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Pride

LGBTQ+ Community and Coming Out: Information for Parents & Guardians

Oftentimes, parents and guardians can feel unsure of what to do and how to respond when their child expresses to them or “comes out” as someone who identifies within the LGBTQ+ community. This list of options is meant to serve as a guide for enabling conversation and growth to those findings themselves in this situation.

Prepare to do the work and educate yourself. Perhaps you are fortunate enough to be in a situation where you fully understand what your child is experiencing and know just how to respond and support them. Perhaps you feel as though you know nothing. It is okay to acknowledge to yourself and them that you are not sure what is going to happen next, but now is the time for you to put in the work and educate yourself to the best of your ability. This may include utilizing the internet, seeking support services through a network such as PFLAG, or even seeking advice from a friend who has experienced the same thing if your child is comfortable with you doing so. The important thing is that you are doing this work on behalf of them, and making sure they feel comfortable, safe, and respected is essential as they express this aspect of their identity to you. 

Actively listen. Your child is likely more nervous than you are as they initiate this conversation with you. Make sure you give them the space and support to express whatever they may be feeling by coming out. This may be something your child has rehearsed and given plenty of thought to, or it might not be at all. In this moment, as they are sharing things with you, practice active listening so that you are taking in what they are saying to you. This may or may not be the right time for you to ask them questions about this, but you can soak in the information they are giving you so that you hear their needs and can understand what can be done in your position to support them rather than interjecting over them with whatever it is you desire to respond with at that moment. There will be the time to express your own feelings, but make sure you are giving them the floor in this crucial moment first.

Respond intuitively. Your child coming out to you is likely something that is a big deal to them. Make sure you are in check with your body language, facial expressions, thoughts, emotions, and words. Altogether, those can impact your child whether you realize it or not. So stay in tune with these feelings so that you can provide the most welcoming environment for your kid and that they leave the conversation feeling supported.

Don’t focus on yourself. You may want to tell your child about a friend or family member within the LGBTQ+ community that you know, or you may even be in a position where you identify within the LGBTQ+ community and are ready to talk all about your own experiences and give advice. Take a breath and remember: baby steps. Unless your child is actively asking to hear this information, don’t turn the conversation towards yourself because that will only take away from the experience for your child.

Acknowledge that you are there as a resource. Your child might not feel comfortable following up with you consistently on this, and as hard as it is to hear- you are not entitled to updates either. However, what you can do is make sure your child knows you are there to confide in, talk with, and to provide support. After this, the ball is in their court and they can decide what to do. It will not help your child if you pressure them and pester for more details. Instead, that can hurt your relationship in such a crucial moment as your child has just opened up to you.

Don’t pressure them for a backstory or details. To elaborate upon the previous point, know that there are certain things that as a parent or guardian you don’t actually need to know. Perhaps your child feels like they want you to know about how they realized they identified within the LGBTQ+ community, but if they don’t want to share that information that is okay. You should never utilize the power dynamic over your child to force them into giving you information because that can set up extremely unhealthy situations for them in the future. In fact, your child may not even have an answer to the questions you want to ask them- that’s okay and you need to accept that as you care for your child, having all of the information possible does not make you automatically supportive and does not make them feel automatically loved. Rather, the continuous work you do to educate yourself and support them will be what makes your relationship positive.

Acknowledge the feelings and bravery needed to invite others to learn about your identity. This very well could be one of the hardest things your child is facing by coming out to you. Far too often those within the LGBTQ+ community are persecuted for their identity and even kicked out of their homes after coming out to loved ones. Your child may not know how you will react and may be aware of the negative consequences potentially facing them, yet they trust you enough to invite you into this aspect of their life. Respect them for that and know they are so brave to do so. This is not the moment to question your child, but to see how brave they are and to remind them of that.

Approach this as a learning process for your relationship. As mentioned above, prior to this moment you may feel as though you have no knowledge, all of the knowledge, or somewhere in between when it comes to the LGBTQ+ community. It is completely acceptable to let your child know this. Let them know this will be a learning process for you, but that you are determined to do what it takes to learn specifically how to support them.

Know that you cannot compare yourself to other parents and guardians. It is worth mentioning that you may have seen the experiences other parents and guardians have had as they experienced similar situations. There is no one right way to go about this just as there is no one right way to go about parenting in general. Being honest with yourself and your child is what will make the difference for upholding a healthy relationship, so don’t compare yourself to others doing it “perfectly” because at the end of the day what needs to matter to you is your child’s health and safety, which fortunately you can enhance through your love and support.

Know what this means. This is a defining moment in your relationship. Your child may want you to be hands on or not, but as you educate yourself on the terminology and backstory of the LGBTQ+ community, educate yourself on the statistics as well. Acknowledge higher levels of sexual assault, increased suicide rates, and how the likelihood of being a victim of a crime increases for those within the LGBTQ+ community. This information is not meant to be something that scares you, but is meant as something to show how needed your support is. Places like ZCenter are doing the work for outreach and prevention education to end sexual violence, but the battle is ongoing, and in your role as a parent you can be there as a knowledgeable support system for your child to help them be aware of other support systems as well.

This guide is not necessarily foolproof in that you are guaranteed a perfect relationship with your child by following these tips. As any parent knows by now, there is no such thing as a perfect relationship with our children because of so many things that are out of our control. What you can do in this moment however, is control your response and give support so your child feels safe and sees you as the ally you are for them.


Written by Haley Wold, Intern, Lake Forest College

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

From Die Witch to Greenwich: How Rainbow Washing is the New Crying Witch Hunt

On June 10th, many Americans held a moment of silence for Bridget Bishop, the first person hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials on this day in 1692. The colony’s legal system had no interest in facts, proof, or logic. Anyone accused was the next potential victim (see Schiff, 2015). Only those who refuse to take on the label of witch (aka admit guilt) were the ones killed. To this day, we still see women killed worldwide simply for the accusation of witchcraft (Suuk & Kaledzi, 2020). 

