It’s a common source of anxiety for parents – knowing how to support your child if they come out.
Many parents worry about saying the wrong thing, failing to convey their support properly, or that they won’t know how to help. Some worry that their child won’t feel confident coming out to them in the first place.
If this is you – try to relax. The first thing to realise is that your child’s sexuality isn’t a big deal. Talking it over won’t bring about a big change in your relationship and supporting them isn’t complicated: they just need to know you’re there to help if they need it.
Should I ask them?
If you think your child might be gay, it’s important not to put pressure on them to come out. While you might want them to talk to you openly about things, pushing too hard on this can have the opposite effect, causing them to shut you out. It can be a confusing time for young people, some of whom may be wondering if they are bisexual.
What can work much better is simply creating an environment in which your child feels comfortable talking to you in the knowledge that you would be supportive.
For example, you could say positive things about gay people when they’re on TV or talk favourably about well-known role models. Make it clear you wouldn’t tolerate homophobic attitudes in your house. If your son or daughter is gay, it’s likely they’ll be sensitive towards what you have to say about same-sex relationships, so make sure it’s clear that your attitudes are unambiguous.
Education and research
If you feel you’re not as knowledgeable about LGBT issues as you could be, then you might like to start researching them.
Gaining a better understanding of these will help you better understand some of what your child may be wrestling with – and why they may have chosen not to come out so far. Some helpful resources on this are listed at the bottom of this page.
If they do come out
If your child does come out, take the time to sit down and talk things over. Let them know that it’s good they felt they could be honest with you, and that you’re proud of them for being brave enough to talk about this openly.
Many young people who come out worry that the news will change their relationship with their parents, so let them know that nothing’s going to be different – and that you’ll always feel the same way about them.
Ask them about how they feel, and make it clear that you’re here to listen to what they have to say too. If you think they still have any worries or doubts, make it clear that you can keep talking and figure things out together.
Getting extra help
If you need some extra help, there’s plenty out there.
Stonewall has extensive information about various gay/lesbian/bisexual issues, as well as details about local services.
RU Coming Out has stories about coming out from people worldwide.
London Lesbian and Gay switchboard is open every day and can provide support and advice.
Talk to someone