Updated: Apr 5, 2021
I’ve noticed that cisgender straight people have a tendency to view coming out as an end point, a destination. I think that is because our physical body, gender identity and gender expression all align, and fit into the binary of male and female. We never really had to think about it. The beginning and the endpoint were the same. If your development progresses along the path that a majority of people understand and are a part of, you never have to come out to anyone. I had my first crush on Clinton G. in the second grade and fell for many good and not so good guys after him. How easy it is when you fit into the boxes that society recognizes and accepts.
However, this perspective can cause problems when our kids come out to us in multiple ways over time. No two people’s gender identity and sexuality are exactly the same or expressed in the same way. Even if you think they are. They are deeply held and personal. If your child comes out to you as bisexual in middle school, and then gay in high school and then transgender in college, your impulse might be to think your child is confused and not believe what they are telling you. Or worse, make a comment like “it’s just a phase” or something equally hurtful.
Sure, it could be that it is a phase, but when you think of the personal cost of asserting an LGBTQ+ identity does that really make sense? Maybe suddenly all the cool kids are gay. Nope, probably not. When you act like your child must be unsure, or mistaken, you run the very real risk of alienating them. Or worse, causing emotional and mental harm by being so dismissive of this important piece of themselves they have shared with you. You will also practically guarantee that you will be left out of further conversations on the topic. Gender isn’t something we choose. Your kids aren’t “choosing” it any more than you did.
I get it. These are some of those moments when it can be tough to be a parent. Maybe you think you are confused by what your child is saying to you. Maybe you are hoping against hope that it’s a phase. Maybe you don’t understand it. That’s what your raised-in-the-binary brain is telling you. Because having an LGBTQ+ identity is still outside society’s norms. Your child’s big reveal or series of reveals is causing you some cognitive dissonance and so you are uncomfortable. But here's the thing. Your confusion, hope and lack of comprehension don’t matter. At all. Remember, it’s not about you.
Here is something for you to consider. It would be much more supportive to believe that these declarations are not the result of your child’s being confused or in a phase. That they are more likely due to the self-exploration and discovery that comes from an evolving understanding of who they are as humans. Especially when you take into account that your child was most likely raised in the binary world as well- pink/blue, dolls/toy soldiers. They are up against all that conditioning and it may be hard for them to sort through that noise, especially if they are unhappy themselves for not fitting into the box you think they belong in.
You child did not come out to you on the spur of the moment. They have most likely been wrestling with it on their own for a while. Even if you think that this is nuts, humor me. Try this thought on for size. Roll it around in your brain for a while. Admit the possibility that it might be true. That what your child is telling you is who they have always been. They just haven’t been able to put all the pieces together until now. See what a difference that makes in how you show up for your child. And try to be patient with the process. Remember, parenting is a marathon with lots of hilly and unfamiliar terrain to navigate. If you want help, I’m here for you.