Teen Line originally published this post in February 2020 . You can find the original posts here and here.
This week, we are lucky to have a guest blogger, Anais Plasketes (she/her). Anais is a licensed psychotherapist and sexuality educator in the Greater Los Angeles area. She is passionate about working with youth grades 3-12 in school systems and their parents around issues of sexuality and development through a non-shame-based, empowerment, and autonomy lens. She sees primarily adults and adolescents in her private practice and is called to a relational depth/psychological perspective around sex, sexuality, and desire issues.
Anais volunteers with Camp Brave Trails and can’t recommend the organization as a resource for LGBTQ+ youth enough. See the end of our blog for more information about Brave Trails. Thank you, Anais, for your suggestions!
It’s easy to feel powerless with all the hatred going on in the world. What we can do, as forever, is start in our homes. Educate ourselves so that we can teach acceptance to our children. We use “acceptance” rather than “tolerance” because to us, “tolerance” means we are just dealing with something rather than embracing it.
Find here some of the tips Anais recommends to support LGBTQ+ youth.
Get out of your own way.
Your child’s sexual orientation, gender identity, and sexuality, in general, isn’t about you or a reflection of anything you’ve done or haven’t done in your parenting! Notice feelings that come up for you around these topics and process them outside of your child. Continue to check in with yourself and leave space to breathe before reacting to your child, even if you are well-intentioned. Get curious about where your initial reactions are coming from.
Don’t rely solely on your child to educate you.
Build a foundation of understanding around LGBTQ+ definitions and issues unique to the community. With this said, stay curious about your child’s unique experience of their identity. i.e., understand the basic definition of, for example, pansexuality, but don’t assume all individuals that identify as pansexual have the same experience of this label.
Understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity.
Sexual orientation is who one is emotionally/romantically/and or physically attracted to. This can be best understood on a spectrum that demonstrates the oftentimes complexities and many layers to our sexuality. Gender identity has nothing to do with whom we are attracted to. It’s who we are, and we’ve all got one. For example, an individual could identify as gender queer and identify their sexual orientation as bisexual or identify as transgender and heterosexual.
Meet your child where they’re at.
While it’s important to affirm your child coming out as a certain label, it’s also important to affirm a child questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation. There’s no rush to label or be out in all areas of one’s life. Your child knows their body best. Take their lead and validate all feelings along the way. Especially avoid any statements that could elude to what your child may be questioning as a “phase.”
Advocate for LGBTQ+ Inclusive Sex Ed
You are your child’s most important sexuality educator regardless of what they identify as or who they are attracted to. Don’t wait on your child to come to you to talk to them about sex. They’re already receiving messages from peers, media, and online, which can often be inaccurate and lead to deeper internalized shame-based stories they tell themselves later down the road. LGBTQ+ or heterosexual, we’ve all got a lot to learn from an inclusive sex education curriculum. LGBTQ+ youth need to see themselves reflected and deserve the same amount of accurate fact-based information as to their heterosexual peers, leading to a healthier future for us all! A website I love is www.scarleteen.com and the book s.e.x. The All You Need to Know Guide to Getting You Through Your Teens and Twenties by Heather Corinna.
Use Action and Modeling as a Non-Verbal Way to Support
Get out in your community and get involved in LGBTQ+ organizations. Celebrate Pride all year round. Correct individuals that misgender your child in public with your child’s pronouns. Find parent support groups. Shop at LGBTQ+ affirmative and inclusive establishments. Search for an LGBTQ+ affirmative therapist. Consume less hetero/cis normative media in the household. Support your local LGBTQ+ artists and creators, especially Queer artists of color. If you and your family have less access to community and resources, utilize reputable online spaces, reach out for support-you’re not in this alone.
One resource for teens:
Brave Trails is an LGBTQ+ youth leadership summer camp, and there is nothing quite like it. Their program focuses on four key elements: leadership, community building, service, and Self-realization. Campers enjoy traditional elements of camp and learn how to become the most empowered version of themselves. They use workshops, adventure and artistic programming, service projects, peer connections, and positive role models to create a safe space where youth can thrive. While Brave Trails is a magical oasis in itself, the intention is also for that magic to spread far and wide once our campers leave and re-integrate into their communities. For more information, including camper applications and staff/volunteer applications, visit https://www.bravetrails.org/about/.
At Teen Line, we work to provide personal teen-to-teen education and support before problems become a crisis, using our national hotline and community outreach. Visit our Parents & Caregivers page for more resources and information to help you understand and support teens’ mental health as well as promote overall well-being.