Opinion: Raising Our Rainbow Children
Realising that your precious child is queer is probably a difficult time for any parent. Guided by our notions of normative sexual orientation or gender identity, one may normally expect one’s child’s gender identity to conform to his physical identity assigned at birth and expect them to be by default, oriented straight. Whereas this may be the case for majority of our children, we now know that we are reaching a tipping point where more LGBTQ children will come out in the open than ever before. As parents it is very important to know how to be the best support you can be for your child.
Confiding in you signifies trust
It is most important that you are engaged enough with your child in a healthy, positive way for your child to ever approach you and confide in you. The child is perhaps confused, rejected and much bullied by others already. What then must a parent’s role be to make the queer child feel accepted by their most immediate circle of comfort and love?
Your gay, lesbian, bisexual or trans child deserves your love and respect as any other child. They need your love, empathy and affection like any other child. Do not discriminate against them because they are queer.
As a first step, through whatever turmoil of emotions you may be feeing, reach out to your child and be there for them to confide in you. Listen to them, question them and make them feel supported. At no point ridicule them or show disrespect for them. They may be already getting a lot of that from others in school or from their peers. Most queer children struggle mentally from the biases that exist so strongly in our society. Depression is common amongst queer children who feel rejected for who they are and have to constantly pretend. Feeling accepted and understood by parents is the most important feeling amongst all children even in non-queer ones. Needless to say then why it is so important for queer children who are already fighting discrimination at many other quarters.
Educate yourself so you support them better
Next is important to educate yourself by what the whole spectrum of queer stand for. The terms, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender are often misunderstood.
While gender identity refers to a person’s inner sense of gender—male, female, some of each, neither, transgender people have a gender identity that is different from the gender to which they were born or assigned at birth.
Sexual orientation describes a person feels attraction for – people of the opposite gender, the same gender, or both genders. It is important to get your facts right to be able to understand your child. Seek information from the internet. A wealth of information is available in websites like Humsafar , Mingle, Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gay, Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network and Arcus Foundation
Their sexual orientation is a part of their identity and not the whole
Even though one’s gender identity and sexual orientation are important aspects of a person’s personality and life, these are by no means the sum total of their whole lives. It is important to understand this and encourage their other pursuits like academics, sports, art or any other interests they’re interested in to be able to excel in these pursuits. There are many famous people in almost every field of art, literature, science and sports whose claim to fame was not their gay/lesbian/bisexual or trans status. Keep encouraging your child to pursue their career aspirations like every other child.
If you want to talk about your queer child and seek support or information from the rest of the family, a professional counsellor or a support group ask your child first if they want you to come out on behalf of them. Your child needs to feel comfortable about being discussed. If your child is coming to you and discussing his orientation or identity or asking questions, this is an indicator that they are trusting you and considering you as a support system. Nothing can be better than this and the sense of confidence that you are instilling in your child is commendable. It is thus very important to educate yourself well in this domain, on the laws that govern the land, where help can be sought and how you can advise your children to guide them to have confident and healthy lives. Inform yourself about how you will educate your children on contraception and prevention of STDs.
The journey that a parent of a queer child goes through is no less one of acceptance and equanimity than a child undergoing it themselves. Remember again and again that this is not your fault in raising your child or some bad luck that has befallen you, since most parents struggle with coming to terms with this.
Your acceptance of your child for who they are is at the heart of having them having a meaningful and successful life ahead and you having an enriched and fulfilling relationship with them. Praise yourself if you have your child turn to you seeking support. You can be the difference between your child suffering childhood of rejection and pain or having a meaningful and confident existence.