by Nina Sherman
I realized I was gay in eighth grade. It took me over a year to fully accept this new part of myself and embrace it as a part of my identity. It took another year to tell my parents. I told friends before I told them. I told my sister before I told them. It was easier, and less frightening. Logically, I knew they’d be supportive, but I was still scared.
I told my mom first. After months of internal struggle, I resolved to tell her by the end of the week. Naturally, I procrastinated until the last possible day, Friday. Unfortunately, I forgot I had therapy. During the session, the subject of dating came up. It was frustrating to sit through, but I didn’t want to come out there. I told my mom on the car ride home. She was shocked. She launched into the standard questions- how did I know, when did I know. She was confused, but ultimately well-meaning and accepting. By the end of the car ride, everything was settled.
I was a bit more worried about dad. I couldn’t do it myself, so I made my sister tell him. I waited in my bedroom nervously. When he finally came in, he joked he was accepting of me ‘as long as you’re not a republican’. Not nearly as serious as my mom’s reaction, but just as supportive.
Deep down, I was never afraid my parents would react badly. I knew their love was unconditional. Not everyone is so lucky, especially in the Bible belt. In my schools’ GSA, many of the members struggled with their family lives. Some came out and were met with disbelief and hatred. Some were quietly hiding in the closet, petrified that their religious parents would disown them otherwise. Coming out is always a gamble, one that many LGBT+ youth can’t afford. Not only do housing and physical safety become jeopardized, but they risk being severed from the only family they have.
Ultimately, being supportive of your own LGBT+ child is no different than being a good parent. Accept them unconditionally. Don’t pressure them to fit your own ideals, or rush them in their own journey. It’s okay if you don’t understand everything. Just ask them, or find online resources for help. Do your best, it’ll be okay. Yes, it’s still dangerous to be queer in this world, and of course your child will face hardships throughout their life. You can’t protect them from it. But the outside world’s chaos won’t seem as daunting if you welcome your child with open arms.