Disclaimer: the term "queer" has been used throughout this article as an umbrella term for individuals who do not identify as heterosexual or cisgender.
As a parent, having your child come out to you can be a difficult experience, yet it isn't just about their sexual orientation or what they choose to identify as. It is essentially a period of change.
Although change is uncomfortable and often abrupt, it is inevitable and something we all need to work through.
Having your child come out to you might not be your idea of an ideal situation, but consider just how tough it must’ve been to have them open up to you in that way.
It’s easy to lose yourself in the heat of the moment and say something you don’t mean. Your words and response hold a lot of weight, especially in their moment of vulnerability.
Maybe there will never be a perfect response, and none of us will truly know exactly what to say. But we do know what not to say.
So, here’s what you should never say or do in response to your child coming out to you:
1. Don't ignore them
Yes, you may need some time to gather your thoughts and it’s okay to ask for that. But if you completely ignore your child or pretend to not hear them, it is a complete slap in the face and will only make them reluctant to be open and talk to you in future. You can't ignore the situation as hard as you may try.
2. “This isn’t what the [religious book] says” or “this is a sin”
Despite your religious beliefs and how passionate you are about them, there is a time and a place for everything. Shifting the conversation to religion can turn ugly and be detrimental in the long run as it can make your child resent your religious beliefs and perhaps even their own.
3. “We all sin differently”
You may think you're doing your child a favour by telling them this but it is still somewhat telling them who they are or their sexual orientation is a sin. Now is not the time for cliché statements.
4. “It’s just a phase”
This is possibly one of the most invalidating and insulting things you could tell someone coming out to you. Being queer IS REAL AND VALID, whether you understand it or not. Telling your child that they are just going through a phase is like saying “I accept you for the time being but this will be over soon enough." Come to terms with it instead of seeing it as a phase.
5. “Don’t tell anyone about this” or “what will [ ] say”
A big part of coming out is to gain the sense of freedom to be your true self. Queer people do not owe it to anyone to come out to them, but it is essentially their decision as to when they want to come out to who. Forcing your child to remain silent is not only showing your disapproval, but that they shouldn’t approve of themselves. It shows that you care more about what other people think of them than you care about making them feel loved and supported.
It is understandable that as a parent, you would want to protect your children from the rest of the world, but it is their choice to make and their bridge to cross.
6. “I knew it”
You may think this will make the situation easier, but remember that this is a big moment for your child and they probably worked up tons of courage to tell you so let them own it.
7. Don't make queer stereotypes
Now isn't the time to perpetuate queer stereotypes (or whenever really, but especially now). Saying things like "now we can get our nails done together" or any stereotypical statement along those lines should best be avoided.
8. “Not in my house”
This can be detrimental to your relationship with your child and can be extremely psychologically damaging and emotionally taxing for everyone. You are essentially forcing your child to stop being who they are; that isn't love.
9. “If only I did [ ] differently”
Blaming yourself for your child being queer makes it seem like something that could've been prevented and also ends up making the situation about you when the focus should be your child and their feelings.
10. Don’t be too invasive
As much as you want to know things and ask questions, it’s important to establish some boundaries and not be too invasive. Wait until your child feels comfortable enough to open up to you and peel back the layers. If they are comfortable enough to tell you things, be open to listen and provide support where you can.
Share your stories and questions with us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Anonymous contributions are welcome.
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