The Journey to Acceptance

Megan Pope, M.S. on Oct 17, 2022 in Relationship and Family

The list goes on and on: Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, Discord, and Twitter. Today’s youth are exposed to more media than ever before. So when our kids come up to us saying, “Mom, I think I’m gay” or “Dad, I think I’m non-binary,” they have had time to research, learn, and see other LGBTQIA+ members living as their authentic selves. Our kids have found answers, whereas us parents may only have questions. There is much research stating that family support for LGBT kids is vital for mental, emotional, and physical well-being. But how do we get there?

It is normal for parents to go through a range of emotions when their child comes out to them. There may be feelings of denial or surprise. Concerns for safety and wellbeing. Loss and grief of the life they pictured for their child. When working with LGBT families, I commonly get asked questions such as, Will they get married? Have children? Will they be accepted and safe? Did I do something wrong? Will they be okay? These questions have a theme: fear. Fear that their child will be unable to live a fulfilling, safe, and fruitful life. As well as the fear of the unknown. It is uncharted waters for a lot of parents and their children.

Often parents that I have worked with have never met a trans person or a gay couple, or if they have, social correctness prevents them from asking the tough questions. The questions they need answered to affirm their children and know a fruitful life is possible. Taking a “new path” is a very powerful step toward affirming. Speaking to your religious leader about the intersection of LGBT identities and faith, researching successful LGBT people, visiting an affirming church, initiating conversations about your child’s identity, and inviting their LGBT friends over are great places to start. However, some parents aren't ready for this, and that's okay.

The biggest piece of advice I can give during this painful, scary, and complex journey for you is “holding love” or demonstrating to your children that your love for them supersedes anything else. There are degrees of acceptance and rejection; it’s okay not to have all the answers or to not be fully on board right away. However, I challenge you to dip a toe in the water, to believe that we can love our children without having the same belief system, and that we can work towards expressing happiness for them while being uncomfortable ourselves.

This work is not easy, and to our children, it must be frustrating that total acceptance takes time. I challenge them to step off the boat for a moment and think of all the rocky waters their parents are imagining. It can be a lengthy and hurtful journey. But I hope along that journey, you lead with love and moments of acceptance. While you are on this journey of acceptance, I invite you to review the top 10 affirming practices suggested by Elijah C. Nealy, Ph.D., MDiv, LSCW who is a member of the mental health and trans community. He is a renowned author, advocate, and academic. I also invite you to read his book Trans Kids and Teens: Pride, Joy, and Families In Transition.

Megan Pope, MHC

Pronouns: she/her/hers (What is this?)

Resident Therapist: The Marriage and Family Clinic

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 317.965.0806

Megan Pope is a Counselor in Fishers, IN.

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