At the Coming Out with Pride Festival in Orlando yesterday, we were happy to see many families stop by our pop up shop so that parents could buy t-shirts that said, “I love my gay son” or “I love my lesbian daughter.” In talking with these parents, the love, acceptance and support they had for their children was clear and heartwarming to see.
We have noticed a lot of families with curious or out youth at Pride festivals this year. It is great to see parents educating their children about Pride. Teaching them that being LBGTQ isn’t something to be ashamed of is a valuable lesson that can bolster self-esteem and inclusiveness. Showing them members of the LBGTQ family that are out and proud is a lesson that will be beneficial to their development, regardless of how children or teens identify themselves in the future.
Parents who show acceptance of the LBGTQ community model inclusive behavior for their children. This makes them less likely to bully others or show intolerance toward others who may be different. If both parents are straight, they are also doing a great job of demonstrating how to be straight allies for others who are gay.
We can remember the days when most members of the LBGTQ community were closeted. Coming out was something that was often done to only a few trusted friends or family members, because of the stigma attached. If the children of these families ultimately identify as LBGTQ, they won’t have to spend years trying to hide who they are. They also won’t face the despair of spending years trying to be someone they can never be.
That pain may partly explain why gay youth try to take their own lives four times as often as their heterosexual peers, according to The Trevor Project, an organization that runs a 24-hour helpline and an online community for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) kids. (Many of the 2 to 4 percent of people who identify as LGBT report knowing that they were as children.) Even more disturbing: When a child’s family rejects him, the odds of attempted suicide are NINE times higher.
The children and teens in the families we see at Pride events have a good chance at not becoming one of those sad statistics. They have parents who show them that being LBGTQ is an option. They have parents who expose them to members of the LBGTQ community who are out, happy and proud of who they are. They have parents who love them unconditionally, regardless of their sexual preferences. They have parents who provide a safe haven for them to be themselves authentically while growing up.
We salute these parents and their commitment to raising their children non-judgementally!