Supporting your LGBTQ+ child: How to be a better ally
Find out how to support your LGBTQ+ child. Learn about the history of Pride and what you can do to help build a better tomorrow.
February is LGBT History Month. This month helps to raise awareness of the LGBTQ+ community and helps to fight against prejudice towards LGBTQ+ people in the UK.
Section 28, a law that banned local authorities and schools from ‘promoting’ homosexuality, was only repealed in 2003. Whilst this may not have affected you directly, and certainly not your children if they’re under the age of 19, this act has played a huge role in shaping our society’s attitude and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community.
An ally is somebody who isn’t part of the LGBTQ+ community but still supports LGBTQ+ rights. Being a good ally can seem like an overwhelming task, but with these tips, you'll feel more confident supporting your LGBTQ+ child and others who feel comfortable coming out around you.
Making jokes or comments such as “it’s just a phase” or “I thought so” isn’t helpful when your child comes out to you. When children are exploring their sexual orientation or gender identity, phrases like these can make them feel invalidated. Similarly, they can feel anxious that people have been talking about them or self-conscious about how others perceive them. It’s important to listen and accept how they feel regardless of your initial thoughts.
Until your child decides to come out to you, you can’t know and you shouldn’t assume their orientation. Let them tell you in their own time. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people aren’t as accepting and understanding as they should be, so you should create a positive, supportive environment where your child feels like they can talk to you about their sexual orientation or gender identity on their terms.
Here are some ways in which you can support your child:
- Ask them about their experience and how you can help them feel supported
- Listen without interrupting or arguing
- Tell them you love them and express affection towards them
- Stand up for them when they’re mistreated, even by other family members
- Challenge homophobic comments
- Support their gender expression
Remember to give your child credit if they come out to you; coming out is difficult, no matter the circumstances. Your child will have to come out many times in their life to different people and they may face rejection from some people when they do this. Starting their journey with your love and acceptance can help them develop a sense of self-worth and confidence to face future challenges.
You may be afraid to ask questions in case you get something wrong or say something incorrect. However, asking questions is the best way to learn and understand a new subject. If you’re worried, you can always preface your questions with an apology in case you do get something wrong. As long as you’re respectful and polite with the questions you ask, it’s okay to not understand something straight away.
You can also carry out research to help you understand better. You can learn more about LGBTQ+ history and sexual orientation through resources such as:
- The British Library’s short history of LGBT rights in the UK
- Stonewall’s key dates for lesbian, gay, bi, and trans equality
- The Proud Trust’s guide to different sexual orientations
Find a local support organisation
Finding a local support organisation can help both you and your child. There are support groups where parents with LGBTQ+ children can talk through what they’re feeling and get advice from parents who are in the same position. If your child would also like to go to a support group, there are many LGBTQ+ youth groups out there where your child can meet with people just like them.
Every area will have different support organisations. You can input your address into Stonewall’s ‘What’s In My Area’ service, and they’ll show you the options near you for LGBTQ+ support groups. Organisations like the LGBT Foundation can also provide virtual or telephone support, depending on what you’d like help with.
Final thoughts from Kinhub
By taking steps to support your child as they come out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you'll play a significant role in their health and wellbeing. Family acceptance helps protect adolescents against suicidal behaviour, depression, and substance abuse. Young people with accepting families also reported higher self-esteem, social support, and overall health. By supporting your LGBTQ+ child throughout their journey, you can help build a better tomorrow for all LGBTQ+ youth.