Each week I get to hang out with the coolest kids on my campus. Most identify as LGBT or are allies. The time I spend with these students is, by far, the best part of my week.
In my conversations with these students, I often ask about home. Everyone has a different story, but a theme I hear often is, my parents love me, but….. OK, folks, I just want to be clear with everyone, there are no “buts” in loving your child!!
Here’s what my students are telling me: My parents love me, but they just don’t understand. My parents love me, but they just aren’t comfortable with me being gay. My parents love me, but they’re really religious. My parents love me, but the rest of my family doesn’t know. My parents love me, but they voted for Amendment 1 or eat at Chick-fil-a. My parents love me, but they don’t support my identity (parents are usually referring to identity as “lifestyle”).
Parents, let’s talk for a minute. Whenever the but follows the love, it doesn’t feel like love. Your kid doesn’t feel fully accepted in the home that should be their safest space on earth. It doesn’t matter what the but is, they* know/feel that they will never be able to live up to your expectations or be worthy of all your love. I know, I know. I have it all wrong. You love your child unconditionally and think they are the most amazing child on the planet. Sadly, the buts are causing them to miss that message.
Don’t understand your child who is LGBT; talk to them (without judging). Understand their experience.
Not comfortable; talk to them (without judging). Understand their experience.
Religious; well, that’s a whole other post, but really consider the teachings of Jesus and what he would do with his LGBT child.
Family not comfortable with your child’s identity; challenge, educate, and advocate. Their bigotry is a choice, your child’s identity is not.
Supporting causes that negatively impact your child; do some soul searching and prioritization. Talk to your child about the impact on them. Support your child – always!
Think it’s a choice, phase, or lifestyle; accept that you’re wrong and listen to your child’s experience. No one is going to “choose” to live a life of oppression that the LGBT community faces. The only choice they have is to hide their identity from you or not.
Don’t think this is important or that you don’t want to do any of this; accept the fact that you’re going to miss out on the best part of your kid’s life – which could be the best part of your life. Your kid is remarkable. Just love them. No buts.
*They/them may seem like poor grammar when used above, but here I use it as a gender neutral pronoun as to not assume the pronoun your child prefers.