Commentary

4 dos and don’ts for parents of LGBTI teenagers

Photo courtesy of www.jonnydrubel.com

Photo courtesy of http://www.jonnydrubel.com

How should loving parents support and protect their LGBTI children through the potential difficulties they might face? We’ve compiled a handy guide to help you.

This advice, from an Australian mother of a pre-teen child, “is sound and relevant, wherever you come from,” says Ugandan LGBT activist Clare Byarugaba, convener of the Ugandan chapter of PFLAG, the LGBTI support organization formerly known as Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

4 Dos and Don’ts for Supporting your Gay Teenager

By Eva Davies

You saw LGBT celebrities and couples celebrated across the media, and gay struggles becoming a central concern for government and schools alike. Maybe it seemed as if the developed world had moved past its mistrust and exclusion of the gay community or maybe you just never gave it much thought. That is until you heard your own child come out to you, and suddenly the world became a much different place.

While it’s true that in the last decade the LGBT movement has made great strides in gaining mainstream acceptance, reality for a gay teenager just coming out can still be just as strange and intimidating as ever. Studies show that 40% of teenage boys in Australia still feel “anxious or uncomfortable” around gay people, while 6 in 10 have witnessed sexuality-based bullying first-hand.

So how is a loving parent supposed to support and protect their child through the potential difficulties he or she might face? We’ve compiled a handy guide to help you, containing more than just the “four dos and don’ts” mentioned in the headline.

1. Give them love and acceptance

Graphic courtesy of Gay Alliance Youth Program via Facebook

Graphic courtesy of Gay Alliance Youth Program via Facebook

The decision to reveal a side of them that might be confusing and even embarrassing is a giant step for any child to make. While some misgivings and prejudices are normal, you DO need to sort these out on your own time. Right now it’s important that your child feels as if you value them and care for them exactly the same way as before. DO acknowledge the courage your teenager showed in opening up to you, and understand that by talking to you about this issue they are putting a great deal of trust in your hands. DON’T break this trust.

2. Educate yourself

If you don’t have much experience with homosexuality, it’s especially important that you open yourself up to understanding. DO ask your teenager respectfully about their experiences with coming out and being gay. DO ask them how they feel about gay culture, its acceptance in society. DO ask your child if there’s any websites or books they’d like you to read, in order to understand their perspective better.

Speak to other gay people you might have some contact with. Try visiting websites specifically geared towards better understanding gay children and culture such as minus18.org.au and emen8.com.au. There are also many books that focus on helping parents better understand their gay children that you can check out such as Robert Bernstein’s “Straight Parents, Gay Children: Keeping Families Together”.

3. Seek help

DON’T ignore your own feelings in a bid to present a calm front. It’s important that you seek out the support of trustworthy friends and family who are open-minded and accepting of gay issues. A reliable shoulder to lean on that can provide much-needed perspective is an invaluable tool. If you’re able, DO find a therapist or counselor that has worked with LGBT individuals before, so that you can make use of their knowledge and specific tools.

4. Talk about safe sex

Part of educating yourself will involve understanding how gay people have sex, and the concerns and issues they face surrounding sexual intimacy. While it may be awkward for you and your teenager, it’s important that you DO let your child know that you’re willing to discuss sexual issues and concerns. DO make sure your child is well-informed about safe sex practices, and issues of consent.

By fostering an atmosphere of frank and open discussion you can make sure that the next time your child faces an issue or has a concern, they come to you instead of trying to deal with it on their own.

Eva Davies is a marketer and writer. In her free time, she dabbles in film photography, cinema, and poetry. She is a mother and a wife, and works hard to be sensitive about the sensibilities of her child, who is in third grade.

In addition to her work with PFLAG, Clare Byarugaba is coordinator for the Equality and Non-Discrimination Program at the Chapter Four human rights organization in Uganda.

Related articles:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s