If you are a parent whose child just came out, you may be struggling or wondering how to respond. We are parents too and want to help you through this crossroads. Coming out is a process that takes time, both for the LGBTQ person and their families. It takes patience, open communication, and, probably the most difficult part for parents, a willingness to accept that in spite of our good intentions we still sometimes get it wrong.
The following testimony from a nonbinary teen is an example of how important your response is to your LGBTQ child coming out, the mixed messages from loved ones that they often struggle with, and the power of love. After they come out, you might be tempted to try and move on right away, or dismiss their feelings as a product of their teenage hormones. What your child needs from you the most, however, is affirmation. You’re not a detective trying to figure out their “true” gender identity or sexual orientation. Your primary task is to respect their courage and honesty, thank them for trusting you, and continue caring for them.
A child coming out to family members is emotionally vulnerable. Those who receive the news are often upset and overwhelmed. There will probably be missteps on both sides — this is new territory for most families.
We hope that the information on our website can help you find your best path to love and support your child and keep your family strong.
“When I came out to my mother, I was terrified. I was so scared she would reject it, reject me, and get mad at me. I hid it for as long as possible, until everyone else in my life knew, and I absolutely had to.
I waited until we were in the car, a neutral space, and I told her. I said, “Mom, I don’t think I’m a girl. But I don’t think I’m a boy, either. I think I’m nonbinary.” We sat in silence for a while. Then, she spoke.
She told me I was young, that I didn’t know what it really meant to be a woman. She told me I should wait for a while to see if this was just a phase, or if it stuck around. Once we got home, she gave me books on “what it means to be a woman.” I never read the books. I was hurt that she didn’t believe me.
The next time I came out was a couple of weeks later. I told her, “Mom, I still don’t feel like a girl or a boy. I’m nonbinary.” She was silent. Finally, she just said, “Okay.” She didn’t say anything else.
To this day, I don’t know if she really believes me. She still calls me her daughter and uses she/her pronouns for me. I’m not mad at her, I think she’ll always only be able to see me as her little girl, but it’s hard. It’s hard to hear her talk about me to her friends because the person she talks about isn’t really me. It’s her idea of me. And I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to change that idea. But I know I’m lucky to have a mother who isn’t transphobic, who quietly accepted my identity when I presented it to her, even if she doesn’t understand it.”
If you identify with the mom in this story, you’re not alone. That’s why SFA exists! Check out the Tips for Supporting Your Child page on our website to get started.