2 Ways For Parents Of LGBTQ+ Children To Become Stronger Allies

No child should feel like an outsider in their own home. Here's how to ensure your LGBTQ+ allyship doesn't stop at the end of Pride Month.

Mark Travers, Ph.D.

By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | July 04, 2024

It's Pride Month—a time for allies and LGBTQ+ individuals to celebrate queer folk, their community and the strides that have been taken towards creating a better world for this minority group. However, it's vital that our allyship for the LGBTQ+ community not end when June ends.

This is especially crucial for parents of queer children—as they are caregivers to one of the most at-risk populations in terms of bullying, harassment, discrimination and even violence. Luckily, psychological research pinpoints the most important factors that contribute to the upbringing of happy, healthy and empowered LGBTQ+ children.

1. Make An Active Effort To Advocate For Them

For queer children, family can be their greatest source of protection against the development of mental health problems. When a child comes out to their parents, it's natural for a parent to have some confusion, questions or even concerns. However, the way in which a parent chooses to respond to their child disclosing their identity or sexuality plays a massive role in their mental well-being thereafter.

According to a 2010 study from The Prevention Researcher, certain family responses have been found to directly increase LGBTQ+ youth's chance of displaying risk behaviors. These include abusing alcohol or illegal substances, unsafe sex, emotional distress and even suicidality. Some responses that families can have regarding a child's gender or sexuality are objectively harmful, while others are more subtle and covert—ones that some might not even realize are harmful:

  • Physical/verbal abuse because of their identity. Any form of abuse related to a child's sexual orientation or gender identity can cause severe psychological harm.
  • Excluding them from family events. While some parents might think this is a way to protect their child, isolation or exclusion can make them feel rejected and unsupported.
  • Pressuring them to conform to gender norms. Although some parents might fear the public's reaction to their child's non-conformity, forcing a child to adhere to traditional gender roles can be damaging and invalidate their true identity.
  • Denying them access to support, LGBTQ+ events, or to their friends. Despite your own feelings towards your child's friends and hobbies, restricting their ability to seek community and support can increase feelings of loneliness and despair.
  • Telling them that they will suffer religious consequences. No matter what religious scripture states, using faith to shame or threaten can create a sense of fear and unworthiness.
  • Telling them that they are ashamed of them. Expressing shame can deeply wound a child's self-esteem and sense of self-worth.

However, the author notes that there are many things that parents and family can do to reduce these risks, while also supporting and promote their LGBTQ-child's well-being:

  • Talk with them about their identity. Open, honest conversations can help them feel understood and accepted. This is also an opportunity for you to learn more about your child and their inner world.
  • Supporting their gender or sexuality, even if you're uncomfortable. Showing support—even if it's difficult at first—can significantly boost their confidence and self-worth.
  • Ensure that other family members respect their identity. Enforcing respect for their identity within the family can create a safer and more inclusive environment. This will also reinforce your love and support for them in their eyes.
  • Welcome their LGBTQ+ partners and friends. Being inclusive of their social circle can provide them with a sense of belonging and acceptance; it also allows you to get to know the people they consider close to them.
  • Believing that they can have a happy future as an adult. Expressing optimism about their future can help them feel hopeful and empowered. Others may be rude and cynical in this regard, so it's crucial that you act as a supporter to them—and avoid becoming their first bully.

2. Let Them Know That They Are Not Alone

According to a 2017 study, LGBTQ+ children can feel most alone when their parents turn away from them after coming out—even if they have peers that support them. However, when both parental and community-based support are made accessible to a queer child, they often feel closer to their family. In turn, this integrated support system reduces a child's need to rely solely on external sources of validation and belonging, which reinforces the strength of familial bonds.

The authors highlight that when parents are unsupportive, it forces queer children to compartmentalize their lives, separating their family interactions from their true identities. One participant in the study, a lesbian child, shared a poignant example: "We were driving by a church with a sign that said something about man and woman find each other in a certain way and then get married. And mom looked back at me and said, 'Yeah, man and woman.'" This seemingly simple comment created a profound rift, making her feel invalidated, unseen and disconnected from her family.

She further explained that, since coming out, "I don't talk with my mom. I had the best relationship with my mom, and since I'm different in her eyes, she thinks that that relationship isn't there anymore." Conditional support for an LGBTQ+ child creates a feedback loop of loneliness and alienation. Even with supportive peers, the lack of acceptance at home—the place where they should feel most safe—results in a persistent source of shame, guilt, and isolation.

Conversely, positive and supportive parental responses can create a transformative feedback loop for queer children. For instance, another participant in the study shared, "My mom tries to educate herself so she can be supportive for me, and if I have problems, I can go to her." This kind of response is what makes a child feel most secure. Even if a parent has no prior knowledge or experience when it comes to LGBTQ+ issues, small efforts to become educated and compassionate can make a world of difference.

When a child knows that their parents unconditionally love and support them, and are willing to learn what it takes to be an ally, they feel safe and comfortable turning to them. They understand that—regardless of what challenges they face—they can always return to a supportive and loving home. This environment, where there's always a shoulder to cry on and someone who celebrates their identity, is crucial for their happiness and safety.

Wondering if you'd make a good LGBT ally parent? Take the LGBT Allyship Scale to learn more.

A similar version of this article can also be found on, here.

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