Parents and Coming Out of the ‘Second Closet’


Will You Always Love Me?

When an LGBTQ person comes out to their parents, there is a top-of-mind question that may or may not be spoken: “Will you always love me?”

The Human Rights Campaign holds an annual event on Oct. 11 called National Coming Out Day, encouraging youth to come out. The next day, Oct. 12, Strong Family Alliance promotes National Parents Coming Out Day – a day encouraging parents to find more ways to support their LGBTQ loved one — big and small ways. Our theme for this event next month is “Going Beyond ‘I Love You.’”

No matter how loving a parent is, this can be a big adjustment. Even parents who start with “I love you no matter what” have their own fears, worries, and emotions to work through – and we’re there to help. Our organization’s focus is to help parents always love their child, work through any personal struggles they may have, and focus on keeping their child safe and their family strong.

BUT, have you heard of the second closet?

As parents work through this change in their family another situation may occur — the second closet. This is when the LGBTQ person is becoming more open but the family members keep silent. At first, this may be in support of the child’s privacy if they are not ready to be public. For trans youth, transition work is obvious and they are less able to be private – and may be eager to be seen in their new persona. Yet in both cases, parents can be in the second closet.

Perhaps parents just keep things low key, don’t say much to friends or family, consider it only for “need to know” situations, or are so uncomfortable themselves they don’t want to speak out. However, it is urgently important that the family keep pace with the child and become more open as the child does so.

Because silence makes topics seem taboo.

If parents never talk about LGBTQ issues, news or ideas it’s much harder for the child to bring topics up. Regardless of how private a child may be, there are dozens of things parents can do to show support. Our page devoted to this event offers over 50 ways to do so. For example, you act like an ally when you push back against negative jokes/slurs, make proactive efforts to talk about LGBTQ issues and people, or find positive resources to educate yourself. Do these things in front of your child. It strengthens them to see your support.

Going beyond ‘I love you’

If your child is more open you can do more too. Open your home to their friends, ask how you can help, ask permission if you want to tell someone (this helps your child to feel in control), get your answers down pat so you can speak comfortably if someone questions or implies something. There are so many actions that change the conversation in the family, in the community, and in society. It is far harder for someone to be condemning when people they know and respect are allies and advocates and parents.

A special word for parents of LGBTQ adults

When an LGBTQ child is an adult and living away from home, the second closet can be a big temptation. However, your support is still important. Are their friends or partner welcome in your home? Do you speak freely and often of your child to your friends? Do your friends even know your adult child is LGBTQ? I invite you to step up, to speak out, to change the conversation around you.

Because Actions Speak Louder than Words

Going beyond ‘I love you” means more than love and affection. It means getting in the trenches and trying to help others grow in acceptance and understanding. It means acting in ways that your child would be proud of, ways that make your child feel you are on their side and working to help. It may mean losing a friend or finding new ones that can accept and support your child. It may mean changing churches to find an accepting spiritual home.

Every step helps build momentum and acceptance for your child in your family, your community and society.

Say this to yourself every day: “My child is out and I am so proud.”

You should be; you have a brave and authentic child who loved you enough to be honest.