“I’m a young, bisexual woman, and I’ve spent a large part of my life trying to validate myself — to my friends, to my family, to myself — trying to prove that who I love and how I feel is not a phase.”- Halsey
In the past few years with the growing awareness amongst adolescents regarding their sexual orientation has made them to accept that ‘this is not just a phase’! Until the 1990s there were very few resources for the LGBTQ youth to learn and explore their sexual orientation. Many teenage gay and transgenders had to wait until adulthood to speak up to their families regarding their sexual orientation, because of the deep-rooted traditional notions of gender. Today, with the growing support for equal rights for the community, individuals have felt empowered and are breaking the gender stereotypes.
Countless myths surround this spectrum of gender identification. The families tend to consider it a ‘phase’ and try to view it with a ‘lack of maturity’ lens. They fear accepting their child, feel embarrassed and ashamed, and fall prey to societal norms. This can have a negative bearing on the child’s mental health and makes them susceptible to self-harm. Family acceptance of adolescents blocks the way to suicidal attempts, depression, and substance abuse. Supportive circles often make the process of self-identification easier and boost the self-esteem of the children.
REACTIONS TO REALIZATIONS
How might a parent react when they realize that their child is a gay or transgender and belongs to the LGBTQ+ community?
This question has two extreme answers. To begin with, it is generally difficult for most parents to make peace with the fact that their child does not conform to the traditional notions of gender. They might put their child to different sorts of questions and can try to prove their child wrong. The parents in this case can resort to violent methods, and can even throw their child out of their house. Another response could be, to celebrate their child’s identity and laud them for displaying courage! But even in this situation the family and friends take some time to adjust to the new reality. But as they say, acceptance is a journey of faith and courage.
WAYS TO SUPPORT LGBTQ+ MEMBERS OF FAMILY
Family is viewed as the pillar of strength for any individual. Family members are regarded for the display of unconditional love and support. Families play a major role in the lives of the LGBTQ community, and what all matters is the question of support!
The first step the parents can take in this direction can be telling the child how much they love them, and how much their existence means to them. This will create a safe space for them and they will be able to communicate their feelings more freely and will feel safe.
Parents should be active members of the community of families of other LGBTQ+ children and should create a space where they all can discuss the problems they face and can bring up viable solutions for the better growth of their children. They should research more on the issues faced by LGBTQ children and adolescents and should try to be understanding of their problems.
Parents should stand up against any disrespect shown towards their children, to ensure that they know that no one has the right to mistreat them. Parents need to challenge the homophobic comments and should try to respond to them in an informed manner.
They can provide their child with supportive counseling to boost their confidence and encourage the journey of self-exploration. Parents can exhibit support to their children by showing interest in knowing more about their love partner and by creating a conducive environment for the growth of the relationship.
According to the PFLAG organization‘ family support can play a transformative role in the lives of people who come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer’. Thus, extending support to the LGBTQ community is breaking the taboos surrounding the concept of gender! We live in a modern, global world where every individual has the right to live on their terms. No society can define your being. The spectrum of gender is fluid and individuals have the right to flow through the journey of self-exploration.