What teens and parents should know about coming out

6 Feb

The process of coming out as a gay or gender queer person is never an easy task but it is a necessary thing for each person to do in order to move forward in life.There are numerous ways to come out and even more reactions to that which follow no set rule or pattern. When the person coming out is a teen it is a bit more complicated and as such deserves a little extra care. As a parent of that teen it is generally just as hard to hear the news your child is gay or gender queer as it is for them to tell you. What makes it easier for everyone involved is knowing a little bit about the facts of coming out from each others perspective.

For a parent hearing their child come out often raises the thought in their head they must have done something wrong. They may wonder if they didn’t display enough love, or perhaps even too much as if that was possible. They may begin questioning their parenting skills and techniques. In some cases mothers have even asked in all sincerity if perhaps their child’s sexual and/or gender identity could somehow be linked to their diet while carrying or any number of things that may be thought unusual. Although you as a teen may have reached a point in which you no longer question your identity, it likely raises a slew of questions in your parents minds as to how you got there. This is normal and a process they need to work through just as you had to work through understanding who you are. For parents it is important to know that your child being gay or gender queer is not because of anything you did. This is just the way they are.

It is equally important for teens to know some of the reasons many parents take your coming out so hard. It is not because they are disappointed in you or don’t love you, it is in large part because they do love you. A parent by nature wants the best for their child. In that they want their child to achieve personal and professional success, happiness, and ultimately love and acceptance. The fact is, right or wrong, in many societies being gay or gender queer does not always make that easy. Society is and always has been geared toward the heterosexual community as they are the majority. When you come out it is very likely that your parents are thinking of hardships you will almost certainly have to face during your life and that is what is upsetting to them. It is important to remember your parents have been on the planet awhile and have seen the way things work and their concern is genuine and well founded. While you may think of them as being overprotective, out of touch, or against you personally, most likely it is their concern you are seeing. Keeping that in mind before you come out may help you understand their reactions and words a bit better.

When your teen does come out it is paramount to not be dismissive of this as youthful whimsy, confusion, or an act of rebellion. Certainly all teens will exhibit those actions at some time in varying degrees, but this is not the way the vast majority will choose to do that. This is a very serious personal issue and the fact that they are telling you is them opening their very being up to you. Sharing your sexual or gender identity is not a point of casual conversation and you have to trust that your teen has put serious thought into this, understands their identity, and also understands all that entails to them at this point in their life. They are sharing with you a very adult issue and it should be treated as such with respect and civility. When your teen begins telling you this just listen. Let them say what they have to say the way they have to say it without interrupting.

When you share your coming out with your parents extend them the courtesy you expect to receive. Listen to what they have to say and do your best to understand their perspective should it differ from yours. Don’t let things evolve into an argument if your views differ, do your best to keep things civil. If you want to be treated as an adult you have to act like one. Go into the moment with an open mind. You may think you will almost certainly get a certain reaction but that isn’t necessarily so. Sometimes the people you expect to be supportive wind up being very against you and vise versa. By not having any preconceived notions you will not find yourself in a position which places you in a state of shock. You may find you are pleasantly surprised.

The most important thing for both teens and parents to remember is that you each love each other. That is something that will not change. Your parents may not like your newly announced sexual or gender identity. They may not like that it may mean some aspects of life will probably be more difficult for you. That doesn’t mean they do not love you. Likewise your teen coming out doesn’t mean they don’t love you and are somehow trying to punish or humiliate you, quite the contrary. They are telling you by coming out that they do in fact love and respect you so much they have chosen to share this with you. There is nothing that says they have to do this.

Finally realize that this isn’t an event to be mourned or looked upon negatively. This is the beginning of a new chapter of life. Sure it may be different and pose some difficulties but that is true of everything in life. By continuing a solid line of communication you can all get through the coming out process with a strengthened bond and a much happier teen than you had before.

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