Advice for parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children

1. Engage with your child. Your gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child (GLBT) requires and deserves the same level of care, respect and support as other non-GLBT children. Ask questions, be sincerely curious, listen, empathize, learn to know it, share it or simply stay there with your child.

2. Go back to study. Collect material about sexual orientation and gender identity. Learn a new language and correct terminology to communicate effectively on sexual orientation and gender identity. Test yourself and learn to go beyond the stereotypical images you have about GLBT people.

3. Know the GLBT community. What resources are available? Find out if there is an association that supports the rights of GLBT people, look for a selection of books and magazines on GLBT topics in bookstores, in the library or in the archives of GLBT associations.

4. Explore GLBT resources on the Internet. There is a growing amount of excellent information on the Internet that connects parents with materials and support groups on these important issues. This is especially true for the American context for which these councils were written. But let’s point out to report resources in Italian that are equally authoritative and excellent, such as the Family Matters project. Gay Health that collects GLBT health data, indications and materials.

5. Find out where the meetings of the association Friends and parents of homosexual children (AGEDO) are closest to you. Many parents report that having met other parents of GLBT boys made the difference in their progress towards understanding their children. Finding another person you can trust, sharing your experience is invaluable. Many people have experienced situations similar to those you are experiencing and with their support, the confrontation with their experience, and empathy can be very useful and of great comfort.

6. Don’t think of your child ONLY as a homosexual or transgender. Just because your child is gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender doesn’t mean that the whole world revolves around its sexual orientation or gender identity. It will take a lot of energy to face your child’s parenting, particularly during the process of understanding the GLBT world, including what it means to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. Still, the fact remains that being GLBT is not the only characteristic of your child, and it is essential that you encourage him in other aspects of life, such as school, sport, hobbies, friends and early jobs.

7. Ask your child for permission to tell others about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Friends and family can ask you questions or want to know what happens, but it is more important to be respectful of what your child wants. Do not betray your child’s trust!

8. Compliment yourself with your child for sharing his sexual orientation, having done “coming out”. Encourage your child to keep you “up to date”. If your child shares his private life with you then it means that you are on the right track! You are probably empathetic. You’re sending consistent verbal and non-verbal signals that say, “Yes, I listen to you. Please talk to me! “Give yourself a little credit if your child has chosen to come and talk to you about it. Congratulations!

9. Find out what kind of support and services are available for you and your child. Is there a support group? A psychological service at your child’s school? Or do you know any person, friend or loved one who can be contacted for information? (Before doing so, again refer to advice number 7, above. Ask your child, if it’s okay to talk about it).

10. Document the local, state and national laws and policies regarding GLBT persons. At the national level, GLBT people are still second-class citizens against some national policies and their rights are not guaranteed by law. Consider putting yourself on the line and finding out what can be done to work to extend equal rights to GLBT people.