October 11 is National Coming Out Day, and many LGBTQ+ folks use this opportunity to come out to the people they love. When my son Leo came out as transgender, it was through a Facebook post that I read shortly after waking on a Saturday morning. I was so overwhelmed by all the things I didn't understand and the questions I had. I didn't know where to find the answers because I wasn't sure what I was looking for.
If I could return to that day, I would Google, "My child is transgender. Now what?"
I'm not sure I handled that day well or the next few days. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, reading about what it meant to have a transgender child. I talked a lot about it with my husband and my therapist. The one person I didn't talk about it with was Leo. We didn't address the subject until the end of that week when Leo was preparing to leave for college. I waited for him to bring it up for fear of saying the wrong thing. As much as I wish I could change that, it's something I regret.
If your child has come out to you this week, here are some good next steps to take.
1. Tell them you love them. Coming out is scary, even to the people you love and trust most. First, you should let them know that your love for them will not change. Keep reminding them of this as time goes on, especially if your child is transgender and goes through any kind of transition.
2. Ask how you can support them. Support looks different to everyone, and your ideas of support may not match theirs. Let them tell you how you can support them, and then follow through on what they ask for.
3. Thank them for trusting you. Being a safe person to come out to is an honor and privilege. That your child chose to share their truth with you is nothing to take lightly. Be sure to acknowledge that you recognize this and thank them for telling you.
4. Do your own research. Don't expect your child to be the source of your information. It is okay to ask them to share more about a topic they bring up, which shows you are willing to learn more as you support them. But you want to do your own research as well. This will also help support you.
5. Ask if they are sharing this news publicly. It's important to not out your child before they are ready. Coming out is an individual journey with many layers. It's taken at the pace of the person coming out, not the person being told.
These are the steps I wish I had taken with Leo on that first day. Later on, we did talk through them. Leo knows how loved and supported he is. But on that first day when he came out, when he was questioning how I felt and what the impact of his coming out would have on our family, I should have been proactive in telling him. Our love for him didn't change.
It's never too late to repair a relationship, especially with your child.
If you didn't handle their coming out well, tell them. Apologize for getting it wrong. Then, make sure they know it was your doing and not theirs. Finally, tell them how much you love and support them.
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