Talking to friends and family about your child's sexual or gender identity

This is part 3 of our 3-part series. Make sure to read part 1 (opens new window) and part 2 (opens new window)

So, your kid came out to you as identifying as LGBTQ+. By now you’ve probably already had some conversations with them about their identity and you might have even reviewed our article on LGBTQ+ identity in kids today (opens new window) and our article on how you can support your child who identifies as LGBTQ+ (opens new window).

If you’re like a lot of other parents of kids who identify as LGBTQ+, you might find yourself wondering, who can or should I tell that my child identifies as LGBTQ+? Wondering about this is evidence that you are already focusing on your kid’s needs and autonomy, which is great!

First, you should know that coming out is usually not a one-time conversation for people, despite how it's often portrayed in the media.

For kids, the topic of coming out is probably something they've thought about for a long time. Usually, coming out is a process that people who identify as LGBTQ+ continually navigate with most new people they meet. This process may be different for each person and each situation.

That said, let's look at how you, the parent, can talk about your child's identity in a supportive and healthy way.

# How do you navigate talking about your kid’s identity in the most supportive way possible?

Start by asking and talking with your kid. We urge you not to talk with your friends or family about your kid’s identity until you’ve spoken with your kid and you are sure that your kid is comfortable with whoever you plan to talk with about their identity.

We recommend keeping an open mind, asking your kid questions when you are not sure how to proceed, and respecting their autonomy. After all, it is their identity, and forcing them to come out to others before they are ready has been linked to negative outcomes for kids.

How important is your support of your kid’s identity? Well, according to actor Dan Levy, “had I not had the love to give me a sense of security, I don’t know if I would have found my way out of the closet, let alone create the opportunity for myself to tell stories on television that have effected some kind of positive change in the world.”

So, it is important to allow your kid to come out and feel celebrated and loved, and we urge you to show your kid your support by waiting to talk to others about their identity until they’re ready.

# Remember, your goal in talking to others about your kid’s identity should almost always be with the goal of supporting your kid.

This could mean you are talking about your kid’s identity because you are looking for support in navigating raising a child facing homophobia, especially if that is not something you’ve experienced before.

Maybe you don’t know of any other people in your life who identify as LGBTQ+ or have kids who identify as LGTBQ+, so you are looking to find a network of people to talk with. Telling others about your experience could start this conversation.

Another way to find this community is through already established groups like PFLAG (opens new window), which is a group for parents and families of LGBTQ+ kids. They offer groups, training, and resources to learn about how to best support family members who identify as LGBTQ+.

# Don't be surprised if you encounter some negativity

Don't be surprised if not everyone in the family (or extended family) is accepting and supportive. In fact, the negative reactions may be strong enough that you feel a need to protect your kid.

If you or your kid think a specific family member may not be accepting of your kid’s identity, you might offer to talk to that family member for your kid.

As an example, Alex (not their real name) came out to their parents about their non-binary identity early in high school, but they weren't comfortable telling their grandmother because they had heard her say negative things about LGBTQ+ identities. They hid their identity from her for a while, but before high school graduation they wanted their grandmother to know about their non-binary identity. They asked their parents to talk to their grandmother to protect them from the immediate feelings and reactions they anticipated their grandmother would show.

When kids either don't know if family members will accept them or believe will not accept them, it can cause a lot of anxiety. This is when they really need your love, support, and patience.

# Timing is critical - when they're ready, you should be ready

Your kid might simply be ready for others to know and not want to handle the logistics or emotions of telling people. They also may not see coming out as a big deal and feel comfortable with everyone knowing.

Emma (not her real name) shared that when she came out about her lesbian identity at age 18, she wanted to be part of every coming out conversation. She felt that it was important for her to be there.

Around age 21, after being in two relationships, she was tired of explaining her sexuality to each family member and family friend, and asked her parents to do the explaining on her behalf.

You might be really proud of your kid, and with their permission, be excited to share this information.

Maybe you are just really excited that your kid has shared this part of their life with you and you feel excited to share with others. It is great that you are excited, just remember to channel that excitement into supporting them, including checking in with them before sharing with others.

Again, the goal here should be to respect your kid’s needs by talking with them about this before you talk with anyone else about their identity. After all, it is their identity.

You kid’s feelings about you telling others about their identity may change over time, so this could be something to check in with them about from time to time.

# Get ready for a wide range of reactions

It's possible that you'll only receive positive, supportive responses from people. However, it's still worth being prepared for a variety of reactions from different people.

Some people might not respond at all. Maybe they don’t see your kid’s identity as any big deal, or maybe they don’t know how to respond.

Others may tell you about their own identities, or tell you that they also have family members who identify as LGBTQ+. This could be a great way to find community!

Others will have questions for you about identities or your experiences. It is okay to say you aren’t sure, or check out the resources below to learn more.

Unfortunately, you might also be on the receiving end of hate.

Regardless, it is important that you show whoever you are talking with that you are proud and supportive of your child’s identity.

To learn more about the variety of experiences that you might have when you talk about your kid’s LGBTQ+ identity, it might be helpful to read about some coming out stories. Here are some stories of celebrities' experiences with coming out (opens new window).

# What to learn more?

This is part 3 of our 3-part series. Make sure to read part 1 (opens new window) and part 2 (opens new window) if you haven't already.

# About the author

Chloe Bryen is a Ph.D. student studying Clinical Psychology at Florida State University. Her research focus is on suicide among marginalized populations, with a specific interest in LGBTQ+ identities.

In addition to research, Chloe is a student therapist providing individual and group therapy. Chloe’s work has been published in multiple academic journals and has been funded by the Association for Psychological Science and the Society of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

You can learn more about and connect with Chloe on Linkedin (opens new window), ResearchGate (opens new window), and Twitter. (opens new window)

# Do you or your child need support right now?

If you or your child are in a crisis situation please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones.

If you're not in crisis but would like to connect with an online counselor (through our partnership with Betterhelp), please use one of these links: