In many cases, parents of LGBT kids come out out of the closet with them, though their closet is a bit different. IGY – Israel’s Gay Youth Organization has for the first time introduced a group for parents who want to work and change themselves. For new parents dealing with the subject, Israeli website Mako Pride asked for 10 tips from an expert in the field.
“Many times, when a child comes out of the closet to his parents, the parents go into the closet,” says Irit Mor, mother of a gay child and an instructor of Tehila to a group of parents in Raanana. “Nevertheless, don’t let this difficulty keep you from accepting your children. Now more than ever they need a hug and support from you. Your child must have waited for this moment for a long time, and now, when he decided to share with you his deepest “secret” which is the most personal to him, despite your shock and surprise, if you experience any, you are called upon to be a loving and supportive parent.”
When asked about advice for parents whose children come out of the closet, Mor said: “First of all, give yourself credit that your child came to tell you, that he decided to share with you. The moment a child stands in front of his/her parent and tells them is one of the most difficult moments he/she has to go through.”
These are the 10 tips that were given by Irit Mor to parents whose children have just come out as LGBT (the advice is given in male terms, but of course applies to all gender identities and sexual orientations):
1. Hug him – first of all, remember that this is your child.
2. Tell him how much you love him – his sexual orientation does not change who he is, and coming out will not change your love for him.
3. Tell him that you understand his difficulty, and explain that you are faced with a difficulty of your own – you are at the beginning of a long process of acceptance, but it is important to keep an open mind, despite the difficulty.
4. Do not hesitate to ask questions that bother you – part of the acceptance process is understanding. Ask questions, express interest, try to understand the whole picture together and allay fears. Keep in mind that not all questions might be answered.
5. Ask if he’s happy, if he feels good – above all, make sure he’s happy with his decision (coming out, sexual experimentation or crushes), despite the difficulties involved for you.
6. Ask him to tell you what he went through until he had accepted himself – so that you can you understand. It’s important to understand your child’s process up to the point where he felt strong enough to tell you.
7. Ask for reading material on sexual orientation or gender identity – for most people, sexual orientation has not yet been an integral part of family life. It makes sense to find reading material on the Internet and get a clearer picture on sexual orientation or gender affiliation of your child. For parents of transgender kids this is an even more complex process that often includes learning a new world of terms.
8. Ask about his friends, and offer to meet them – a child’s environment can also create pressure and uncertainty in the context of sexual orientation. It is important to understand who the people your child has chosen to be his friends are, and to show interest in them. This is true for you, but mainly to create a sense of caring.
9. Do not push yourself with the question of “who to tell”; focus on the current difficulty – you are in the closet now, and you go through the same process of acceptance and understanding, that your child went through. When you feel whole enough, that will be the time to turn to the people around you.
10. Try not to mess with questions like why and how. It takes a lot of energy and makes you focus on the insignificant instead of the main issue. This is the situation. The blame, even if you search deep down, is not on you. Don’t waste energy on finding whose fault it is.
And one extra tip: Talk to other parents who went through the same process – a conversation with the person who went through the same thing can be beneficial, because other parents have been where you are now, and understand how you feel. There are online forums, and even a hotline conducted by the organization Tehila.