“My kid is gay and I want them to have an gay role model who can answer their questions and talk with them. What should I do?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Laurin Mayeno
Thanks so much for your question. As the mom of a gay son, I can understand why you would want this for your child. It can be very reassuring and empowering for a young person to connect with someone who has been through what they may be going through themselves. Here are a few thoughts.
First and foremost, find out if this is something your child wants. Be careful about pushing something onto your child that they may not feel they need or want. If you’re concerned that they aren’t getting the support they need, have a conversation. Make some suggestions and see what they are open to. They may want a role model or might opt for another type of support.
Recognize your own needs. If there is something you want, reflect on what you might need for yourself and work on getting your own needs met. Maybe you are worried about your child’s wellbeing and need some reassurance. That’s completely understandable given the real challenges your child may be facing. Perhaps you would benefit from talking to other parents with similar experiences? In that case, the nearest PFLAG chapter might be a good place to start.
Keep in mind that talking isn’t the only way of being supportive. If your child is comfortable opening up, it may work for them to have someone to talk to. If not, it may be nice just to have someone to hang out with. My son Danny and I are friends with a gay couple who were an important part of Danny’s pre-teens and early teens. They didn’t necessarily talk about being gay. We played board games, cooked together, shared meals, and went places together. At the time, they were in their late twenties–younger than me, but older than Danny. Having them in our lives helped bridge a gap between generations. I don’t think I ever asked them to be Danny’s gay uncles; it was just a natural evolution in our friendship and they are still like family.
Be aware that the LGBTQIA umbrella is made up of people with many different identities and vastly different experiences. I don’t know your child’s identity, but someone whose identity is similar might make the best role model.
Also be aware that your child may have other identities that matter to them (being a person of color, mixed-race, immigrant, artist, athlete, etc.). Similarly, your child may feel a sense of belonging or may feel excluded or discriminated for reasons other than their LGBTQIA identity. Seek out support that will help your child to feel a sense of belonging and connection. Finally, remember that your child’s needs will likely change over time. During middle school, Danny found a sense of belonging in his middle school’s Gay-Straight Alliance. Most of his closest friends were not LGBTQIA, but were allies. In high school, he found belonging in the dance and theater community.
If your child is interested in having an LGBTQIA role model, here are some possible places to look:
• Start with your own network of friends. If you have friends who are LGBTQIA, there may be someone who is interested in being a bigger part of your child’s life. If you don’t have LGBTQIA friends, you can build more connections by attending events or getting involved with a community organization. These connections may be important for you as well as for your child.
• If there is an LGBTQIA youth organization near you, reach out for resources. Find out if they have a mentorship program or other activities that your child can become involved in.
• Contact your child’s school and find out if there is a counselor who can refer you to a Gay-Straight Alliance. Be careful not to “out” your child if they are not open about their identity at school.
• Reach out to your local PFLAG chapter. Many PFLAG chapters have adult LGBTQIA members. Your child may be interested in attending a meeting. If not, it may be a place where you can meet LGBTQIA individuals who would be happy to support your child outside of PFLAG meetings.
In any one-on-one relationship between an adult and child, it is important that the adult respects the child and can be a positive influence. If you go through a mentorship program, ask about how they screen their volunteers and if they follow a code of ethics. If you are building a more informal relationship, get to know the person and make sure you feel comfortable with them spending time with your child.
Having a supportive parent makes all the difference in the world. I’m glad you and your child have each other and wish you all the best!
Laurin Mayeno is a mixed race Asian/Jewish/Anglo woman and mother of a multiracial gay son. She founded Mayeno Consulting 18 years ago to create inclusive, equitable, diverse spaces where everyone is valued and supported. Her son, who loved dressing up as a princess, inspired her current focus on building support for gender diverse and LGBTQ young people and families in schools, preschools, and other organizations that serve children and families. Her bilingual children’s picture book, One of a Kind Like Me/Único como yo, and Proud Mom video series raise awareness and spark dialogue about gender diversity.
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