Parenting a child who has come out
In this section
Your first feelings
If your child comes out to you...
You might have always had a bit of a feeling about it or it might come as a complete surprise.
You may be accepting and OK with this disclosure and you may feel closer to your child as a result of it.
Your child may be happier and feel safe to now have personal conversations with you knowing they have your support.
If you had no idea, you may be a bit shocked.
You may feel like the child you have had all along has gone and been replaced with someone else.
You may fear for your child’s safety, or fear that their life will be more difficult.
You may wonder how this has happened.
You may feel guilt,that you made your child this way.
You may feel angry, as though this is someone’s fault and you want to find them and sort it out.
You may come from a family who find sexual diversity shameful and fear others finding out.
These feelings are common first reactions.
Remember, your child is still the same person and they are just sharing one part of their identity with you.
Why are some people gay?
There is no clear answer about why some people are gay, lesbian or bisexual and others heterosexual.
Sexual diversity occurs naturally in all human societies and even in animal species.
Sexual identity may vary over time but cannot be ‘cured’ or changed forcibly.
One thing is certain – it is not a choice that children make.
Your child's feelings
Almost all children are raised as though they are heterosexual and their feeling of ‘difference’ is likely to be a slowly growing revelation, and not always a welcome one.
Telling parents and risking losing their love is the thing that nearly all LGBTI young people fear most.
Research has shown that young people who are rejected by their families have much higher risks of homelessness, poor mental health, self-harm and suicide.16
The first thing to remember when your child comes out to you is that you have a very brave child who has chosen to take you into their confidence.
They deserve a hug for that at the very least.
Some kids who are LGBTI have had it tough for a long time. If they have been picked out as different from the other kids they may have been bullied or harassed at school or even in the street.
Others feel the pressure of living a lie, hoping no-one will find out about them.
To state the obvious, this is not good for their health, especially their emotional and mental health.
They may have gone through all this alone rather than risk losing you.
By you knowing about it and being an ally, it is a great step forward in helping them cope with whatever is going on in their lives. Now there are more of you on their support team.
If it takes you some time to get used to the idea, don’t worry – your child probably took some time to get used to the idea too.
Eventually, most parents are relieved to know, and pleased to see the improvement in their relationship with their child when it is out in the open.
Later on, you may experience the joy of welcoming your child’s partner into the family. And LGBTI people often have children too.
Respecting your child's wishes
It is important to remember that just because your child has shared their sexual identity with you, does not mean that they feel ready or safe to share this with other people.
Sharing someone’s sexual identity against their wishes can make them very upset and vulnerable and can put them at risk of discrimination and violence.
Make sure your child knows that you will always ask them what you’re allowed to share with others and that you will respect their wishes.
Help and support
It helps to know that other LGBTI young people and their families have survived challenges and thrived.
There are a number of organisations that provide support and information for LGBTI young people and their families and friends:
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays provide families and friends with access to current and accurate information and resources to help support their LGBTI child or loved one.
The Freedom Centre, Perth - provides a safe place, support and information for young LGBTI people.
QLife link young LGBTI Australians to state-based agencies via phone and online services.