11 October marked National Coming Out Day. While coming out can be an important and liberating experience for some, for others it can be scary – especially if they don’t have a supportive family.
According to the Human Rights Campaign’s National Coming Out Day Report, nearly half of all LGBTI youth who are not out to their immediate family say they don’t have an adult in their family they could talk to if they were sad.
Of youth who are not out to their family, 19% say they are scared of their family’s reaction or don’t know how their family will react. 30% say their family is not accepting or homo/bi/transphobic.
Positive ways for parents of LGBTI children to react
This video, posted by The Advocate, provides tips for parents who may have recently found out their child is LGBTI.
The video’s narrator, Susan Cottrell, is a Christian pastor and mother to five children, two of whom identify as queer.
Cottrell gives parents five steps to follow upon learning that their child is LGBTI.
The first step is to breathe and pause. ‘Don’t do anything rash,’ Cottrell advises. ‘When you’re in a crisis mode, that’s the worst time to make a decision.’
‘Work through your emotions, but don’t make your child pay for them. They’re not doing this to hurt you.’
‘They didn’t choose this, they discovered it. And nothing you could have done would have produced a different outcome.’
The second step is to stay connected with your child. ‘This is a fragile time for our children. Your response is critically important,’ Cottrell says.
‘Depression, self-harm, suicide are real risks. Not because people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, but because they were rejected for it. Because they were cut out of community.’
‘If you have cut your child off or reacted unlovingly to them, seek them out. Let them know that you’re there for them. Let them know the relationship is important to you.’
The third step is to search your heart. ‘Ask yourself why this bothers you so much,’ Cottrell says. ‘Is it fear? Is it just something you don’t want to imagine?’
‘If you are afraid, think about what’s best – to react out of that fear, or to embrace them and give yourself time to figure out your feelings.’
Does your faith interfere?
‘If this is a faith issue for you, then talk to God about it,’ Cottrell advises.
The fourth step is to educate yourself. ‘Read books and watch videos from people whose position has changed. Give yourself the time it takes to get educated on something unfamiliar to you.’
The fifth step is simply to love. ‘You’ll never regret loving too much,’ Cottrell says. ‘If you cut your child off now, and in five years you decide you want a relationship, it may be too late. Your child may be unwilling, or you may not have a child.’
‘If you’ve been told you have to choose between God and your child, that’s not true. To choose your child is to choose God because that’s the child God gave you.’
‘Hand over everything to God and just love your child.’
Watch the full video below, and visit Cottrell’s website, freedhearts.org for more resources.