Supporting your LGBT child
Information and support for parents of LGBT children
As a parent or carer you may have understandable questions or concerns if you think that your child might be lesbian, gay, bi and/or trans (LGBT).
All young people need support and for LGBT young people, getting kind and clear support can be the key to thriving and going on to have happy and healthy lives.
It seems that every day we hear more about sexual orientation and gender identity. For many parents, trying to get to grips with what it all means can be a real minefield.
While we can’t promise to explain everything, we can suggest some ways to help parents to support their children through what can be a sensitive and stressful time.
(Society’s views about gender identity and sexual orientation, and the language used to describe people’s identities, are growing and changing all the time – as this BBC article illustrates. If you’re confused about some of the terms and language, take a look at the definitions at the foot of this page.)
What is sexual orientation?
Sexual orientation is about who we are attracted to: male, female, both, neither. This attraction can be physical but also romantic and emotional. Today there is much more openness about people’s sexual orientation and more ways to describe their identity. However, the terms most commonly used are: straight, lesbian, gay and bisexual.
Who we’re attracted to, and what we think, feel and do about sex, doesn’t have to be fixed – it can change over time.
What is gender identity?
Gender is not about our physical sex at birth but rather how we identify or express our gender, regardless of our physical body. People may identify as male, female, or non-binary.
‘Transgender’ is an broad term for those whose gender identity or expression is different in some way from the gender assigned to them at birth and the ‘norms’ expected by the society they live in. This includes non-binary gender identities and cross-dressing people.
While gender identity is different to sexual orientation, how parents feel as they try to support their child during sensitive conversations can be similar: emotional, confusing, surprising and rewarding.
Supporting LGBT young people: advice for parents
For some parents, our child’s sexual orientation or gender identity may not be surprising and it may even be a relief when they ‘come out’.
It’s becoming much more common for parents to be supportive and very proud when their child comes out. For others, our child’s identity can come as a genuine shock and one which can raise negative emotions – disappointment, confusion, anxiety, loss or anger.
You may be unsure how you feel about or how to respond. It’s okay to be honest and tell them that. You may not get everything right, and they may not either: the important thing to remember is that they are still the same person you have always loved and cared for. You know them best and you know how your relationship works best.
If you find it hard to come to terms with your child coming out, you may need some support for yourself before you feel ready to support them. If you have mixed emotions, or worries about the impact on your child or the rest of your family, Parentline can help. Contact us for free, confidential support, for as long as you need us.