Welcome to Better Sex With Dr. Lexx, a monthly column where sex therapist, educator and consultant Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more. Approaching education about sex as a life-long endeavor — “from womb to tomb” — Dr. Lexx (AKA The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to the shame-free, medically accurate, inclusive and comprehensive conversations for you, your partner and your whole family.
Nowadays our children have access to an astounding amount of information. With all this access comes learning, angst and exploration for both parents and children. Children are learning more about themselves earlier and earlier, while parents are working hard to keep up with how to keep their children safe, growing, and successful — however they define it. All in all, it’s no easy feat.
As a family therapist and sexologist, I have often sat in a therapy room with children and teens who are seeking to learn (and often express) more about themselves. These sessions often include sharing what they discover and learn about their identity. Coming out to family can be a huge step in trust for youth — and the experience can be complicated, intimidating and shocking for parents and caregivers as they take in this new information. I find that youth are not only sharing about themselves, but also asking “do you still love me?” in the same breath.
I want to offer you a few ways to love the youth in your life who are coming out as LGBTQIA+, even if you yourself are feeling all the feels.
Take a deep breath and calm down.
Your child is trusting you with information that can be scary, and yet, it is vitally important to them and who they are. They (probably) have known this information longer than you, so it makes sense to be shocked. They might have even gone through great lengths to hide this part of themselves from you — so, shock is normal. To show you love your child, take a moment to express gratitude with them sharing this pivotal insight into who they are with you. You are a chosen person for them who they are looking to for acceptance, protection and love. This is a place of honor, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.
“You are a chosen person for them who they are looking to for acceptance, protection and love. This is a place of honor, even if it doesn’t feel like it right away.”
Be gentle with yourself. There is nothing you did wrong.
There is this unseen pressure that comes with parenting. We’re expected to see and know everything about who our children are and who they will be. There’s also that pressure that everything our children do and become is directly correlated with how we are as parents. When a child comes out there is nothing anyone did wrong. There is nothing a parent can do to make their child gay, bi, trans, or any other identity.
You’re going to grieve and you’re going to learn more.
Most often, when kids come out, I hear about parents grieving the loss of future plans they hold. When a child comes out, it can feel that those plans of marriage, being grandparents or even meeting their significant other are no longer accessible. The truth is these are all plans that happen for people in the LGBTQIA+ community too. It might look a little different, take a bit of science, or take a different path than you initially imagined, but they can (and if the youth wants) hopefully will still happen.
If there is grief for you, it might help to grieve with other parents who have this same experience or another adult your youth has shared this information with rather than lament to your child. Your image and expectations of your child’s life have possibly shifted and there might be time needed to adjust. It’s okay to take that time while showing your child love and acceptance.
It’s not just a phase and it’s not solely about intercourse.
There are so many misconceptions about sexual orientation and identity, it would take far too long to list them all. Here’s a simplification that I think is helpful. Sexual orientation who a person is attracted too. Sexual identity is who a person believes they are. Neither are specific to actual sexual behaviors. When your child comes out, it does not mean they have been sexually active or had sexual boundaries crossed. It simply means they know themselves and hove found the courage to share it with you, a person they trust won’t hurt or abandon them. Often, responses to the shock of someone coming out sound like “Well how do you know?” or “Who hurt you?” or even “This is just a phase, you’re too young to know anything.”
“They very well might have a different step in their journey of self-identity in the future, what’s important is supporting and believing them as they are right now.”
To support your child with love, uplift their voice. Remember, your child has probably rehearsed telling you and gathered courage and hope in sharing this with you. Minimizing or dismissing this vulnerable space with you could leave them hurt and closed off. They very well might have a different step in their journey of self-identity in the future, what’s important is supporting and believing them as they are right now.
Expand your knowledge.
When a child comes out there is bound to be a bunch of questions. Remember, take a deep breath (or a few) and express gratitude, then take up the mantle to do some education. A few places to start your learning journey include PFLAG, Sex Positive Families and the Trevor Project. Each of these have information and support groups of parents looking for answers to best support the youth in their lives. Any resource listed could be a place of learning for you. This way you can gain knowledge and ask questions without adding discomfort and quite possibly continue bonding with your child with new insight.
Sharing orientation and/or identity realizations can often come with a cost for youth. Alienation, shame, bullying, and even abandonment are all factors I have seen happen when youth share their identity with their parents. To support them with love, center their experiences, desires, and needs when they come out. They are trusting you with a gift of insight into their own realizations. And lastly, give yourself some grace and space to feel your feelings and learn new things.
Before you go, read up on the types of orgasms you probably didn’t know existed: