Homosexuality: Helping Children Who Identify As Gay, Part 2
Children have an innate ability to recognize when they are different, it's no wonder then that a majority of individuals who identify as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or transgendered have felt this way since-you guessed it-childhood. For some, the identification of their sexual orientation was a very difficult thing for them to recognize and put into words. Some just felt, "different," and not in the "I'm going to save the world one day," different.
For more information on the terminology about sexuality and the diverse ways sexuality can be expressed, please visit my fellow staff writer's article "LGBT Glossary: Sexuality, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Definitions." Caroline does a great job at summarizing the terms, especially since not everyone is directly involved with the GLBT community.
Children are especially susceptible to bullying, teasing and derogatory terms about sexual orientation because the terms are not entirely understood, but because their use is prevalent in violent and derogatory language children may view some of these terms as insults.
Amelia* remembers being severely bullied when she was a young girl of 9 years old. "I would be playing and because I was new, or because my lunch was different than theirs, (the other children) would call me a homo or a queer. I didn't know what they were talking about because I don't think I even understood what sex was at that age yet." She paused when telling me this story, now 26, looking down fidgeting.
Her tone was a little higher and she had to wipe an eye when she said, "I wasn't gay or a lesbian or any of those things, but to these other children it was clearly a "bad thing" in their eyes, could you imagine being a gay child or a transgendered child growing up in that environment? It hurts me even now to think back to what they said about me and how they said these things, imagine how worse it would feel if you were gay?"
So what can parents do to help children cope with bullying of this nature, especially if they do identify with the LGBT orientations?
1) Educate your child about sexuality basics. Do not forget to include an explanation that sometimes families may have two mommies or two daddies rather than one of each.
2) When your child comes home with questions, be sure to answer them in a way that does not leave them feeling cheated out of an answer. For example, "Why does Sarah have two Dads?" can be best explained that the dads are gay, or homosexual-if you prefer the term- and that it means that the dad loves the other dad in the same way this child's own parents love each other.
3) Let them know that there is nothing wrong with being gay, or explain why you as a parent feel a certain way about homosexuality. Emphasize that your feelings about homosexuality do not change your feelings for them in any way. If a child is already identifying with being a certain sexual orientation, then being rejected by parents at the age of 8 for something they know very little about can be devastating for a child.
Keep Debbie's advice in mind: "The first thing we, parents of gay children, have to do is acknowledge their sexuality and let them know that no matter what, that we love them." Children, especially the out-going ones, will always be scared to be different. Being Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual or Transgendered is no different. These children will face a lot growing up and it's the job of parents to keep them as educated as possible and remain a source of support for them as they progress through their own lives. Hopefully they can understand and not fear the differences they express and consider themselves a part of a cultural mosaic, but it all starts with acceptance at the parental level.
For more from Debbie, visit her website by clicking visiting the website http://www.gayfamilysupport.com/ and, for an informational video from Gayle King, correspondent for Oprah, visit http://www.oprah.com/oprahradio/Accepting-Gay-Children
If you are a youth or children's advocate looking for guidance please visit my other article Helping Children Who Identify as Gay. It is written more for third party youth and children's workers, teachers and coaches.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the individuals who contributed in order to respect their rights to privacy.