"Coming out” conversations – advice for parents

What all children want and need from their parents is unconditional love and support, and this is especially the case when they begin to explore their sexual identity. Understandably, many parents worry about “saying the right thing” when the time comes, or are confused by the subtle nuances around terms to describe sexual orientation. As a starting point here are some FAQ, based on advice available from leading charity Stonewall.

How can I tell if my child is LGBTQ+?

You can’t know until they tell you themselves, and you need to let them do that in their own time – do not pressure them or jump to any conclusions yourself.

How I do help them feel able to confide in me?

Make time and opportunity for personal conversations when you are alone together, but involved in a shared activity such as cooking, or in the car. It has been found that situations where you don’t have to look directly at someone can help nurture sensitive conversations. On an everyday basis demonstrate a positive attitude towards LGBTQ+ people (those you know personally or actors/characters on TV) and challenge any negative comments made by others in your home or environment.

What if my child says they are bi?

The term 'bi' is used to mean anyone who is attracted to more than one gender, and includes for example those who are bisexual, bi-curious, fluid, pan and queer. If your child tells you they are bi, it is important to recognise this identity as real and valid in its own right. Sometimes coming out as bi may be a part of someone of coming out as a lesbian or as gay, or seen as such; however, making those assumptions can imply that bi identities are temporary or unimportant. Always be led by your child in the language they use to describe their feelings and sexual orientation.

What if I don’t approve?

In reality you will need to put your child’s happiness and your relationship with them first. Remember that this is still your child who you’ve loved all their life, regardless of what they may now tell you about their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Won’t being LGBTQ+ make their life harder for them?

One of the hardest things for LGBTQ+ people to face is rejection from their friends and family, so it is important that they know they have your love and support. Although previous generations have experienced discrimination, there has been progress in terms of legislation protecting LGBTQ+ people in the workplace, and the rights of same-sex couples to get married and have children. Increasingly there are more LBGTQ+ role models in all areas of the media, including sport, politics and the arts, and those who have an issue with LGBTQ+ people are becoming a small minority.

You can help your child by being available to talk things through with them, whenever they need to, and to help them find sources of advice and information, both nationally and locally.

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