I have three children – two I gave birth to and one who chose us at a young age, to make up my wonderful family. And all three of them came out to me in very different ways.
One came out at 13, having set the scene carefully to make it easiest for me to hear his words. He wanted reassurance, confidentiality, and to discuss everything in detail. He didn’t want anything shared with his father and siblings.
This last bit was hard for me, as we’d always shared everything in the family. I felt isolated by this news, even though I had been expecting it – the loneliness surprised me.
Another child was an adult and told me over a phone call that she was leaving her boyfriend and was in love with a female friend.
She wanted to talk about her feelings and processes. She felt completely secure talking about her sexuality to me. Not only that, but she wanted reassurance about the challenges of relationships. I was worried about her choice, but time helped me feel reassured.
Most recently, I got a text from the third saying, “Btw, turns out I’m bi – please don’t get over-excited”. He didn’t want a discussion, reassurance, or even comfort.
I didn’t quite know what to do with the information as he didn’t feel the need to come out in a huge way. So, I did as he asked, and chose to be quiet and contemplative about it – letting it settle very slowly and gently.
Each coming out experience was unique to them as individuals – and each took me a long time to come to terms with.
I feel really sad when I hear of coming out situations where emotions of grief, sadness, anger, and fear escalate quickly, without enough time given to process them.
A child may have gone over and over coming out in their head, sometimes for years. They deserve reassurance and gentleness. If there is a clash of emotions, parent and child alike can get overwhelmed, and it can be difficult to reverse what is said in the moment.
Parents like me have to be mindful, too, not to dismiss coming out as “unnecessary”. It takes away from the importance of the moment. It can make our children feel that perhaps too many people must know of their queerness, and that may not feel safe.
Likewise, it can be easy to dismiss feelings our child may have about disappointing us. In our efforts to be cool with the situation, we can forget the individual, their safety, and the courage it has taken them to craft and share words based on their needs.
The coming out process is a two-way dynamic (at minimum). It can be positive if we slow things down to a snail's pace and encase the flow of energy with patience.
A slower pace gives us time to come out ourselves as parents with LGBTQIA+ kids too.
Then we can show support for other LGBTQIA+ individuals and make it easier for them. Given the increasingly hostile press in the UK and internationally, this is more important than ever for us as parents.
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