When I came out to my parents about a year and a half ago, I was one of the very fortunate LGBTQ+ kids to be met with positive and loving responses from my parents. However, while my parents made it clear that they love and support me no matter what, there are still some things I wish (and still wish) they knew when I came out.
1.My identity is real and incredibly valid.
I understand that older generations may not have ever heard the terms ‘pansexuality’, ‘asexuality’ or even ‘bisexuality’, but that doesn’t mean that those aren’t real. Telling anybody, especially your child that you don’t believe that their sexuality is real, is a microaggression and is incredibly damaging to that person’s self-esteem. As members of the LGBTQ+ community, we face people every single day who don’t believe that our sexuality is real, and the last thing we need is to hear that our closest friends and family don’t believe that we actually exist.
Furthermore, telling anybody that their sexuality or gender identity is “made up from the internet”, or telling them that “they probably got that from Tumblr” is horribly invalidating. While social media sites have played a big part in exposing people to different sexualities and gender identities other than the cisgender heterosexual norm imposed by society, they did not invent these identities. The history of bisexuality goes back as far as Ancient Greece, while asexuality is believed to have been coined by Magnus Hirschfeld in 1896. Tumblr didn’t invent these sexualities, and even if they did, it does not make someone’s identity any less genuine. Nobody has the right to tell anyone that an important aspect of their identity isn’t real.
2. Sometimes, I need your support.
A few months ago, I got into a pretty bad Facebook fight with some awful relatives who were being incredibly transphobic. In the end, I ended up blocking a few of them, and I haven’t talked to them since. However, during the whole debacle, I had a few friends and family members show support for me by liking my responses (which were generally all respectful), commenting on the thread themselves, or sending me messages of support. The two people who were missing from all of that were my parents. I didn’t expect my parents to start arguing with a family member, but I do wish they would have supported me, especially when I asked not to engage further with the individual, and they continued anyway. Knowing that my parents have my back makes me feel so incredibly validated, which is especially important for LGBTQ+ youth.
3. It’s okay to ask questions.
If you are confused about what ‘asexuality’ means or what to know if pansexuality means that I’m attracted to dogs or couches (it does not, by the way) then just ask! As long as you frame your questions as merely inquisitive and curious rather than interrogative, I will be happy to answer them. This may not ring true for everybody, but seeing my family or close friends take an interest in my sexuality is incredibly heart-warming. To me, it means that you care. Furthermore, take an interest in LGBTQ+ issues and people. Just like you would take an interest in Black Panther because it’s your kid’s favorite superhero, take an interest in the issues your family member may be dealing with. Asking questions and doing just a small amount of research can make an LGBTQ+ individual feel so special and loved.
4. Understand that I don’t always feel comfortable everywhere.
There are going to be places and events that I don’t want to go to because I don’t feel comfortable and that will happen quite a lot. Just like point #2, I need my loved ones to support the fact that I don’t feel comfortable going to a certain place or being around a certain individual because they might not respect my identity or my community. Whether it’s a transphobic aunt or a homophobic church, forcing me to go somewhere or be around someone that I don’t want to be around makes me feel like you don’t care about my feelings of safety or my level of comfort. Support is a such an important thing to give to an LGBTQ+ individual, especially when it comes to their level of comfort and their safety.
5. I shouldn’t have to be censored around anyone.
Even though I can sometimes feel uncomfortable, as mentioned in point #4, I don’t want to be censored either. For example, if I have been out to my entire family for a while and I am currently in a relationship, introducing my partner as my ‘friend’ is horribly invalidating. Lying about my identity or not treating my relationships as valid make me feel like I should have some sort of mature content warning, especially when it comes to children. If you have an LGBTQ+ family member, but still have to spell the word ‘gay’ in front of a sibling or cousin, then you are censoring me. Fellow Affinity writer, Ali Dusinberre wrote a magnificent article about hiding homosexuality for kids that you can find here. As Ali pointed out, censoring an LGBTQ+ individual’s identity doesn’t increase tolerance, and it certainly doesn’t help normalize anything.