Raising an LGBTQ Kid and Its Unexpected Challenges
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When our 14-year-old son shared with my husband and me that he was bisexual, it didn’t actually come as a surprise in our house. He had had crushes on girls when he was younger, but I’ve been witnessing the evolution of his various relationships.
However, when it became “official,” we still didn’t know how to act. When my son asked me about sharing it with other family members, I didn’t know what to answer. And, when you’re a parent, few things make you feel so helpless as having to look your kid in the eye and say, “I don’t know.” I’m the adult, and I’m supposed to have the answers. But all I have is fear, anxiety, and questions.
How do we handle high school?
My son finishes middle school this summer. In his classroom, five out of 24 teenagers say they belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. I don’t know how many of them have come out to their parents. I’m happy my son did, and I’m also glad he has a group where he’s free to talk about his feelings.
I’m relieved to know he didn’t feel the need to hide from us that he had a crush on a boy.
But things are about to change as he starts high school this autumn. He’ll build new relationships, hopefully, make new friends, and overall, try to fit in in a new environment. And I can’t help to think he might be bullied and mistreated because of who he is. The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health revealed that 71% of LGBTQ youth reported discrimination due to gender identity or sexual orientation.
We live in a relatively small community where people don’t have an open mind, and less than half of them believe we should be free to express our sexual identity.
We chose a high school that is famous for its friendly teachers and fantastic learning opportunities. They don’t seem to be stuck in traditional forms of education, nor let themselves be guided by prejudice. As a result, it looks like a place where he’s less likely to deal with bullies and discrimination.
We have no idea what to advise him.
Yes, we talked about protection, consent, and respect for other people’s feelings. Is it enough? I want to let him explore his feelings on his own and not influence his choices. But, at the same time, I’m not ready to give him too much freedom because he’s a teenager, and if I don’t put limits, no one will.
In his current group, he doesn’t feel compelled to hide his feelings. I’m terrified of the thought that he might take this innocence out there and get hurt by other people. LGBTQ youth are twice more likely as their peers to be physically assaulted at school. Do I tell him not to talk about who he is in public? It doesn’t seem like the right solution. I’ve always encouraged my kids to be honest about their feelings. Making him hide like this is unfair.
Do I encourage him to act as if the threat weren’t out there? It seems irresponsible. For now, both my husband and I have told him that many people will look at him differently once they find out. We also added that it’s something that has nothing to do with who he is. It’s challenging to fight prejudice when you live in a small community. Luckily, we’re about to move to a different place for work reasons, which might help in time, but it’s still the same mentality we’ll have to deal with.
The idea that my son could become a victim of violence makes my stomach turn. The fact that I have more questions than my son adds extra layers of anxiety. But the thought he’s growing and learning who he is makes me smile.
He knows that we’ll be there for him through his high school years. It motivates me to educate myself more on what being LGBTQIA+ means so that I can support him and his friends. I can’t build a safe environment for him out there, but I can do it at home.