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Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

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Community Manager
Portia_RO

Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

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Hello lovely parents and carers!

Sydney, Australia is currently playing host to World Pride 2023, which is an international celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community that showcases the resilience and courage of the queer community in our continuing struggle for acceptance and equality.

While there is a lot to love about being LGBTQIA+, it's not always an easy road. The process of discovering who you are can be confusing, and sharing that part of yourself with others can be a stigmatising and lonely experience, especially as a young person.

As a parent, you often share in your child's victories, defeats, and heartaches. When they're happy and well, you can rest easy, and when they are hurting, you want to make it better for them as best you can. So, how do you support your teen when they tell you they're LGBTQIA+? How do you protect them from the challenges that come with being a minority?

 

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This week, we will be joined by two very special guests to discuss their experiences of raising an LGBTQIA+ young person.

Matt and Lainie have been married for 28 years and have two daughters, one of whom happens to be me!

I identify as a lesbian, and came out to my parents in high school almost 10 years ago. They were incredibly supportive, and always made me feel accepted for who I am, regardless of who I love.

In honour of World Pride, they'll be sharing their side of my coming out story, and offering their top tips for raising a young person who happens to be part of the queer community. They'll offer insight into what it was like parenting a queer young person in a rural area, how they supported me when I felt isolated or rejected, and how they navigated the uncertainty of raising a gay daughter when they'd never had that experience themselves. 

Join us on Thursday March 2nd from 7-8:30pm to hear Matt and Lainie's story and to learn a little more about our family's journey into the LGBTQIA+ community Heart

Active scribe
KIrstyH

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

Hi,
I have a 15yr old son who came out to us about 3yrs ago. We always suspected it. At that stage we used to monitor his phone and there was a conversation between he and a friend saying I don’t know how to tell my parents. It took hours for him to pluck up the courage to tell us and he was crying and we were playing guessing games and when he told my husband my husband said oh is that all, can we go to Mardi gra. We asked him if he wanted us to tell his brother who was three years older. His brothers response was ‘yeah I know, he likes dancing and can I go back to playing my games now’. Our family is extremely open and supportive of the LBTQI community. I admit I cried when I got to work the next day not because he was gay but because I was scared for him as some people are just awful. All my work friends were supportive and are supportive of the LBTQI community. We have been open and supportive and he is confident with his sexuality. He asked to go to Mardi gra with his friends from his new school land I said no initially as I thought my husband and I were away that night but I said no out of fear of him being in a space where he could be vulnerable and us being so far away. I had to stop reading social media posts over the Mardi gra weekend as I was disgusted and saddened with some of the comments people wrote about the LBTQI community.

My eldest son stopped talking to a friend last year and I asked why they had a falling out and he told me he found out that friend was making fun of his brother with other friends behind his back and talking in a bay voice. While I was saddened that the friendship ended I was proud of my son for sticking up for his brother despite him being aware of what was going on.

Continue to love, encourage and support your child. Be open with them about the minority groups and that them people don’t matter.
Mod
Hannah_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

Hi @KIrstyH , thank you for sharing a bit about you and your family’s journey with us. It is really nice to hear that the entire family has been supportive of your son’s sexuality. It sounds like you have a very open and honest style of communication in your family, which is very inspiring to read about. It’s clear how much you love and care for your boys - it appears that they are very lucky to have you. 

We are really glad you reached out here, and hope that you get the chance to connect with other parents in a similar position to you. I am sure many parents share your concerns for the challenges that LGBTQIA+ teens can face. Keep an eye out for more events like this coming soon. 

See you around the forums Smiley Happy

Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

Hi everyone!

I'm incredibly excited and humbled to be sharing my parents' story tonight, as their support and unconditional love has been a huge part of my journey towards loving myself as a young queer person. When I was around 13, I told my parents that I thought I might be a lesbian, but at that point in my life, I was still deeply ashamed of my sexuality and was not ready to open up completely and honestly about who I was. With my Mum and Dad's ongoing acceptance and patience, I had the time and space to learn a bit more about what being LGBTQIA+ meant to me, and I knew that when I did eventually decide to come out 'once and for all', that my parents would be there to support me. 

I'm unbelievably grateful for the support that my parents showed me throughout this process, and am always in awe of the grace and tact they showed during this period of self-discovery. I personally have grappled with a range of mental health issues - some of them have been connected to my sexuality, and some of them have not - and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that my parents' approach to nurturing and caring for me is a big reason that I am still here today. I would now consider myself a proud gay woman, and it brings me a lot of joy and comfort to know that I have a wonderful Mum and Dad standing behind me every step of the way. I hope that you find their side of the story useful, and that it speaks to some of the challenges and uncertainties that come with raising an LGBTQIA+ child.

