It always helps if you have discussed what the gender spectrum means beforehand in your home. It will not only show that you are a hip parent who is cognizant of what is going in the non cis-gender culture, but that you can be trusted to be open-minded. When having these discussions, don’t assume that your child will marry a heterosexual or that he has a crush on a girl! Use gender-neutral language when discussing relationships.
If you leave the conversation open-ended, perhaps your child will feel secure talking about his concerns about being LGBT: for example what he may be experiencing in school. If a parent says that the door is always open, that child will know that he can come to you for support and not be judged. You will lessen his burden. Your home will be a safe haven in which your LGBT child can “let down his hair.”
As a parent, you will only alienate your LGBT child if you say the following:
• “You can’t be! It’s just a phase!”
• Don’t make the conversation about yourself: “How can you do this to me and your father?”
• “I can’t wait to tell your Aunt Ellen!” Ask for permission to tell anyone, including friends and family. Find out whom your child has already told. Protect your family’s privacy!
• Don’t tell your child that you’re worried about his safety! You’ve read and seen on television how the LGBT population gets beaten up!
• Get your lines right! Think before you speak! It’s o.k. to say that you need to think over everything that was stated and that it may take you awhile to digest this important revelation.
If you haven’t gotten your lines right, then apologize and say, for example, that you were surprised so you didn’t react well. You want your child to feel respected and heard. You could ask him how you can support him. Of course, always tell him that you love him! Lastly, thank him for entrusting you with such important information.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.