We should be a society learning from its lessons, moving forward, repairing wounds. Yet, we have a recent national leader who claimed every criticism toward him was a witch hunt. In fact, Vox reported that Trump had used the term over 120 times just up to 2018, and just in response to one investigation (Cassese, 2018). The GOP continues to use this term whenever they want to delegitimize an investigation.

We have taken one of the darkest moments of our own history and ignored the actual suffering of those who were sentenced to death for witchcraft. Witchcraft, considered a legitimate religious path today, was enough to kill someone in 1692. Crying witch hunt is a slap in the face to all who were murdered during witch hunts, a cultural appropriation that ignores the lived experiences of those who practice witchcraft worldwide. 

Here we are in 2021, watching Pride Month unfold as corporations roll out their own rainbow marketing campaign. Hickey (2019) even describes the feeling of being tricked by corporations that don’t support the LGBTQIA community but feel entitled to use rainbows during Pride Month to boost business. This pink dollar, the money spent by the LGBTQIA community, adds up to 1 trillion dollars. That’s a lot of rainbow dough.

So again, we have taken one of the most vulnerable communities in our nation and decided it’s okay to profit off of their suffering. Pride Month began as a protest, an uprising against the routine raids on gay gatherings in Greenwich Village (Walsh, 2019). The Stonewall Uprising in June of 1969 marked the beginning of Pride Month, not rainbow colored mayonnaise. 

In a time when “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth” (Trevor Project, 2021), we cannot ignore the appropriation. We cannot allow others to take possession of the language, imagery, and identity of those who have been oppressed. 

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center commits to stading alongside the LGBTQIA community all twelve months of the year. We are here for support after sexual abuse. We are here for questions about sexuality and gender. We are here for parents and allies. We proudly participated in two Pride events last weekend, with a third coming up soon. We strive to be visible in the community as a source of support and services needed by vulnerable communities. So no rainbows in this post. No line of flags. Just support.

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

 

Sources:

Cassese, E. (2018). A Political History of the Term “Witch Hunt.” Vox. https://www.vox.com/mischiefs-of-faction/2018/10/31/18047208/trump-witch-hunt

Hickey, A. (2019). Have You Been Tricked by Rainbow Washing? Medium. https://medium.com/@audreyhickey/have-you-been-tricked-by-rainbow-washing-920b5f91377f

Schiff, S. (2015). The Witches: Salem, 1692. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Suuk, M. & I. Kaledzi . (2020). Witch Hunts: A Global Problem in the 21st Century. Deutsche Welle. https://www.dw.com/en/witch-hunts-a-global-problem-in-the-21st-century/a-54495289

Walsh, C. (2019). Stonewall Then and Now. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-scholars-reflect-on-the-history-and-legacy-of-the-stonewall-riots/

The Trevor Project. (2021). National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. https://www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2021/?utm_source=Master+Contacts&utm_campaign=f15c9a66b5-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_05_20_NationalSurvey&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e8d7ceff05-f15c9a66b5-33647318&section=SuicideMentalHealth

 

Agridulce: The Bitter and The Sweet of (Pride) Activism

I remember the first time I saw the agridulce crayon, the bittersweet. As my kids colored in a coloring book, I paused and reflected on this odd word that combined such opposite sensations. Perhaps it was because I was reading the Spanish, looking at language as a learner. Perhaps it was just that I loved the color and wanted to connect to this new word I had learned, as I soaked in the comfort of this interesting brown-orange-red shade.

 

Linguists have found that red and brown were once the same color in many languages. In fact, red is one of the first colors that languages use; other colors come much later as the language evolves (Deutscher, 2011). There is something primeval about red-brown. Was the biblical red heifer really brown, and ancient Hebrew just did not have that word yet? Did other cultures look around them and see red soil, red cows, and red tree trunks? Or did they just not have the word brown

 

I ponder these types of questions because it brings me joy to think about linguistics. But language was also a struggle for me as a child, even requiring school intervention for speech therapy. It’s a bittersweet topic; it’s agridulce.  

As we enter Pride Month, I feel the same sense of agridulce, the bitter and sweet, as we think about Pride activism. ZCenter is participating in three pride events this month to celebrate the LGBTQIA community. We share in the joy of colorful decorations, music, parades that are drives during a pandemic, and youth who are taking the initiative to organize and facilitate. But we also bring with us the reality that so many youth in the LGBTQIA community are vulnerable. 

  •  1.8 million LGBTQ youth between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. seriously consider suicide each year. (The Trevor Project)
  • 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.(RAINN)
  • The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Projects (NCAVP) estimates that nearly one in ten LGBTQ survivors of intimate partner violence (IPV) has experienced sexual assault from those partners. Studies suggest that around half of transgender people and bisexual women will experience sexual violence at some point in their lifetimes. (HRC)

 

As we hold up our rainbow flags, sing along to the parade playlist, and post our allyship memes, may we carry this feeling of agridulce as inspiration. We have so much to celebrate, so much joy to embrace. We have visions of equity, dreams of diversity. May that be what we are fighting to preserve.

 

Sources:

 

Deutscher, G. (2011). Through the Looking Glass: Why the World Looks Different in Different Languages. Picador.

HRC: The Human Rights Campaign 

RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) Statistics

The Trevor Project National Estimate of LGBTQ Youth Seriously Considering Suicide

 


Written by Kristin Jones, PhD, EdM, Outreach Supervisor.

All ZCenter blog posts are written by state certified staff, interns, and volunteers. For questions on authorship or content, please email kjones@zcenter.org.

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