So, without further ado, here's Matt and Lainie's story Heart

Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

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My Dad - Matt

When did your child first come out to you? Were you surprised? 

"Portia came out officially to me on Melbourne Cup Day in 2015 when picking me up from work. We began to drive home and my wife Lainie said that Port has something to tell you. Portia then followed by saying “I’m gay”. I was not surprised at all which was reflected in my reply to her - 'I know'".

When did your child start coming out to other people? What was your biggest concern during this process?

"From memory it was very soon after this day when Portia shared this news with her aunties and grandparents on her mother’s side. I believe she trusted these people enough and wanted them to know this from her directly as they are very special to her. My biggest concern was that although I knew her broader family and friends love her for being her, I worried that people might say things that could be considered offensive or hurtful, without them even knowing it."

 

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Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

Did you ever worry about your child coming out too young/too early, and then changing their mind later?

"Portia indicated to Lainie and myself a few years earlier ( I believe she was 12 or 13 years of age) that she thought she might be gay. At this time it came as a bit of a shock as it was not something I had thought about in depth to be truthful. It was something I wasn’t totally prepared for but never did we try to get Portia to question her sexuality or want her to change her mind."


Did your teen have a difficult time at school because of their sexuality? How did you navigate this as parents?

"Portia had a very difficult time at school especially in her final years. Her sexuality was a large part of that I believe, as well as the fact that she was a very high achiever and is extremely intelligent so she had a lot of pressure on her to achieve a very high academic goal. I was aware that bullying was effecting Portia's schooling, but maybe I wasn’t aware as much as I should be that it was related to her sexuality."


You raised your LGBTQIA+ teen in a rural community, and continue to live in a regional area now. Do you think this has made your family’s experience more difficult?

"Having lived in both a rural community while raising my gay daughter as well as living in the metropolitan area recently, I am not convinced it would have been any easier for us as parents in the city. Discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community is unfortunately everywhere . On the other hand, it may have been easier for Port as she may have had more of a support network outside of her immediate family. There were not a lot of openly gay people in our community, nor were there a lot of support services available for young LGBTQIA+ people."

Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

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You have a straight daughter and a gay daughter. Do you parent them differently?

"I would like to think not. But in saying that I think that you develop a different relationship with each of your children. Neither better or worse, just different."


Did you know many LGBTQIA+ people when your child came out? How did you know what to say and how to support them if you weren’t particularly involved in the queer community? 

"I did know a few LGBTQIA+ people. Mostly through work based relationships. I’m not sure I did know what to say, but I tried to let Port know that we love her for being her. Her sexuality is only a small part of who she is and we love that too."


Lots of parents worry about their teens in the early stages of coming out and discovering their identity, as it can be a difficult time that impacts their mental health. Does it get better?

"It gets easier as a parent for sure. My major worry when Port came out was how she would be treated by the outside world as I have seen and heard many homophobic slurs and opinions of what is right and wrong, those who disagree with gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ rights in general. The reason I say it gets better is because I have seen Portia find many friends. Some gay, some not. She now knows that she is not alone and is supported by her family, friends, work colleagues."

 

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Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

How do you show your support for your LGBTQIA+ child?

"I show support to Portia by showing her that it doesn’t matter to me whether she is gay or not. I love her just the way she is and I wouldn’t change a thing. I hope my actions show that. She has a wonderful partner who I treat as one of my own. I am so happy she hasfound someone to love and who loves her. I have marched in Mardi Gras with her as well, which was such a privilege.

But just as importantly, its what I do when Port is not there. I call people out on things that are inappropriate or disrespectful towards the LGBTQIA+ community. The more people that stand up for them the easier life will become for them."

What’s your favourite part of having a queer daughter?

"I have experienced a part of life that I never expected when you first have a child. Marching in Mardi Gras was something that I probably would never have experienced otherwise, and I'm grateful that we were able to do this as a family. Meeting Port's girlfriend, Zoe, has been another huge highlight. They have been together for 5 years, and hopefully one day I will be able to walk her down the aisle to get married as an LGBTQIA+ woman."

***

My Dad has always been uniquely aware of how important it is to show support for the LGBTQIA+ community, even when I'm not there to see it. He was the first person to send me a text message when marriage equality was achieved here in Australia in 2017, and it warmed my heart when he told me that this huge milestone in our fight for equality brought a tear to his eye. Despite being a 'guy's guy' who loves a beer and watching the footy, Dad has never shied away from telling people that he has a queer daughter. To celebrate World Pride, he has put rainbow bumper stickers on all of his work vehicles, and gladly pops on a rainbow shirt every year to watch the Mardi Gras parade - Portia 

Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

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My Mum - Lainie 

When did your child first come out to you? Were you surprised?

