7 Steps for When Your Child Comes Out

So, parents – your son/daughter/non-binary child has just told you they’re gay, bi, lesbian, queer, transgender, non-binary.


Step 1: Breathe. Please don’t be disgusted. That’s the worst reaction, disgust. It reduces your child down to less than human. Parents say “chi!” to things like sexually explicit material, immoral activities, dirt on the floor, things they find revolting. Your child’s identity shouldn’t be something you find revolting. Even if you apologize, even if you accept them later, even if your relationship grows closer and everything works out – if you are disgusted and they see that, they will remember. They will forgive, but they will never forget. It will be impossible to forget. Please don’t be disgusted.


Step 2: This is not a white conspiracy. Don’t blame being in Canada for your child’s identity. Non-heterosexuality is not a product of the West. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite critical of issues that go on in the West – capitalism, imperialism, racism, police violence – but non-heterosexual and non-binary identities are not some Western ideal indoctrinated into your child. If anything, South Asia has a rich non-binary and non-heterosexual history as seen in the Khajuraho and Konark temples. Don’t react by claiming this is merely a “white thing.”


Step 3: Keep calm. Please don’t be angry. It’s tough for you to make sense of it all. You weren’t prepared for this possibility. And this shock can transform into anger. This is not what you wanted your child to be. But this is who your child is. They love and are attracted to people who don’t meet your expectations. They dress and behave outside of gender roles. This is an integral part of who they are. They are terrified of the consequences of telling you. Don’t turn those fears into an ugly reality.


Step 4: Try not to see this as a phase. This idea sets heterosexuality as the default, as the ‘normal’ standard. I know you may still see heterosexuality as normal, because non-heterosexuality as a reality may be new to you. But this idea of what’s normal and what’s not – it’s quite oppressive. Anyone who falls outside of what is “normal” is considered less than, wrong, deviant, strange. But feeling attracted to someone is neither wrong nor deviant.


Step 5: If you are confused and have questions, ask with respect and clarity. You don’t need to avoid the topic out of fear, but take it slowly just so you don’t end up hurting them. It’s not an issue you have to tiptoe around, but rather a conversation that merits the deepest respect and dignity. Do your own research as well! There are amazing websites and resources right here in Edmonton: Pride Centre of Edmonton, Camp fYrefly, Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services, and so on.


Loug kya kahein gaye? What will people say?


Step 6: I know people might talk, but don’t worry about what the community will think. No one has the right to turn your relationship with your child into their gossip. I know you don’t want people to say hurtful things about your child, so you might advise them not to speak about this publicly. But this makes things worse. We keep things hidden because of fear. Your child’s sexuality and gender identity is not something to be feared. Treat it with dignity, not shame.


Step 7: In an ideal world, this is the scenario that would roll out: Smile at them. Give them a big hug. Tell them you’ll love their partner, whoever they may be. Tell them that the values you brought them up with still apply – you just want them to be good human beings. Tell them that no one has the right to treat them any less or differently for their identity. If they must fight a homophobic world, let them know you’re by their side, fighting with them. Tell them that you are proud of their gender identity/sexual orientation.


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