Pride Month is a time to celebrate the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) population being their true selves while holding space for the struggles faced by LGBTQ individuals. It is not a secret that LGBTQ individuals experience greater rates of mental health issues and greater barriers to accessing mental health compared to heterosexual individuals.
One probable explanation for this comes down to stigma. Enacted stigma, or overt behaviors of prejudice, creates an unsafe environment for LGBTQ individuals to be their true selves publicly. Felt stigma is about the impact of concealing one’s sexual orientation or rejection. Internalized stigma involves LGBTQ individuals having negative feelings about their own sexual orientation. All types of stigma are harmful and show direct correlation to mental health issues in LGBTQ individuals.
As a practice, we are committed to helping individuals and families work through any stigmas they are experiencing as they move toward acceptance and celebration of their or their loved one’s true self.
As a young person, exploring your sexual and/or gender identity can be confusing and emotional. It is a very private exploration, and each individual deserves privacy as they learn about themselves. If you are exploring, know that you don’t owe it to anyone to share unless you want to and are ready to. Some people may choose to just come out to themselves, or just to one trusted friend or therapist. There is no wrong way, and if you choose to not come out at all, it does not make your identity any less valid or important.
Educating yourself on the nuances and definitions of gender and sexual identities is important as you navigate identity exploration. The Trevor Project has incredible, free resources for young people to use to find answers to all their tough questions: from chat rooms and support networks to an illustrated Coming Out Handbook. The easy to read Handbook defines the complexities of a wide variety of identities, gives thoughtful advice and tips for someone who is thinking about coming out in different settings and ways to check in on your own mental health as you are walking through this.
Talking to a mental health clinician who has experience working with the LGBTQ population can also help if you feel comfortable opening up in a private setting. Even as you begin to explore your identity, it can be beneficial to have a neutral person who is not involved in your daily life to talk through everything with. Then, they can help you decide the best way to come out to different people in your life when the time is right
As parents, it can be challenging to know how to respond when your child comes out to you, but your response is important. Family acceptance and support is a critical part of the health and wellbeing of LGBTQ youth.
If you want to be supportive to your child after they come out to you but don’t know where to start, there are resources available to you. PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) is an organization that was founded in 1972 to offer confidential peer support, education, and advocacy for LGBTQ individuals and their families and allies.
PFLAG’s family-oriented resources answer many questions you may have, including what it means that your child has come out, what their gender expression means, what should or shouldn’t change as a result, how to respond, and more. You can even connect with a local chapter to find support from other families with LGBTQ children.
Speaking to another person confidentially is incredibly important to protect your child’s process of coming out. Even after your child has come out to you, you should never disclose the information without their specific permission and after they have come out more publicly. Using a local chapter of PFLAG or speaking to a professional counselor who has experience working with families of LGBTQ individuals is a good way to talk through your experience and challenges without compromising your child’s trust.
Sign up for our quarterly newsletter with practice news, timely resources, staff highlights, and other helpful tidbits!
You’re in the loop for all things related to Life Insight. We promise to only send you valuable information our staff believes you might like. Make sure you check your email to confirm receipt of our newsletter.