People often tell me how lucky my transgender daughter is to have me; they tell me what a great parent I am for the work I do to create safe spaces for her. While I know and appreciate the sentiment is meant to acknowledge the endless advocacy work I do for her, it also reminds me how “unlucky” many LGBTQIA+ kids are to have parents who are not supportive.
Forty percent of the homeless youth in this country identify as LGBTQ. Kids are not just running away from home. Parents are kicking their children out or are making life at home unbearable. And according to the New England Journal of Medicine, 20,000 LGBTQ adolescents will be forced into conversion therapy before they are 18. All of this pain is caused because a child loves or identifies in a way not considered “normal.”
Unconditional love should not be luck of the draw.
Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, videos, news stories, and blog posts go viral when a parent accepts their queer child. People cry along with a child who is so relieved that their parent didn’t disown them for coming out as gay. While I’m glad when children get the approval and support they deserve, and I wish all LGBTQIA+ kids got to experience a loving and supportive relationship with their parents, when these stories go viral it also proves how far we have to go in this country when we are celebrating an everyday moment. Because everyday moments of parental care don’t often happen for LGBTQIA+ kids.
Yes, these videos show other queer kids that it can get better, but it shouldn’t have to. The “feel good” videos of parents accepting their LGBTQIA+ kid hold a not-so-feel-good truth: Parental acceptance of LGBTQIA+ youth is not expected.
Basic parenting shouldn’t have to “capture the hearts of thousands.” Parenting is hard work no matter how our kids identify, but loving them shouldn’t be harder just because they are bisexual, gay, or transgender.
I know the weight of my queerness’ burden on others. I was not accepted when I came out as gay when I was in college. Attempts to pray the gay away failed because that shit doesn’t work. And not only was I told to not be gay, but I was told to accept and forgive the rejection I was given. To a lesser scale, I received similar reactions when I came out as nonbinary. My transness was something others wanted me to explain and ease into. I had to expect and be okay with others feeling uncomfortable with my identity. It hurt. It still does. Because when you show someone your true self, your most vulnerable self, and they flinch, shut down, or choose their comfort over your right to be seen and respected, it’s dehumanizing.
As a queer kid who just wanted to be accepted, as a transgender adult who is tired of doing emotional labor, as the parent of a transgender child who worries, and as a LGBTQIA+ advocate and educator who knows the horrifying stats that put queer kids at risk, I say this with experience and love and no fucks left to give: If you are a parent or guardian of a LGBTQIA+, questioning, or gender nonconforming child — get over yourself.
Before your child ever comes out to you, let them know you love them unconditionally. And when they do come out, tell them you love them more. Ask them how you can help. Tell them you will do anything to make their journey safe and affirming.
Do not tell your child you need time, proof, or education. If you need to “mourn” the loss of what you thought you had when your kid comes out, do it privately and away from your child. There are books, support groups both online and through national organizations like PFLAG, parents who have been there before, and the amazing world of Google to help you through. It is not a child’s job to educate, hide, or be patient while a parent gets their shit together. And it’s definitely not okay for a child to feel like they are less than, wrong, or not loved because they are queer.
I love my transgender child fiercely and unconditionally because that is what parents are supposed to do. I should not be congratulated and neither should you.
Our LGBTQIA+ kids deserve more than luck when it comes to feeling loved.
They deserve to feel equal.
Yes, I have a transgender daughter. This fact is never completely forgotten, but neither is the fact that my son is a lefty or my oldest has blue eyes. These are pieces of my children, not their whole. No matter their gender identity, what hand they use to write with, or the color through which they see the world, my expectations for each of them are the same. I want my children to be kind, considerate, and not disgusting pigs who leave their shit all over the place. I don’t have a lot of hope for that last quality, but I love all of my kids the same. And so should you.