We frequently get calls from family members of youth who have recently come out as LGBTQIA+ wondering what to do, where to turn, how best to support their loved one. When my own kids came out, I had no idea where to go locally for resources, so I turned to PFLAG, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. Founded in 1973 by the mother of a gay son, the organization is America’s largest organization for families and allies.
Many families and allies want to know more about LGBTQ identities and begin by asking lots of questions of individuals who have just come out. That’s problematic in a number of ways. First, the newly out person is still navigating their identity and the early stages of their journey to understanding themselves. They’ve already done a lot of emotional work towards being ready to come out. And they may not have the experience necessary to address all the questions their families and allies have. In our peer-to-peer groups, we often talk about ring theory, often called “how not to say the wrong thing”. When someone is in distress or an emotionally charged situation, it’s important to center them as the focus of our help and concern. Any help that we need for ourselves and any emotions we need to process should be sought from a circle outside that person. As the illustration bluntly states, “comfort in, dump out”.
The resources offered through PFLAG are designed to educate and support families and allies with spaces to ask questions, speak freely about their own feelings, and find answers and understanding through a vast library of articles and links.
Additionally, some families want to know how to talk with younger children about their sibling or family member who identifies as LGBTQ. It can be difficult to know how to break down seemingly complex and mature topics in a way that young children can understand without oversimplifying. Luckily, in 2015 Lindsay Amer and their best stuffed friend Teddy created Queer Kid Stuff in 2015. “Lindz” identifies as queer and non-binary and uses their theater and gender studies degrees to produce a vlog-style series that teaches kids about queer identities and social justice. With more than 2.2 million views, Amer’s Ted Talk, explains why kids need to learn about gender and sexuality, including that the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that most children have a firm sense of their gender identity by the age of four. Their goal is to help kids grow into their identities with “radical queer joy” instead of focusing on the hardships of queer life. We hope these resources can help you as you navigate your own coming out, or the process of someone you love. If you need direct support from people who understand what you’re going through, the Shenandoah LGBTQ Center and others throughout the Staunton Pride community stand ready to help you.