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How to respond when a young person comes out

Advice for parents, carers and friends | Advice for teachers

If your child, relative or friend has come out to you as LGBTQ+, or is questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, you may have questions of your own or feel unsure about how to react.

Nov. 3, 2022

It's important that young people who are coming out for the first time feel supported and safe to do so.

Nothing 'makes' somebody LGBTQ+, just as nothing 'makes' someone heterosexual or cisgender.

The way someone has been brought up, what toys they played with or who they’ve spent time with are not reasons why somebody is LGBTQ+. Therefore, there is no blame to find if your child or friend is LGBTQ+ or has a fluid sexuality or gender identity.

In fact, all sexualities and gender identities are ‘normal’, and they can also change over time for some people. There have been many debates around nature and nurture in relation to sexuality and gender, but there's no evidence to say that there is such a thing as a ‘gay gene’ or genetic disposition for being LGBTQ+.

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is not a choice and isn't something people can change: the only choice people who are LGBTQ+ make is whether or not to come out and be open with themselves and others.

Therefore, accepting your child, relative or friend’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity is the best thing you can do if you want them to stay in your life.

Take your time and show your support

It can be difficult to know how to react when someone comes out to you. Remember that it has likely taken a lot of internal anxiety and preparation to get to the point of telling you. Take your time, listen to them and show them that you are supportive. Thank them for being honest with you about something so important.

If your child or friend comes out to you as trans and expresses an interest in changing how they present themselves in society (their gender presentation) or in medical transition, it’s very important to remember that the trans experience is a long and difficult process. Don’t assume that they are making a snap decision that they may regret later.

Some parents worry about what being LGBTQ+ might mean for their child’s future – or, at least, their idea of what this should be. Keep in mind that just because your child is trans or non-binary and/or may have same-sex relationships doesn’t mean that they can’t get married, have children or build a family. You can still be a grandparent, and your child is still the same person.

If you are the parent or carer of a young LGBTQ+ person we can support you.

We run fortnightly online meet-ups on a Friday at 5:30pm. These are a great way for parents to come together to meet other parents of LGBTQ+ young people. It’s also an opportunity for you to meet the team and ask them any questions you may have around LGBTQ+ or issues affecting your child.