I'm a parent. A damn good one if I do say so myself. Sure, I came out of the closet late in life. Went through a divorce. Tore a family apart. Then rebuilt the whole thing with the beautiful help of my ex-wife, partner, and two great daughters. But through it all, the one thing that I never lost sight of was that I was a parent, first and foremost. At times, it was tough juggling work, single parenthood, co-parenting, dating, and making ends meet. However, it was the choice I made and the bed I chose to sleep in, so I made it happen.
Of course, I'm not a perfect parent, and I freely admit it. I also get scared, frightened, concerned, and worried about my daughters every 60 seconds or so. There is always some nagging parental worry that skitters around your brain. I'd like to think we become used to it, but we don't. (Did you hear that Mom and Dad? I admit it; I understand you now)!
The fears we face about our children run rampant. Everything from physical safety to self-esteem, and what fashions to wear to be "in." And then, after all that, what happens when you hear the admission from your bundle of joy, "Mom and Dad I’m gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender!"
Maybe you suspected it or maybe you've just been slapped upside the head with a rainbow bat! Panic, curiosity and feelings of shock are now your best friends. For your kid who dropped the bomb, his or her emotions could be similar to yours. More than likely, they're also feeling relieved, free and excited to experience themselves in a whole new, authentic way. In that euphoric state, they may subconsciously forget that you've been dealt a blow. They might not even understand why you're so wigged out.
Rest assured, the feelings you're having are normal. You too shall get through this, in your own way, with your beliefs and values still in check or slightly readjusted. One of the most important things you can do as a parent with an LGBT child who has just come out of the closet is to operate from a place of love, and let your kid experience your feelings in a healthy manner. Even if those feelings are confusion, anger, fear, if you can stand in love, it will make the journey easier for all concerned.
5 Common Fears Parents Of LGBT Individuals Face
1. My child won't be safe
Right at the top of the heap, I hear this concern every time I participate at support groups like Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG). Whether it's fear of bullying, physical threat or societal degradation, parents just want their kids to be safe — whether they're one or 100-years old! It's no secret that LGBT individuals are still waging a battle to be accepted in society. As a parent, this immediately creates a "I'm helpless to protect you" mentality. One of the best ways to feel both assured and supportive is to join your own support groups and become educated.
2. They'll lose their faith/religion
It's no secret that many religious points of view regarding sexuality outside the normative of heterosexuality often become the battleground that tears a family apart. What do you do when you're torn between your faith and the love of your child? At the deepest core of your convictions, you're being tested to stand on a principle of love, yet hold firm to your guide posts for living. Some call it a rock and hard place. It's not uncommon to feel that you've missed an opportunity to instill the proper values of faith in your child. At this juncture I encourage parents to do some self-exploration, and trust that you've been and will continue to be a shining testament of your beliefs to your child. At the end of the day, children grow up and choose whether or not to live in the faith they've been raised, regardless of whether they're gay or straight!
3. What did I do wrong?
No matter what issues arise with our children as they grow, we as parents always seem to find some way to take full responsibility for how our children turn out. Coming out as LGBT is no different! Even if you're on the right side of understanding your LGBT child, there will be some funky feelings that may make you think you did something "wrong" to make your child this way. Don't fall for this negative self-talk. You gave birth to a unique individual who has wonderful gifts to share with the world.
4. Will they ever find love and have a family?
Let's be candid. Almost every parent desires that his or her child finds true love and has the exhilarating experience of raising a family. However, due to misguided media exploits, unfounded beliefs, and sensationalized stereotypes of the LGBT community, love in any form and raising children just aren't thought to be part of the LGBT DNA. Wrong! Keep your compassion alive and know that if your child is destined for love and parenthood, it's all possible, even as an LGBT individual. You just have to trust. And if you're child doesn't want either of those things, it probably doesn’t have a thing to do with their sexual orientation!
5. It will be a rough life.
Each day that passes makes it easier and easier for LGBT individuals to have wonderful lives. Besides, anyone can have a rough life. As a concerned parent, you will feel this fear on a regular basis. It may be more inflamed because of your child's sexual orientation, however, unless they give you any reason to believe it harder for them, try to trust it's not. Of course, a really cool course of action here would be to make sure the communication lines are wide open — every step of the way — regardless of the age of your child. Even at age 50, it feels great to speak with my parents about life, despite the fact we agree to disagree about my sexual orientation.
Granted, there are hundreds of thoughts and fears that will cross your mind as you navigate the road and life of your child as they come out of the closet. You as a parent have your own coming out journey as well. The beauty of this entire experience is that if you give space for each other to realize you're both coming out, you will have a child/parent bond that strengthens as it grows.
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