There has been a lot of progress with LGBTQ+ equality and acceptance in recent years, but coming out as LGBTQ+ can be a very scary time for a young person.
There are many instances when a child might come out to you. It could be your own child, a younger sibling, a student, or a camper that is under your care.
Use the following tips so you know what to say and what to avoid saying to best support a child who comes out to you.
What to say
When a child comes out to you, reinforce that you care about them and thank them for trusting you.
Ask them what kind of support they need. If they lack support at home or school, they may need extra care. They may just need a supportive person to talk to. If they need more support, you can point them towards resources geared toward youth such as The Trevor Project’s resource library.
What not to say
Don’t ignore it. If you weren’t expecting this conversation, your instinct may be to change the subject. By not acknowledging it, you're letting them know that you may not be a safe and supportive person to go to in the future.
Don’t say that you already knew. Don’t diminish it by saying that you knew. This also reinforces harmful stereotypes about gender and sexual orientation and doesn’t acknowledge the growing that we do as we go through life.
Don’t say that it’s a phase. This invalidates an important part of their identity and signals that you may not be a safe and supportive person to go to in the future.
Don’t use religion to shame. Children who grow up in religious families have most likely already thought of this. There are plenty of religions and religious leaders that preach love to all people, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.
A child says that they have something to talk to you about and tells you that they're bisexual. How should you respond? Select all that apply.
Commit to being an ally and get support for yourself
Take the time to learn and understand LGBTQ+ terminology. Terms are always expanding and changing.
Learn about the history of LGBTQ+ leaders and the movement for LGBTQ+ equality.
It’s normal to have questions and maybe even concerns about a child who has come out to you. Find support for yourself so you can better support them. Websites like My Kid is Gay or organizations like PFLAG or The Trevor Project have great resources for friends and family of children who identify as LGBTQ+.
Imagine a child you care about comes to talk to you. Maybe you already have an idea of what this conversation will be about or maybe it comes as a surprise.
Child: Hey...can I talk to you about something?
You: Of course! What is it?
Child: I've been wanting to talk to you about this for a while...I'm gay.
How should you respond to the conversation above? Select all that apply.
You never want to pressure anyone to come out, but in the meantime, you can educate yourself!