“My 14-year-old daughter came out recently. I don’t have any political or religious issues with it, but I am worried: worried she’ll be bullied at school, worried for her physical safety out and about, worried she will be discriminated against for the rest of her life. I know I can’t change her sexuality, but is there any way I can shake this crippling worry I feel every time she leaves the house?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Laurin Mayeno
I completely understand your worry. It is a fear I have had, and one of the biggest concerns I hear from parents of LGBTQ children. We love our children so much and want to protect them—and sometimes these fears make it hard for us to enjoy the precious time we have with them.
First, get support for yourself. It might be helpful to talk about your concerns with other parents, especially parents of older children who have been through what you are going through. I am a parent who has been through it, and that’s exactly what I did when I was the most scared for my son’s safety. This support helped me get through his scariest times, which also happened to be the middle school years. If there is a PFLAG chapter in your community, that might be a good place to start. There are also many online resources for support, like right here at My Kid Is Gay!
Though you can’t guarantee your daughter’s safety, there are things you can do to make her safer. Equipping your daughter with the tools and knowledge to protect herself may lessen your fears, too.
Remember, your daughter is not a helpless victim. She is a strong and resilient human being. Make sure she knows what some of the risks might be and has tools for staying safe. Make sure she is informed about internet safety, avoids being alone in unsafe areas, and has people around who can support her if she is bullied.
Most importantly, you can help build her resilience to deal with potential mistreatment. Talk openly with your daughter to see what she needs and offer your support in any of these areas:
• knowing that her family loves, accepts, and supports her;
• feeling confident and affirmed in her identity;
• becoming skilled at counteracting negative messages she may get from people around her;
• surrounding herself with supportive peers.
Make sure she knows that her LGBTQ friends and partners are welcome in your home. Ask if she’d like you to visit LGBTQ organizations or events with her, or find older LGBTQ role models she can connect to.
Peer support and ensuring a safe and welcoming school environment are crucial during the middle school years. If there is a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance or Gender and Sexualities Alliance) chapter at her school, this can help out immensely. In addition to supporting young people, GSAs often advocate for more inclusive schools. If there is no GSA at her school, there may be a local LGBTQ organization that can point you to resources—or you could even help her and her friends start their own! I also suggest contacting the GSA Network for even more resources.
Parents can play a vital role in advocating for safer schools. If you have the ability to do so, reach out to the principal and/or the district to find out about their policies and what they are doing to make the school climate safer. Here’s an example of a checklist from Lambda Legal for making schools safer for LGBTQ youth.
It’s important for you to believe that your daughter can live a happy, healthy life. If you truly believe this, it will help relieve your own fears and will also help instill confidence in your daughter. If this is hard for you to believe, reach out and connect to people in the LGBTQ community, either in person or via the internet. There are plenty of LGBTQ people of all ages who are leading happy and safe lives.
Parenting an LGBTQ child can be scary, because these are scary times we’re living in. However, it can also be a beautiful journey that opens your heart and expands your mind in many ways. Please enjoy this time with your wonderful daughter and remember: you are not alone!
Sending love to you and your family,
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.