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Coming out of the closet: A community and family experience.

Choosing to share this information after the pride balloons have faded and the celebrations come to an end is important as so many families are struggling with their emotions around this family affair. Coming out does affect the entire family.

Happy pride to all of us who are or love someone that’s part of the beautiful rainbow that represents love beyond all labels. Love is Love regardless of what “haircut” it shows up in.

When we share love, we are love, we become love. Everyone can celebrate pride month and pride in general just by learning and becoming more aware of what our community might be going through. You do not have to be Gay in order to be a part of any pride celebration.

As a Gay owned and operated business, our clients ask us questions about how to “handle” or approach children and teens who might be exploring the rainbow alphabet. Here is our best advice…

  1. Ignorance IS NOT BLISS- Educate yourself, learning is a form of caring. You DO NOT have to “figure it out” for them nor will you have all the “right” answers for them. So breathe and have patience with yourself.
  2. Do not avoid the conversation- Remember how awkward it was when your parents or guardians tried to explain something about sex to you? Yeah, same here. It will likely be uncomfortable for you and for them so embrace that and have the conversations anyway. Avoidance is a breeding ground for misunderstandings and it is where hurt, anger, and pain hide. So come out of the “closet” of staying shut together. We call this “Breaking Omertà” (Omertà is a southern Italian code of silence used famously by the mafia).
  3. Share your support and love- Express non-judgment and unconditional love when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is exploring or identifying with the LGBTQ+ community. Support your child's identity even though you may feel uncomfortable. Love really does win over everything. Show it, feel it and you will become it.
  4. Moving through your feelings- the truth is, that not every parent or guardian will be jumping up and down for joy- initially. It is ok. Your feelings are valid also. Many parents of teens choosing to identify as a different gender feel they have to mourn the loss of their child’s identity as they knew him or her. This is a process for your whole family. There are people who can guide and coach you through the experience so you can find happiness in the newness of your family’s experience.
  5. Remember love doesn’t have to mean happiness. At first, you might not be super happy, but it’s ok. Have patience and you will learn to get comfortable in an uncomfortable situation. With unconditional love comes happiness over time. You will find a new relationship.
  6. Advocate for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBTQ+ exploration or identity. Let them know that is not ok and that you support them. Remind them to reach out for help if they are having experiences that make them feel anger, resentment, depression, upset, or get stressed.

When is the best time to communicate about this with your child? Appropriate dialogues at an early age will also leave the door open for more “safe” conversations as children grow up. Regardless of whether a child ends up identifying as LGBTQ+ or not, making the topic easy to talk about will help children learn how to be allies to their LGBTQ+ friends, neighbors, and family.

If and when you are having a challenging time, Remind your kids that you'll love them forever – even if you don’t have all the answers right now for them. Share that you are willing to explore and take the journey with them and ask them to be patient with you as well. Even if you don't know exactly who they'll be in the future and you don’t know exactly what or how your family will look like, commit to knowing what your family will feel like. That is LOVE.

Create a safe space. You can make your home (or a specific room or area) a safe zone so kids know they can come to talk to you about anything, ask questions, discuss their feelings and feel safe doing so. It is ok to say, I would like some time to explore that, allow me to look into that as this is new to me too.

What to Do (and Not Do) When Your Child Comes Out to You

  • DON'T Ignore it
  • DON'T Say to you “I knew all along”
  • DON'T Tell them “this is just a phase”
  • DON'T Use religion or heritage to shame them
  • DO Tell them you believe and love them and thank them for telling you
  • DO Ask about what kind of support they feel they might need

"Coming out" is a lifelong journey of understanding, acknowledging, and sharing one's gender identity or sexual orientation. This “coming out” process will likely have to be repeated over and over for them (and for you) as they communicate with different people and or groups of people who they are. The process may come easier for some and quite a challenge for others.

"I feel different from other kids..."

Feelings of being "different" emerge throughout childhood, although it may not be clear to the child what each of their feelings might mean, allowing them to explore and share how they feel will help them learn to express themselves in a healthy manner. Children may begin exploring gender and relationships before kindergarten, so "coming out" and sharing their feelings of “being different” with others may happen at any time. For many kids, gender identity becomes clear around puberty.

The “feeling different” can show up as them feeling like they are misunderstood or they don’t have anyone they identify with to turn to. They may not have proper outlets to share what they are going through and what they are discovering about themselves. In some cases, teens might be overwhelmed by all these feelings, which increases the risk for anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and other mental health issues and or discrimination.

They may do what I chose to do which is bury and avoid their feelings. They may start to suppress these feelings to meet societal expectations or to fit in. In an attempt not to disappoint or upset their parents or families, they may not feel comfortable sharing. For many, there are feelings of shame or guilt that keep them “in the closet” so to speak.

What about me? As a parent of a child or young adult that is going through a transformation in your home- I am here to tell you what no one else will. Your feelings are valid too. You might be experiencing a sense of mourning, anxiety, fear, and even depression as you and your family face the unknown. There is a way to move through your emotions and learn the way to get you more comfortable in any uncomfortable situation.

Facing the unknown can bring up FEAR. Fear is simply Fictional elements appearing real. It is your mind playing tricks on you. It is ok to say that you don't have all the answers… for your child, your family, or even yourself. What I do know is that you can get through all of the feelings, emotions, and energy around this change. Look for the good in the situation. Think about all you will be learning and exploring about a community that you may not have been exposed to in the past. You might even be reintroduced to an even stronger bond with your child than you ever anticipated. There is light at the end of the tunnel and who knows, maybe even a rainbow or two for you.

Join our upcoming BREAKING FREE “Effective Communication” Masterclass and discover healthy ways to process and communicate when facing any challenge in life.

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