By Alyse Knorr
This Thanksgiving, you may be looking forward to your LGBTQIA child coming home to enjoy food and football and family time with you. Thanksgiving is a truly wonderful holiday–not only because of stuffing (or “dressing” or “filling,” depending on where you’re from), but because of the opportunity it affords us all to spend time with our loved ones reflecting on what we’re most grateful for.
So please—keep that beautiful gratitude energy alive by avoiding any of the following statements:
1. Do not ask your child if they’ve “changed their mind” about their LGBTQA identity.
Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy being with family and loving each other wholeheartedly. It’s a time to be grateful for all that you have and reflect on the past year’s blessings. It’s not a time to try and convince your LGBTQA child to be someone they’re not, or to accuse them (no matter how gently) of going through a “phase” with their identity. Though you may be on a difficult journey of your own when it comes to your child coming out, it’s best to process that journey with a spouse, close friend, or therapist rather than make it your child’s issue to solve. The best thing you can do for them as a parent is support them with unconditional love and positivity.
2. Do not introduce your child’s significant other as their “friend.”
Your child will probably have a name that they prefer to call their significant other—maybe that name is “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” or “partner” or “main squeeze,” but you can bet that if they’re romantically involved with this person, they are more than just “friends.” If your child has brought their S.O. home to meet you, then it’s because they love and trust you and want you to meet this special person, and vice versa. That’s a good thing—something to celebrate! Don’t deny the relationship by pretending the two are just “friends.” It seems like a small distinction, but it will hurt your child to see their relationship ignored or denied when you refuse to call it what it is. Ask your child what you should call their S.O. when you’re introducing that person to other family and friends. Make sure your child is okay with being out to all of the friends, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues you all might run into over the holiday. Follow your child’s lead and be as welcoming as you can be!
3. Do not call your child by any names or pronouns other than their preferred, chosen name and pronouns.
If your child has begun to use a new name and/or pronouns, it’s important to respect those identity signifiers and show your child that you support them wholeheartedly. This might be difficult, especially if you’ve called them by a different name or different pronouns their whole life. Mistakes will happen, and that’s okay, as long as you apologize and send a clear message that you are always striving to get it right. When you insist on using your child’s old name or pronouns, you show your child that you don’t accept who they are, which can be a pretty traumatic thing for a kid to hear from their parents.
4. Do not attempt to set them up with someone. Anyone.
This advice could apply to any parent, really, regardless of whether their kid is LGBTQA. Sure, you know a lot about your child—you raised them, watched them grow up, and (maybe) you know a thing or two about their favorite meal, favorite candy, or favorite movies. But this does not mean you know who they might be into romantically! Your aromantic son may not want to date anyone at all, and your lesbian daughter might feel pretty offended if you keep insisting she just try to go on one date with Kevin.
5. Do not ignore the election.
Chances are, your child may feel hurt and afraid by the result of the 2016 election. Acknowledge what just happened in our country and be supportive. Now is not the time to debate politics, but rather to show love and let your child know that you’ve got their back. Read our piece on negotiating post-election conversations with your child here.
Here at My Kid Is Gay, we’re extremely thankful for supportive parents like you. Thank you for taking the time to read this piece, for preparing yourself to spend special time with your child, and for loving them fiercely for who they are.
Alyse Knorr is the author of Super Mario Bros. 3 (Boss Fight Books 2016) and of the poetry collections Copper Mother (Switchback Books 2016), and Annotated Glass (Furniture Press Books 2013). She also authored the chapbooks Epithalamia (Horse Less Press 2015) and Alternates (dancing girl press 2014). Her work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, Caketrain, and The Southern Poetry Anthology: Georgia, among others. She received her MFA from George Mason University. Alyse is a co-founding editor of Gazing Grain Press and teaches English at Regis University.