It’s back-to-school time. If you have, or even know, an LGBT kid, tune in.
So, you have an LGBT kid. This might feel like the perfect time to freak out. You probably have tons of questions, or maybe you’re still at the stage where it is all exclamation points in the thought bubble above your head. It’s ok. We’re parents. We find out something significant about our kid, and sometimes it makes us go off the rails a little bit. Or it could feel like the most natural thing ever. I didn’t freak out at the idea of having a gay kid. That doesn’t mean I am perfect parent with an unshockable nature and unwavering even temper. No, it just means that I lose my parent-mind over totally different things. We all do it.
As parents we all can have that same moment of panic when our child is something we can’t identify with, something we don’t know first hand, something that we don’t know the answers to before anyone bothers to ask the questions. We get scared and we don’t know what to do.
So, if you are a parent who is panicking about having an LGBT kid, take a deep breath. As you inhale, let all the panic and all the worries come roaring in. Then, as you exhale, set them all aside. It’s time to do what your child needs you to do.
Still having trouble? Try to remember that this is not about you. We don’t really know exactly what makes people LGBT. Some people are gay. Some people are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and everything in between. Those are the facts. And no matter how LGBT people get created, they are here. While science may not have sussed out exactly how the genes work together yet, there is one thing we do know: You did not make your child gay. There is nothing you did to cause this. There is nothing you could have done to avoid it. Gay people are in every culture, across every era, in every country, race, religion, economic class, etc. LGBT people are everywhere and one of them is your kid.
It might also be good time to remind yourself that being LGBT is not a choice. Anyone who thinks it is a choice has never seriously had a conversation with a gay person. (And if you are one of these people, then you need to go talk to some LGBT people right now. I’ll wait.)
What is a choice? Being a parent. If a woman gets pregnant, in this country at least, she is not forced to give birth. There are choices. Even when a child is born, the biological parents do not have to parent that child. Adoption can be a beautiful choice for biological parents, who chose not to parent themselves for many reasons. Parenting is not compulsory. Parenting is 100 percent choice. You chose it. When we choose to be parents, we are taking on the responsibility, obligation and honor to love the children we adopt or create. This statement does not come with an asterisk at the end. You don’t get to parent only children who are academically gifted. You don’t get to parent only children who are gifted at sports. You don’t get to parent only healthy children. You don’t get to parent only well behaved children. (We all know that last one is true because there aren’t bands of hundreds of feral children roaming the streets, who just wouldn’t listen!) You get to parent your child, and everything that comes with that.
So, take your deep breath and let it out. Don’t waste your energy on panicking and what-ifs. You are going to need that energy, because you have a big job ahead of you.
When your child is LGBT they are part of a minority. If you are like most parents and heterosexual, this is a minority that does not include you. Most of the time that’s not the case. Most minorities are based on race and religion — things that tend to run in families. History and stories are told from generation to generation. Politics are discussed over the kitchen table where everyone has the same stake. This is different. You may not be LGBT, but it is now your job to become an expert in this minority. You need to learn LGBT history, LGBT current political issues and LGBT controversies. Because you need to know your child’s history, your child’s issues, your child’s reality. This might feel uncomfortable to you, maybe even a little alien, but this is not about you. This is about your child.
And your child needs you. Your child needs you and your unconditional support. LGBT kids are eight times more likely to commit suicide than their straight counterparts. LGBT children who do not have family support are even more likely to commit suicide. If you want your child to grow to become an amazing adult, now is the time to put yourself aside and put your child first. Because you are a parent. Because it’s your job.
The truth is, we live in a dangerous world. We live in a world of hate crimes, hate mongering churches and anti-gay legislators. We live in a world where people are proud of their hate. And they hate your kid. Your kid needs all of you in this fight, no matter how tough and uncomfortable it might get at times. When it comes down to it, your kid is amazing and worth it. You are your child’s strongest advocate. You may be your child’s only advocate.
So, take that deep breath in and let it out again. We breathe in our panic; let ourselves feel it and breath out our resolve. We can do this. We have to do this.
Your child is perfect exactly the way they are.
Originally published on HuffPost.
Photo: Michael Coghlan/Flickr