When a child comes out as LGBTQ+, it is difficult to know how to react. Here are some simple steps you can take to help you through the transition.

Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union are vocal about their child who came out as trans (the "T" in LGBTQ+).
Miami Heat player Dwyane Wade and wife Gabrielle Union are vocal about their child who came out as trans (the “T” in LGBTQ+). Copyright, 2016: Walt Disney Television, (CC) Some Rights Reserved.

1. Seek Information for You and Your LGBTQ+ Child

LGBTQ+ stands for: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, + (anything else not considered straight or cisgender). That sentence was heavy with vocabulary, but stick with me. Each group within the LGBTQ+ community has their own distinct identity and set of issues. Start by learning the vocabulary. If it’s overwhelming, ask your child to teach you about the terms that apply to them.

Being LGBTQ+ means something different to each individual, so don’t jump to conclusions! Seek information from resources like GLSEN to learn as much as you can. Understanding LGBTQ+ people and their issues better will prepare you to protect and support your child.

2. Keep Calm and Keep Perspective: Your LGBTQ+ Child is Still Your Child

Demonstrators hold signs at a LGBTQ+ event. See if your child has a GSA at their school.
Demonstrators hold signs at a LGBTQ+ event. See if your child has a GSA at their school. Photo credit: Denin Lawley

Coming out as LGBTQ+ is not an easy thing to do. Your child knows this was not in your plans for them. It is always difficult to disappoint a parent. You can trust your child has put thought and effort into having this conversation with you.

Your first reaction may have been negative. That’s ok. The important part now is that your child remembers you love them no matter what. Ask them respectful questions about their preferred pronouns and labels (do your best to remember them, apologize if you slip up). Thank them for being brave and trusting you enough to share.

3. Make a Plan for How to Reintroduce your Child to the World as LGBTQ+

Many don’t realize that coming out doesn’t happen just one time. It is a process. Your child has to come out to everyone in their life who knew them before. This process also looks different for each identity within the LGBTQ+ community, so make sure you understand your child’s needs as an individual.

This is terrifying and potentially dangerous for your child. Your child needs your support and love as they confront the attitudes and reactions of friends, family members, classmates, teachers, etc. Use resources online to come up with a plan for how to handle this process.

Make sure you think about bullying. LGBTQ+ students are at greater risk of bullying than any other group. Prepare yourself to support your child by learning the risks and statistics. Ask your child’s school about their bullying policy and resources for LGBTQ+ students.

Your child loves you and wants to make you proud. That hasn’t changed. Their identity may be a surprise, but supporting them through this transition will only strengthen your relationship!