“Big fat ugly lesbian.”
These are just some of the names that my peers called me in elementary school. Up to that point, I did not know what it meant to be gay, but I remember coming home from school one day and telling my mom that a girl in my class called me “daka.”
I still remember the expression on her face: Not only shocked, but visibly upset. It was a “bad word,” he said, “and I will never say it again.” The discussion ended there and as soon as the Lyceum I had a more in-depth discussion with my parents.
Looking back, I wish even a decade ago, there would have been more awareness about talking to children about the LGBTQ community and what it means to “go out.” Since then, however, society has grown and evolved and these discussions and teaching moments begin to occur at a younger age.
For parents, talking to their children about going out or being queer can be natural or, depending on how they grew up, it can be a little awkward. Regardless, this dialogue is important to have, because everyone deserves to feel safe, validated and respected for who they are. If I had known about the LGBTQ community as a child, not only would I have felt more comfortable, but I would have been better friends with those I dated.
So how can parents encourage their child to accept the gender and sexuality of their peers? Yahoo Life asked a therapist for advice on how to talk to children about going out and asked LGBTQ children’s parents to share their own experiences with how other children handled a child’s sexual orientation and gender identity. their.
Start the conversation
Talking to children about gender and sexuality is easier said than done, but just talking about it can be a good starting point for families.
“Talking to your child to get out early can help you send the message that he is unconditionally loved and accepted for what he is, creating greater security and trust between parent and child and in turn sending it. a message to children that they can do the same for their peers, ”says Kate Nichols, a licensed social worker and psychotherapist at Cycle Breakers Therapy who often works with the queer community.
Nichols also says if a child asks questions like, “What do you think about homosexuals?” and “If I were gay or trans what would you do?” this could be their attempt to analyze the issue. Not only can they try to start a conversation, but they also try to gain a sense of the attitude of those around them towards the LGBTQ community.
Remember the Golden Rule
Treating others the way you want them to treat you, also called the Golden Rule, is especially true when a child’s friend comes or vice versa, so Nichols says it is important to emphasize this philosophy.
“Treat others as you would like to be treated. Respect the differences of others. Do not make fun of people for what they are and do not intimidate anyone,” says Nichols.
Monica Gupta Mehta is the CEO and founder of Normalizers, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting and educating young LGBTQs. Gupta Mehta, a mother of three, two of whom are identified as non-binary, says that when her child, Summer, showed her gender identity and shared her diagnosis of autism, she saw a friend react emotionally.
“I will never forget the reaction of Summer’s best friend when I explained to him that Summer is autistic,” says Gupta Mehta. After carefully explaining what autism was and how it affected Summer, his friend turned to me and said, “The signs mean nothing to me – I know who Summer is and I like Summer.”
“Exactly in the same way that Summer’s closest friends approached them [coming out as] non-binary “, he adds.
Unlike Summer, Lacey Larson’s child, Crick, did not receive the same acceptance and courtesy from their peers when they left. “They told our child it was a sin, they told us unimaginable names and insults, and they told him to commit suicide,” said Larson, co-founder of The Right Pillow.
With experiences that vary so much from child to child, parents who hope to teach their children to support everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality, need to be proactive in discussing with their children.
Encourage words of support
If a child’s friend comes out, they may not know what to say and that’s okay. The important part is for parents to educate their children in kind helpful answers that can be used in this context.
“Parents can offer their children words of support and reassurance to their friends, such as ‘I’m glad you felt comfortable telling me this and I would love to know anything else about it if you want to tell me when you’re ready,'” he said. Nichols. It may also be helpful for the child to remind his friend that he cares by saying things like, “I’m glad to be your friend and I’m here for you.”
Gupta Mehta’s other non-binary child, Ash, was treated to a hug and a funny joke when they went out, which is said to have taken a lot of stress out of the situation.
“The first friend I came with, when I went to them, they hugged me and made a pun on my sexual label,” Ash told Yahoo Life. “It was very nice for a few reasons: I was really scared that my friends thought they were attracted to me because I like girls, but just the hug showed that it would not be weird for that.”
“The pun was just a very nice way to lighten my spirits, because I was so scared not to go out,” they continue. “It just made the whole thing feel lighter – I was much less scared the next time I went out.”
According to Nichols, answers like the ones Ash received are quite common if the child they said comes from a background where he grew up learning to respect and accept queerness.
Help create safe spaces
According to a study by The Trevor Project, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people, with LGBTQ young people four times more likely to think seriously about suicide.
Creating safe spaces is vital to help children feel less alone. People are hard-wired to feel connected and validated by others, especially those in the LGBTQ community. By having these conversations with our children, we in turn help other queer children find a community of acceptable people with whom they can surround themselves.
“Our kid found a small group of kids who identify similarly,” says Larson. “It makes a difference in the world for them. Having a community of children who share similar interests, empathize with each other’s struggles and challenges, and show compassion for each other is very important.”
Provide resources for your children
Although parents do not always have the right answers to everything, there are online resources available that parents can turn to to learn about the LGBTQ community. They can also direct their children to these resources if they are interested in learning more about themselves.
Gupta Mehta and Ash, for example, run a TikTok (@MonicaTheTeacher) where they discuss the importance of safe spaces in the queer community and provide education and information to people on how to discuss topics such as sexuality, gender identity and Contact.
In addition to social media, there are organizations dedicated to educating people of all ages about the LGBTQ community, such as The Trevor Project, GLAAD and GLSEN.
While talking to children about going out or having sex with friends can be overwhelming for some parents, Gupta Mehta says it’s essential.
“The alliance is extremely important, as growing up in a heterogeneous society leaves many young LGBTQs feeling alone, isolated, abnormal and even fearful for their safety,” he says. “Finding a supportive community can make a difference.”
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