Coming Out: The process through which LGBTQ people recognize and acknowledge their non-heterosexual orientation and integrate this understanding into their personal and social lives.
The act of disclosing this orientation or identity to others.
Coming out is a challenging process, no matter the age of the person doing it. That said, coming out as a youth can be particularly challenging given the array of social pressures youth face at school, at home, and in broader society. It’s quite common for family members to experience a number of challenges when their child or relation first identifies themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, ıntersex (LGBI) or another identity within the spectrum.
Seeking Support in your school community
Many parents of youth who identify as LGBI find themselves concerned for the safety and well-being of their children, given that discrimination and violence against LGBI individuals are serious problems around the world. Part of this concern involves wanting to ensure a safe and inclusive school environment. Parents can work towards this in several ways:
Engage with your child!
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to ease your child’s coming out process is to stay open to communicating with them. They may not want to talk about their identity all the time (and neither may you) but it’s important that you let them know that they have your support and love. Most importantly, encourage your child to come to you for support whenever they feel unsafe or disrespected – at school, or anywhere else. Make yourself available for conversation!
Engage with the school community
There are web pages contains a number of different documents providing tips on how to work with the teachers and administrators at your child’s school towards ensuring a safe and more inclusive school community for everyone. Does your school or board/district have an equity officer, or someone in charge of inclusive education? If so, consider also reaching out to this person for further support and resources.
Engage with other parents
Other parents within the school community can be great allies in helping a parent come to understand the needs of an LGBTI child, and in working towards a safe and more inclusive school community. Consider reaching out to other parents whose children may openly identify as LGBTI. These parents may be able to offer you perspectives on their emotional processes and will often be great people to speak to about issues you may not want to discuss with your child. Parents’ groups like PFLAG can offer great local support from other parents in the area.
Engaging with the local LGBTI community
Do some research into local LGBI organizations and service providers like community groups, or healthcare organizations. If you can’t find anything specific to parents of LGBI youth, you may still find some organizations that can help address some of your questions and concerns. Volunteering with a local organization, like an LGBTI Pride group, can be a great way to indicate your support to your child, as well as allowing you to meet and interact with parents and members of the LGBI community.