“My daughter was in Year 8, and I distinctly remember that it was a Friday night and
it was raining. When she told me she thought she might be gay, I was surprised, but I also wasn’t – in our case, I hadn’t known that she was gay all along or since she was a young child, but she had also never been a 'girly girl' either. She was very soft and sensitive, and had never really shown much of an interest in boys growing up or in having a boyfriend. She was never shy around boys, and was happy to talk to them and play with them at school, but they were almost just other people in her universe – she was never particularly drawn to them. At this point, she kind of just treated boys and girls the same as far as I could tell.


When Portia told me that she thought she might be gay, I did have a few questions. This wasn’t because I didn’t believe that she was gay or because I had a problem with her sexuality, but I was curious about how she’d come to this realisation and wanted to know more since she had never shown an interest in anyone before, male or female. So, I asked her how she knew and whether this was something that she was confident in. At the stage that she was at in coming to terms with it herself, she really wasn’t sure, and didn’t want to talk too much about it, so it was something that drifted into the background for a while. While she didn’t come out to us again until she was in Year 11, I knew from this night onwards that she was gay. I remember my husband and I lying in bed that night and saying to each other “well, I wasn’t expecting that” but we weren’t concerned, just surprised.


When Port did come out to us again when she was 16, it had been a long time coming. It was a relief and all I could think was “thank God, finally”. From that first night she told us she was gay, it had never left my mind as being her truth, and I so badly wanted to ask questions about it as dating drama came up with boys throughout the years. But, I knew that her coming out had to be on her own terms, and that she had to be ready to own it before we would discuss it again."

 

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Community Manager
Portia_RO

Re: Event: Supporting Your LGBTQIA+ Child - A Parent's Perspective

When did your child start coming out to other people? What was your biggest concern during this process?

"My biggest concern in this whole process was her mental health. It had taken Port so long to arrive at this point of being confident and comfortable in her own skin, that I didn’t want people to treat her differently because of something as inconsequential as who she loved. People at school already treated her differently because she was very smart, and my biggest worry was that this piece of vulnerability and difference would be another thing that people could attack her with. My biggest concern was never her sexuality itself, but how to keep her safe from the rest of the world in this whole process."

Did you ever worry about your child coming out too young/too early, and then changing their mind later?

"No, I never worried that she would change her mind. If she had come to me years down the track and said that she was actually straight, that wouldn’t have bothered me, nor would it have bothered me if we thought she was straight and then she happened to realise she was gay later in life. I was more concerned about her being confident in who she was, particularly in the early stages of discovering that she was gay. More than anything, I didn’t want her to label herself before she was confident and comfortable in who she was, because I wanted that label to mean something to her. I certainly think that kids can know from a really early age whether they are sexually or gender diverse, and I think it’s all about how you position them during this process. They need to have confidence in knowing themselves, and just like any other young teenager, they need time to develop their sense of self.

I often think about whether I did the right thing with my daughter, and whether we did more damage by putting things on pause for a few years. With that being said, I know that the only person who can tell me whether I made the right choice was her, and she told me that she’s appreciative of the time that she had on her own to get comfortable with her sexuality in private. In hindsight, if I could do anything differently, I probably would have asked her to say more when she was in Year 8 that very first time. Portia was a closed book compared to my other daughter, and she certainly kept me at arms length during this whole process, which was really hard for me. More than anything, I wish she didn’t have to through all of this alone, but I also know that she didn’t really have the language to explain her identity to me when it was still forming and when she was wading through so much shame. I see her coming out process like a jigsaw puzzle – she had tipped out all of the pieces, and was trying to fit them together herself, so it was impossible to make someone else see the full picture when she didn’t even know what it looked like yet. That’s incredibly hard for a young person to do. I wish I had have said 'If you think you are gay, let’s talk about it. I accept whoever you are and who you become, but if you want to talk about what’s brought you to this realisation, I’m here.'

At the time, I really didn’t want to push things, but as she got older, I would ask Port questions here and there to try and give her an opening to talk about what she was going through. She never took the bait. When she started being asked on dates by boys, I would ask whether she did want to go to the movies with them, and I would get a resounding NO. I didn’t push, and I didn’t ask why, because I knew that the more grounded she became in who she was, the closer we would come to her speaking her truth out loud again. Even though she was getting frustrated and angry about the boys that kept seeking her out, I never wanted to be accusatory and ask her outright if she knew she was gay. I didn’t want it to happen that way for her. It was my job to guard her truth until she was ready."

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