Mother and son take a selfie.

How to Be There for Your Gay Child

You no doubt want to provide your child with all the love and support they need, but if they’re gay, you may be unsure of the best way to demonstrate it. Thankfully, being there for a gay child is really not as difficult as you might think—it’s mainly a mix of commonsense parenting and educating yourself about the issues that affect LGBT youth. These five tips for supporting a gay child are by no means definitive, but they are a great place to start.

  1. Let them come out to you when they’re ready.
    There’s a chance that you will realize your child is gay before they officially come out to you—sometimes a parent just knows. If this is the case, it’s important that you not press the subject too much until they’re ready to talk about it themselves. Even if they’re confident that you will accept them for who they are, coming out is still a nerve-wracking experience, and it may take some time for them to build up the courage to tell you. While you wait for the announcement, do everything you can to indicate that you support them unconditionally—discuss gay issues you see in the news, acknowledge the contributions of positive gay role models, and most importantly, tell them you love them.
  2. Don’t panic.
    Even if you’re supportive of LGBT people, hearing the words, “I’m gay,” come from your child can be a traumatic experience. With FBI statistics indicating that violent crimes against gay people are on the rise and opponents of homosexuality being as vocal as ever, you may naturally be worried about both your child’s emotional and physical wellbeing. Granted, you’re a parent and it’s your job to worry, but be careful not to transfer your anxieties onto your child—growing up gay is hard enough without thinking about all the hypothetical worst-case scenarios that swim around in the mind of a parent. It’s perfectly normal to feel panicked, but do your best to portray support and confidence to your child.
  3. Get involved.
    With the recent tide of same-sex marriage rulings in the United States, there’s never been a time when gay activism has been more in the spotlight than now. Getting involved with LGBT causes is a great way to show your child that you not only support them but gay rights in general. However, you don’t have to limit yourself to causes surrounding same-sex marriage. In fact, it might be beneficial to choose something that’s more closely related to the life of a young gay person like your child—such as anti-bullying campaigns or fundraising for LGBT homeless youth.
  4. Brush up on your LGBT knowledge.
    There is a whole world of gay culture, history, literature, and more just waiting to be explored. Becoming knowledgeable about things like these serves two purposes—one, it shows your child that you want to be a part of their life and their interests. Secondly, it equips you with information that can help broaden your worldview in general, as many parents who are introduced to the LGBT world through their children find that they become more sympathetic and understanding of other minority groups.
  5. Don’t be ashamed of them.
    You may be supportive of your gay child, but there will no doubt be relatives and community members who are not as accepting. When dealing with folks like this, you may be tempted to skirt the issue of your child’s sexuality entirely to keep the peace. However, this implicitly communicates that their lives and experiences are less important than the opinions of others. No one is asking you to plaster your car in rainbow stickers—and in fact, that would probably elicit some major eye rolls from your child—but stick up for them and don’t be ashamed of who they are, no matter what other people have to say about it. 
Last Updated: June 26, 2015