When a child or teen comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ), it’s normal for a parent or guardian to have potentially complex feelings, from confused to concerned, awkward to honored. It may be hard to know how to react, what to say, or how you can best be supportive.
What does it mean to come out?
Many people understand coming out to mean sharing a person’s non-straight sexuality or non-cisgender identity to the important people in their lives.
While coming out might be thought of as a relief and path to acceptance, it’s important to not pressure anyone to come out. The decision on when to come out and who to come out to is only up to the child coming out and what feels right for them. Respect their decision and they will share with you if and when the time is right.
Tips for parents
Dr. Angela Kade Goepferd, medical director of the Gender Health program at Children’s Minnesota, says the way a parent reacts to their child’s coming out is important. She offers the following tips on how to support your child or loved one if they come out to you:
Match the energy of your child.
If your child isn’t making a big deal about coming out, then you don’t make a big deal either. If you can tell they’re anxious, be a little more sensitive or delicate in your response. If they’re excited, be excited.
“There might be parents who go full on PRIDE mode when their child comes out when maybe the child isn’t ready for that yet,” said Dr. Goepferd.
Follow your child’s lead.
If your child comes out to you, ask them before disclosing their identity to other family members and friends. Before family gatherings, ask them their pronouns so you can address them properly and you can also share with your family members their pronouns as well.
There are a number of organizations that offer resources and support for LGBTQ youth and allies.
Children’s Minnesota Gender Health program
Children’s Minnesota Gender Health program is an exclusively pediatric, multidisciplinary program, and includes pediatric gender health, endocrinology, and adolescent health physicians as well as social work, psychology and psychiatry. The Gender Health program provides compassionate and comprehensive care for transgender and gender-diverse youth. We’re dedicated to serving as an essential medical partner and resource for transgender youth and families along their journey. We are here to help, every step along the way.