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Celebrating Pride and the LGBTQIA+ Community

The aim of Pride Month is to give those in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual + (LGBTQIA+) community an opportunity to embrace who they are and share their identity with the world. Acceptance and love are what Pride is all about, and whilst the emphasis is most definitely on having fun and bringing people together, it may also be a catalyst for reflection and discussion.

We hear from Alicia Drummond, our in-house Parenting and Mental Health Expert, and Founder of Teen Tips and The Wellbeing Hub on how to support a child if they are questioning their sexual orientation.

For our children the developmental drive of adolescence is to find their adult identity including their sexual and gender identity, and they are fortunate to be born in a time and country which allows such exploration.

The challenge is perhaps that there are so many options available, and voices to listen to, at a time when they are highly influenced by the opinion of others.  It is normal to experiment and question, but for those who are unsure about their sexual and gender identities, the uncertainty can be difficult to manage.

Others will know what feels right for them, but maybe anxious about next steps.  How should I tell my parents, friends, and relatives?  What will it mean for my social standing in school?  Will I meet other people like me?

As parents, our views matter to our children.  Our actions and words will give them information about our perspective on sexuality and gender.  Most young people are upset by homophobic or transphobic behaviour, as far as they are concerned, it is simply not acceptable, and for those who maybe questioning their own sexuality or gender, having parents who are not accepting of difference will make their journey so much more difficult.

If a young person is unsure and questioning, or sure but anxious, what they really need is a safe space where they can explore their thoughts without fear of being judged or shamed. They need to understand that identity exploration is a journey, that they don’t need to give themselves a label, and that it is ok to change their minds at any time.  They need to feel confident that they will be supported in their choices and accepted for who they are.  We can help by asking questions which show our tolerance and willingness to understand, and which will help them to feel safe to talk.  Questions like…

  • when did you first begin to question your gender identity?
  • do you feel sure now, or are you still questioning?
  • how do you feel about the male, or female, aspects of your body?
  • how do you feel about your body post puberty?
  • how do you feel when people view you as male, or female?
  • have you had a good response from people you have talked to about this?
  • would you like to share the information with the wider family?
  • do you want people at school to know?

Despite living in a more tolerant society research shows that members of the LGBTQIA+ community maybe more vulnerable to mental illness than their peers.  If you suspect your child is struggling, help them find a therapist who will give them a safe space to explore their emotions and time to reach the decisions which are right for them.

Supporting a child who is questioning their sexual orientation is vital, but it is also important to recognise that this can be a difficult time for parents too.  At the risk of being controversial, if you gave birth to a girl and expected her to follow the route of boyfriends, husband, children etc and then discover this is not the path she has planned for herself, it will take time for you to adjust.  If you suddenly learn that your child is gay/trans/bi, you might well feel shocked.  Of course, they have probably been thinking about it for weeks or months, perhaps even years so may not appreciate your position.  It is ok not to be ok, but it is important to let your child know that you are not rejecting them, or their decision, just taking time to adjust.

The wealth of resources available within The Wellbeing Hub help parents support their children through adolescence and gives them the skills and knowledge to meet their social and emotional needs. It’s a live and interactive web-app which parents can subscribe to individually here or they can refer us to their child’s school so the whole school community can benefit. Contact us for more information.

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