” Sometimes families would experience a sense of relief knowing that something had been bothering their child for some time, and that this was it.

Most often, however, we would all have some combination of all of these feelings. My job was to support the child in sharing a very scary personal truth, AND to support the family in being open to really HEARING their child (which is different from listening, FYI).

Author and therapist, Dr. Michael LaSala, of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, offers these 6 suggestions that we use with families at The Wise Family –  

  • Take a deep breath – Generally good advice whenever first confronting a challenging situation, right? And be grateful that your child is talking with you, and sharing this intimate part of themselves.
  •  Find someone to talk to – but not just anyone – Find someone that is open-minded, and accepting of LGBTQ+ people. A trustworthy confidant will allow you to vent, but also can help correct some of the misperceptions absorbed from society, such as gay people are lonely, unhappy, promiscuous, unable to have children, and doomed to an unhappy life.
  • Then find someone else – a professional – Professionals like social workers, psychologists, or psychiatrists have an ethical code requiring them to be knowledgeable, respectful, and supportive of all people (although, just to be sure, you might ask the therapist about his/her options of LGBTQ+ people and lifestyles.)
  • Contact Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) (www.pflag.org) – This national support and advocacy group is primarily for parents of LGBTQ+ people and has hundreds of local chapters throughout the US. Having a group of people that have been in your shoes, and managed to get through the tough times can really help.
  • Get educated – Check out the resources below, and ask questions wherever and whenever you have the opportunity. Then help your child’s school, teachers, and the community get educated too!
  • Let your child teach you – Know that your son or daughter came out to you, most probably because they love you, and want a more open, honest relationship. Respect that, and allow them to teach you about LGBTQ+ people, and also about acceptance and love.

If you’ve read this far that means you are willing to take the initial step and get yourself information. Check out the resources below and reach out to us at The Wise Family fore more! Parenting is a journey with a lot of potholes and detours – and there are also some gorgeous scenic overlooks along the way.

Don’t miss them, and Be Wise.

Resources to check out –

http://belongto.org/

https://www.advocate.com/parenting/2014/09/09/10-tips-parents-gay-kids

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/06/24/coming-out-what-parents-lgbtq-kids-can-do/417155001/

Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child. (LaSala, M. C., 2010) New York: Columbia University Press.

Love Ellen, A Mother Daughter Journey (DeGeneres, B., 1999), New York: Ross Weisbach Books.

Mom, Dad, I’m Gay: How Families Negotiate Coming Out. (Savin-Williams, R. C., 2001.) Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

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