What do you do when you learn that your teen is an LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) teen? You might be confused, overwhelmed and challenged. As the author of young adult LGBT books, I often come across parents who are looking for a little guidance and direction.
There isn’t a manual to guide you through the process. But as a former gay teenager, I have some suggestions.
Advice For Parenting LGBT Youth
Don’t confront your teen.
If you suspect that your teenager might be gay, or confused about their sexuality and/or gender, don’t confront them. Interrogating your teen is the quickest way to lose their trust. Don’t back them into a corner, demand answers or snoop around their room.
The truth is that your teen really wants to talk to you. In fact, most gay teenagers want to come out to their parents but they are afraid. The best thing you can do is to give your teen some space. You can even drop an occasional hint that you are available to talk about anything and everything. When your teen is ready to open up to you about their sexuality, they will. But it has to be on their terms.
Listen with an open mind.
It takes a lot of courage for teenagers to be honest and open with their parents. Keep that in mind when your teen wants to talk. Don’t jump to conclusions, and make sure that you let them get everything they want to say out in the open. Before responding, take a few moments to digest what they said. If you need more time to think about the conversation and analyze your thoughts, ask for a little space. Some parents need a little more space than others, and that’s okay. It’s important to be as honest with your teen as possible, and to embrace them wholeheartedly when you are ready.
Don’t ever hide your true feelings.
Don’t pretend that you are okay with your teen’s sexuality if you really aren’t. It will only eat away at you and cause more problems down the road. If you are having a hard time with your teen’s confession, then seek some support through counseling or meeting with a group of parents in similar situations. There are local chapters of PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) all over the country. Read books and articles that will enlighten you about homosexuality, and not harden your heart. The idea is remain open so that you can sort through your feelings and concerns in a positive way. But the more understanding you can be, the better your relationship will be with your teen.
Be there for your teenager.
LGBT teen suicide is a rising epidemic. Like it or not, LGBT teens are ridiculed and bullied in school far more than straight teens. This means that your teenager is going to need some additional love and support, and it all starts with you. Let them know that your home is a safe and secure place to be. Talk to them about what’s going on in school. Many LGBT teens are frightened at the idea of coming out to their parents because they are afraid of being kicked out of their homes. Showing your love and support is a profound step that will make a lasting positive impression.