Know that coming out is not an easy thing. When lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) teens disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to parents, they often fear rejection.
If your teen hasn’t come out to you but you suspect they are LGBTQ, respect that they may not be ready to come out to you yet. Coming out can be a scary thing. Realize, too, that your teen may not have fully accepted it themselves so don’t “push” the issue. Read more about coming out.
Stay calm and show support. You may be feeling shocked, sad or even upset to learn that your teen is LGBTQ.
Avoid sharing these negative feelings with your teen. Rejection by a parent(s) can have serious negative impacts on their emotional and even physical health. If your teen comes out to you, feel great that your teen trusts you enough to share. Don’t assume (or hope) that your LGBTQ teen is just going through a phase. You will have time to come to terms with the news later on, but what your teens need to hear from you now is that you love, accept and support them.
Learn everything you can and ask questions. Check out the articles and websites in our Resources for Parents of LGBTQ Teens list to help you understand how to support your LGBTQ teen.
You can ask your teen questions about things you don’t understand, but remember that this is probably new territory for them, too. Avoid asking questions that would sound rude or assuming. Take time to learn the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. Learn some LGBTQ vocabulary words and challenge yourself to go beyond stereotypes.
LGBTQ teens often face bullying, harassment, and rejection in school or in the community. These stresses can put them at greater risk for depression, suicidal thoughts, substance use, STDs and unplanned pregnancy.
Watch for signs that your teen is experiencing bullying or problems at school and be prepared to speak with school or community leaders for help. Be certain that your teen understands and practices safer sexual behaviors (even if they’re not yet sexually active) and how to avoid high-risk situations.
Ask how you can help and follow through. Talk and – most importantly – listen to your teen about any fears or challenges they are facing.
Encourage them to seek out healthy, supportive social groups, networks and friendships (check out the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland). Create a safe space at home where your LGBTQ teen feels secure and respected.
Don’t forget that your teen is still the same person. Your LGBTQ teen hasn’t stopped being who they are – so avoid treating them like they are someone you don’t know.
Your teen should still be expected to be involved and responsible in your household, at school and in the community and be included in family activities and events.
Show respect. You can talk to your teen about the process of “coming out” to other family members or friends but it is your teen’s right (not yours) to decide when and to whom they feel safe and comfortable coming out.
It is never okay to “out” another person, including your teen. Offer to be present when your teen is ready to come out to other family members.
Stay engaged and involved. Get to know your teen’s friends and romantic partner.
Continue to have honest conversations about sex and healthy relationships. Develop common goals about being healthy, doing well in school and avoiding risky behaviors. Encourage your teen to talk to you if they are having a problem.
Don’t accept discrimination.There are a number of health and faith-based organizations listed in our Resources for Parents of LGBTQ Teens that can help you understand – and explain to others – why no one “caused” your teen to be LGBTQ and that LGBTQ individuals do not “choose” their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Be prepared to stand up for your teen and other LGBTQ individuals. By being an ally, you can be a hero for your LGBTQ teen.
Resources for Parents of LGBTQ Teens:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Facts for Teens and & Their Parents
American Psychological Association
Info and Answers to Questions about Sexual Orientation
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Short articles for Parents of LGBTQ Youth
LBGT Youth Health
Parents’ Influence on the Health of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Teens: What Parents and Families Should Know
Sexual Attraction and Orientation
LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland – Youth Programs
Our True Colors
Reading for parents of sexual minority youth
Thanks to the LGBT Community Center of Greater Cleveland for contributing to the information provided in this section. If you live in the area, be sure to connect with the LGBT Community Center. Click here to learn more about the programs especially for youth.