I am a bisexual 18-year-old. The first time I came out, I was 15. I say the first time, because coming out is a continual process. Every time I meet someone new, I have to go through the coming-out process again. But for me, and many LGBTIQ+ people, coming out to your parents is the most memorable –– and often the most nerve-wracking –– coming out of them all.
As parents, you have seen your child naked, wiped their snotty nose and dealt with their bodily functions. You've done all of this, and somehow still love your kid unconditionally. Coming out, however, makes your child feel as vulnerable as that little baby they were. Your LGBT child is sharing with you something deeply personal that is a part of who they are.
So your child has decided to share with you that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or otherwise not cisgender* or heterosexual*. Congratulations! You are clearly very important to them, and they trust you. This is a sign you've done something right in terms of building a relationship with them.
What do you do now? That all depends on your own feelings about the situation.
1. If you feel negative about it, the best thing to do is to examine your own feelings. Do you feel responsible, that you have somehow failed? Don't! Your child's gender and orientation are theirs, and theirs alone. It's not a reflection on you, and most importantly, it's nothing to be ashamed of.
2. You raised a human being who is confident enough in who they are to live authentically. High five to you! Are you shocked? That's alright, it'll wear off, and once it does, you'll see that your child is still the same person. They still have the same eccentricities and habits. Now you know even more about them, and that's great.
If you suspect that your child might be LGBT, or you simply want to show them you would be acceptable if they were, lay the foundations. Use examples from media.
3. Above all, show that child you love them and that you accept them, not in spite of who they are, but precisely because they're being themselves, and you can make the coming-out experience far less harrowing for your child.
If you suspect that your child might be LGBT, or you simply want to show them you would be acceptable if they were, lay the foundations. Use examples from media. Tell them how funny you think Ellen Degeneres is, comment on how talented transgender actress Laverne Cox is or what a lovely couple Cam and Mitch from family sitcom Modern Family are. This is a subtle way to show your children that old saying "gay is okay".
An unexpected part of your child coming out is that you'll have to come out too. A distant relative may ask when they'll meet your gay son's girlfriend...
This coming out can be a little simpler. All that is needed is a gentle correction of "girlfriend" to "boyfriend", and it's done. The same applies to gender. For example, if an old friend were to say "I haven't seen Jane for a while, how is she?" your response could be "Jane goes by John, and he is doing so well."
If you have an open relationship, your child will tell you about a lot of specific experiences related to being LGBT*. While you may not be able to relate, it's important that you listen, as even though they're your child, you're technically in the position of the learner and not a teacher. In order to learn, you should listen.
Your child will face a lot of challenges that most cisgender or heterosexual people do not , and that could be difficult for you –– but it's even more so for your child. They'll need your support, encouragement and love more than ever at these points.