Parenting & LGBTQQIP2SAA……..What does it all mean?
I: Intersex (people with 2 sets of genitalia or various chromosomal differences; once to be referred to as “hermaphrodite” or “congenital eunuch” – these terms have fallen out of favour and are considered offensive by many).
P: Pansexual (people who resist being limited in sexual choice with regards to biological sex, gender, or gender identity)
2S: Two-spirited (a sexual identity of some First Nations/Native American persons who embody masculine and feminine spirits within the same body *more info here: https://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/oct/11/two-spirit-people-north-america)
A: Allies (a person or group that supports the anti-queer cause or purpose)
If you are a parent whose child has just come out, and were previously unfamiliar with the terminology and culture of the Queer community, there can be a lot to take in. Please keep in mind that the above terminologies are subject to personal preference. Some people refer to non-heterosexual individuals as simply “gay”, while many activists have reclaimed the word “queer” as a preferred descriptor for all of the above terminology (minus the last “A”). The term “queer” was once considered to be highly pejorative, so taking this term back from oppressors is a way for some to feel a gaining of power. This is similar to how I have chosen to take the term “Black Sheep” (something often perceived as derogatory) as an embracement of empowerment.
If your child is in the process of coming out (revealing their sexual identity), they may be watching for indicators to determine how accepting and open you might be. Consider these following tips on how to make a safe environment for your child to reveal their sexual identity to you:
Don’t assume: Many parents assume their children will love and marry someone of the opposite sex. Most of us also assume that we know our children’s gender for the minute they were born (if not before). Some parents make assumptions in other ways. We may think we *know* our child is gay or transgendered even though they haven’t disclosed anything about it. Avoid jumping to conclusions. Respect your child’s need to discover and disclose their personal identity when they are ready.
Recognize and address your concerns & fears: Many parents/caregivers have fears around their child being non-heterosexual. While the teen years are already rife with insecurities, there is validity to increased fear for parents of non-heterosexual youth. Queer youth have higher rates of being targeted for bullying and discrimination, and contend with higher rates of depression and suicidality.
Stats on Youth Suicide:
- Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. 
- The rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth. 
- Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are 4 to 6 times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. 
- In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. 
- LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. 
- 1 out of 6 students nationwide (grades 9-12) seriously considered suicide in the past year. 
- Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average. 
Suicide rates are even higher for First Nations youth (7-10 times higher than non-Aboriginal youth); the combination of being First Nations and non-heterosexual greatly increases suicide risk.
Show that you are open and accepting: Don’t make anti-gay/queer comments or say unkind things about queer people. This sends a message to your child that it is not safe for them to come out to you. Use respectful language when talking about non-heterosexuality. If there is something you don’t know of understand, try to embrace a stance of curiosity rather than judgment. Watch TV programs that have queer characters. Find ways to show acceptance without putting your child on the spot.
Be approachable and available: Make time and space for your child to be able to talk to you in private. Give then openings to talk about whatever is on their mind.
Show unconditional love in your actions and words: Tell your child that you love them for who they are, and nothing can change that. Show your love by treating your child with care and respect. This can help foster a sense of safety for them to confide in you.
If you are feeling a sense of grief and loss, honour this: Experiencing a surprise disclosure from your child regarding their sexual identity can rouse feelings of grief and loss. When we believe something to be a certain way, or we have hopes and dreams for a loved one that is very different from what them themselves wish for, we can experience disillusionment and loss. This is normal. Parents often feel better when they realize they’re not alone. Resources that can help are:
Nanaimo Gay Pride: www.nanaimopride.org
Positive Space Alliance @ Vancouver Island University: email@example.com
Postive Space Network @ University of Victoria: firstname.lastname@example.org
PFLAG CANADA (Parents, Friends, & Families of Lesbians and Gays): http://pflagcanada.ca/
Comox Valley: email@example.com
As a parent of a child who recently came out, you may be feeling relief that they finally told you. Or you may be frantic with fear that they will endure a life of challenges. Or you may be feeling somewhere in between. Now what?
Show your child unconditional love in both your words and your actions. Remind yourself how much you love your child. Tell your child that you love them for who they are, and that nothing can change that – this may be the thing your child most needs to hear. Even if you are still digesting this information, show affection and avoid saying things that are hurtful.
Believe them. Most likely, your child has spent a great deal of time thinking about their sexuality before coming out to you. Asking questions such as “Are you sure?”, “How do you know?”, or “Is this a phase?” will not make your child feel accepted. If you question their identity, they may feel as though you are rejecting who they are (keep in mind: adolescence is marked by all-or-nothing thinking – youth are prone to catastrophizing. A seemingly innocuous inquiry from you might come across as judgment-laced to them).
Acknowledge the courage it took. Coming out to you may have been the bravest thing your child has ever done. Even if it is hard to hear, let your child know that you appreciate their openness and honesty.
Recognize and address your own concerns/fears. If you aren’t thrilled with the news, you don’t have to fake it. It is okay to let your child know that it is hard on you. Your child probably went through a process to accept their identity and you may need this also. Ask your child to be patient with you – they may be able to help guide and support you through your process.
Do not out your child to others. Your child came out to you, but that does not mean that they are ready for everyone in the family to know. Respect that this is their process. Ask permission before discussing it with others. If you need someone to talk to, find a way to do this without outing your child.
As with any tips, take what makes sense to you, and use your own judgment. Do your best, be forgiving of yourself, and always keep in the forefront how much you love your child.