Supporting your LGBT+ child
Information and support for parents of LGBT+ children

As a parent or carer you may have questions or concerns if you think that your child might be lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, or identifies as another gender or sexual orientation (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.

For many parents, trying to get to grips with what it all means can be a real minefield. 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.

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 time.

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, some of the commonly used terms most are: straight, lesbian, gay and bisexual.

Childline has a useful page which gives a sense of the variety of ways people can describe their sexual orientation.

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, non-binary or gender fluid

‘Transgender’ is a 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.

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 difficult emotions – disappointment, confusion, anxiety, loss or anger.

You may be unsure how you feel or how to respond. It’s okay to be unsure.   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. Listen to your child and allow them to help you to understand their feelings and identity.  Showing love and support for your child will help them to feel valued and accepted.  .

If you find it hard to come to terms with your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity, you may need some support for yourself before you feel ready to support them. If you live in Scotland and have mixed emotions, or worries about the impact on your child , Children 1st Parentline can help. Contact us for free, confidential support, for as long as you need us.