Although many of us didn’t come out until our twenties, a lot of us knew we were gay well before then- some as early as elementary school. And while some of us just weren’t sure about our sexuality and needed time to figure it out, others admit not coming out earlier because they weren’t comfortable expressing these thoughts to their family. Since a very small fraction of us are raised by parents in the LGBTQ+ community I think it’s important to open up a conversation about how heterosexual parents can create an accepting environment in their households for their children.
Statistically speaking 1/10 humans on our planet identifies as LGBTQ+. So there is a high likelihood that one of you reading this WILL be raising a child who will grow up to realize that they are LGBTQ+. To tackle this topic, I reached out to Marissa (@bradyalexc) one of my favorite internet moms to ask how she, as a heterosexual parent, has created a safe and welcoming environment for her daughter whom from a very early age has expressed an interest in girls. Although her feelings towards girls may change, I found it remarkable that her daughter felt comfortable enough to express her feelings to her mother at such a young age. Clearly Marissa is doing something right. Here is what she had to say:
1: Let Them Know They Are Loved
The most important for me, was letting my daughter know she was LOVED. Love for myself and my husband has NOTHING to do with WHO she loves, likes, crushes on, decides to be with, date, kiss, marry etc. Unconditional and unwavering love will always be the first thing in how we support our children in their decisions. Always let them know how loved they are, and that anything your kids say to you, will NEVER change the way we as parents feel about them.
2: Stop Talking In Heteronormative Terms
We never assumed that our daughter would grow up, liking, kissing or marrying etc a boy/man. We have never romanticized the partnership between a man and a woman. We have always talked about how great it is to be loved, accepted, respected by whoever she chooses to love.
Me: One day IF you want, you will also get married and might choose to have kids. I know you will choose someone who loves you more then anything. The way daddy loves me.
My 8 year old : Could I marry anyone? A girl or a boy?
Me: Of course. You can be with anyone you want. Whoever makes you happy.
My 8 year old: What if I like girls now and I end up loving a boy.
Me: Cool! You would experience both. There’s so many to choose from. Man, woman, bi, trans.. you don’t need to worry about their sexual identify. Love whoever you love ️
3: Never Ignore Them
Don’t assume they are too young, not understanding, not ready, trying to be cool etc. Maybe they don’t know yet. Who cares? Support them regardless. Making them feel that their feelings aren’t valid, will only push them away from coming to you again. Celebrate that they came to you in the first place! That’s amazing. You’ve made them feel safe to open up!
Our daughter was pretty young, so maybe by the time she does have her first real crush or kiss, it won’t be a girl like she thinks. Who cares?! We validated her feelings of “liking girls,” supported her interest in wearing LGBTQ+ gear and attending pride events. And more importantly we let her know she could like anyone, anytime. Because like I mentioned in tip #2, we aren’t focused on “what her sexuality is”. We’re just continually let her know, we are open and supportive of anyone she chooses. Right now it’s girls. But she’s 10, so that can change 100 times or maybe she will end up giving me a daughter in law (with hopefully a lot of grandkids!)
4: Don’t Assume Their Whole Life Is Going To Change
And reassure them, it doesn’t have! If they are comfortable with the way things are, nothing has to change. I guess this depends on age of your child. For us, my daughter asked a lot of questions about “coming out” and telling other people. She researched pride sites everyday. I just kept letting her know, “Honey… you are 7,8,9 (a few years of her discussing it with me). You don’t need to spend your time worrying about all this. You are who you are. If you liked boys, I would tell you the exact thing. You have so much time to worry about crushes and heartbreaks and first kisses. You like girls? Great! Now go be a kid!”
A kid that has pride stickers on her wall? Sure! A kid who orders equality t-shirts and rainbow laces? Perfect! But just be a kid who’s not focused on dating, period. Her dad told her, now don’t go getting girl crazy on me! Ha!
5: Talk To Them About Acceptance Truthfully.
We did have talks with our daughter how not everyone agrees with same sex relationships but we kept it age appropriate. And she understood. Kids are so awesome that way.
She said, “ well why would I ever want to be friends with someone who doesn’t like me because I like girls?”
You are right baby girl…
We also talked about how some parents might not be as open as us, or as knowledgeable. They teach their kids what they know. So sometimes, it’s not really kids intending to be mean, it’s that they’ve never been taught anything different. We discussed how her sexuality did not need to be up for discussion if she wasn’t comfortable at her age. Just like her friends wouldn’t randomly walk up to her and say, “Hi, I like boys!” So what would make my daughter feel the need to tell others if she didn’t want to.
Overall, her sexuality has nothing to do with what an amazing, awesome, brilliant, hysterical, confident, affectionate, compassionate and courageous 10 year old that she is.
Our biggest advice to our daughter? Be your awesome self!!
A massive thank you to Marissa for sharing her tips. It’s parents like her that give me hope for our community and for humanity in general. If only we could ALL be so lucky to have a parent like her! Thanks for reading!