As a child of the 1980s, I grew up in an era when attitudes were hugely different towards the LGBTQ+ community as they are today, it just wasn’t something that was openly discussed or considered as an ‘option’.
My older sister (who I worked alongside on this article) is part of the LGBTQ+ community herself, and I know from her first-hand experience, she felt growing up there was hardly any resources or information available, people to talk to and there was low representation in the media of the LGBTQ+ community. Plus, our parents were just not equipped to support her, which made things harder for her to come to terms with her sexuality and come out.
Luckily, since the removal of Section 28 over twenty years ago, a Government Act which prevented local authorities, and therefore schools from “promoting the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship” attitudes and conversations have slowly started to change for the better (reading the phrasing of section 28 shocks me today!) and we are all having more honest and open conversations. However, I think it’s safe to say there is still a long way to go, so it’s important we all look at how we can support progressing positive attitudes and allow people to be themselves, without fear or judgement.
How to help your child if they think they may be LGBTQ+
There are different types of sexuality and sexual orientation.
LGBTQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning. It’s also important to remember gender identity is different from sexual identity.
So, how can we as parents and guardians help to support our children if we think they could be LGBTQ+.
Firstly, you may be thinking, how do I know if my child may be LGBTQ+? Well, the short answer is, you won’t until they speak to you and tell you they are. Be patient and don’t rush them until they’re ready to talk.
Let them know they can talk to you – By creating a positive environment at home for children, they’ll feel they can speak openly, and freely and ask questions.
Comment Positively – Another way of opening up communication with your kids is by commenting positively if you see the LGBTQ+ community represented on television – even Peppa Pig is introducing a same-sex couple! Discussing events such as Pride, which takes place across the country, and why these events are so important in representing the LGBTQ+ community and highlighting visibility.
Challenge Negative Opinion – If you hear negative comments by other adults being discussed around your children, you can challenge the adult’s opinion or explain to your child why you disagree.
Listen to how they’re feeling – giving your child the opportunity to openly discuss how they’re feeling at their own pace, without interrupting them is a strong signal to let them know you accept them and their feelings. It’s important to remember, your child’s feelings may change over time and that is a natural part of exploring emotions and identities.
Helping them come out to friends and family – If your child feels ready to come out, you can help by identifying people with who they may feel most comfortable coming out to.
Getting personal support if you’re finding things difficult – while some parents or guardians may respond by feeling proud, others may find it hard in terms of how to respond, they may even experience shock and feel upset. They may worry life will be more challenging for their child or they may face bullying. There may also be concern about how to deal with reactions from some family members. If you have a friend or family member who may have experiences of being LGBTQ+ it’s always good to speak to someone who has first-hand experience or to seek out online professional LGBTQ+ resources such as Stonewall.
Support if you think your child is being bullied – sadly, a lot of children still contact resources such as Childline to tell them they’re getting bullied about their sexual or gender identity. Bullying someone over their sexual identity is a hate crime and can be reported online or with the Police. The NSPCC also has resources for bullying and cyberbullying.
If you require advice and support for you or your child regarding any of the issues discussed or would like to find out more call 0333 358 0390 or say email@example.com