Your Child just come out about their gender or sexuality. What now?
The celebration of Pride can mean different things to different people. Pride is a celebration and time of remembrance for LGBTI+ people and for some, this means attending Pride parades or events that usually take place in June or July. For others, Pride is a time of protest, and a time to draw attention to the violence and inequality that LGBTI+ people face.
Many parents will have attended Pride for the first time this year having learned that their children have come out. For many children who have close relationships with their parents or caregivers they feel comfortable to share information about their gender, or orientation. However, For many parents or caregivers when their children come out, this can come as a surprise, or an unexpected piece of information.
In GOSHH (Gender Orientation Sexual Health HIV), we often hear caregivers say things like, ‘’I didn’t see it coming’’ or, ‘’I just wasn’t expecting them to say that!’’. We also hear them tell us how much they care about their children and ‘’we only want the best for them’’. This can be a difficult place to be and can often feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place with a lot of emotions thrown in.
Caregivers may sometimes feel fearful that their ‘’child is now a stranger and a completely different person’’. They are also ‘’fearful for their safety or wellbeing’’. These are perfectly normal, and natural responses to being told something unexpected, or that you believe, will put your child in danger. Caregivers may also feel this is just who their child is, and want to make sure their child is treated just like everyone else.
A lot of caregivers grew up in an environment where people who are transgender, non binary and gender fluid, those who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or other genders and orientations, were shunned from society, or shamed, because of who they are. Today, we live in a country where a person’s gender and orientation is protected by legislation. Homosexuality became legal in 1993, Marriage equality in 2015, and Gender recognition in 2015. There is still learning, growing, and figuring out to do. We hope that our society will continue to value and celebrate people in all their facets.
In GOSHH, we know from working with young people that the world is changing and for a large proportion of them, a person’s gender is just another piece of information. They find it easier to adapt and correct their language.
We know from research that before a person comes out they are often sitting with this information for a considerable amount of time. Caregivers may feel a pressure to ‘catch up’ and come to terms with this new information about their child quickly. We also know that this takes time. Caregivers can sometimes find this more difficult, understandably. If you have known someone for a long time, and are used to referring to them one way, it can take time to change your language with, and about them.
This may or may not take a while to figure out or adjust. It is important to mind yourself and allow yourself the space to understand what you are feeling, and protect your relationship with your child. Treating your child how you would like to be treated is often the first step.
Some pointers to help:
- Caregivers may feel loss, grief or confusion. They may have hopes about their child’s life and may need time to adjust.
- Information online can be overwhelming. Try not to get bogged down in the jargon.
- If you find yourself struggling with words and getting them wrong, its important to acknowledge these errors, address them and move on.
- The support you get at this time is important. Your feelings and reactions are valid. Reaching out to someone you trust is important. As they say! Please put on your own mask before helping others!
- You are not alone in this! You are not the only family in the Mid-West, not the only family in Limerick, and may not be the only family in your child’s school.
- Allow your child space to figure this out with gentle reassurance, that when they are ready, you are there.
- Caregivers may be exceptionally hard on themselves. Don’t underestimate the fact that this is still the child you raised, or you are an important part of their life and they’ve felt it important enough to share this with you.
- The world moves fast, taking your time to figure this out is ok. There are supports available to you and your family as well as your child.
- Sometimes caregivers forget that they too, need kindness and care. Don’t forget yourself.
- We’re only a phone call or email away, our phone number is 061 314354, our website is goshh.ie and our office is Redwood Place, 18 Davis Street, Limerick.
This article was contributed by GOSHH, a partner organisation of Parenting Limerick.