Parents and caregivers often face many questions and challenges in creating a safe and supportive environment for a child identifying as part of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning, or other (LGBTQ+) community. Family beliefs and customs, school environment and community all play a significant role in a young person feeling comfortable discussing their gender and sexuality. Research also suggests that family acceptance of LGBTQ+ youth decreases the risk of negative physical and mental health outcomes.
Here are five ways caregivers might support LGBTQ+ children:
1. Learn About LGBTQ+ Language.
Being mindful of our words is important in fostering compassion and respect. Specific labels and terminology might vary between individual youth or change over time as they mature. Below are a few definitions of current accepted language:
- Sex assigned at birth: the sex an infant is given at birth based on their sex chromosomes and/or genital anatomy, including male, female, or intersex.
- Sexual orientation: an individual’s physical or emotional attraction to a person based on gender. Some examples of sexual orientation include heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, and pansexual.
- Gender identity: an internal sense of a person’s gender which may or may not be the same as the sex they were assigned at birth. Examples of different gender identities include cisgender, transgender, and nonbinary.
- Gender dysphoria: feelings of distress and discomfort someone experiences when their sex assigned at birth and their gender identity do not align.
2. Use Name and Pronouns.
Using a child’s preferred name and pronouns can be a helpful step in showing acceptance and support. Adjusting to using a different name and/or pronouns can be challenging because it requires conscious rebuilding of new speech habits. Be patient with yourself and your child and allow them to help you learn how they would like to be addressed. You can read this blog to learn more.
3. Avoid Assumptions.
The world around us often assumes a heterosexual and cisgender identity. Using gender-neutral language can promote a young person’s feelings of safety and acceptance. Here are some examples of neutral and inclusive language:
Ladies & Gentleman
Boys & Girls
4. Check Out LGBTQ+ Affirming Books.
Books can be powerful resources for children and families to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community, normalize the LGBTQ+ experience, fight against stigmas, and teach children to have healthy relationships with themselves and their bodies. We recommend caregivers review a book themselves before giving it to their child to make sure it is age-appropriate and that fits with your family’s beliefs and values.
5. Spend Time in LGBTQ+ Inclusive Spaces.
Supportive school and community environments, affirming healthcare settings, and healthy social supports are essential for LGBTQ+ youth to flourish.
Here are organizations that help: