Parents should just be supportive, full stop.

While we are watching the arguments in CA debating whether or not adult LGBTQ folks should have the right to marry, I’ve been thinking a lot about parental acceptance and familial romantic expectations. As someone who predominantly dates men, I am not fighting with my parents about my sexual orientation, but I am constantly fighting with my mom about the race of the guys that I am dating. There is a tremendous amount of pressure on me to not only get married, but to marry someone that is in the right ethnic, religious, desirable socio-economic group. The pressure has forced me in many cases to hide who I am and sometimes I have trouble feeling secure in my romantic relationships, since I know in the back of my head, my mom won’t approve.

Irrelevant of your sexuality, young people need their parents support and encouragement in being who they are. This is strikingly true for LGBTQ youth who may or may not be experiencing bullying. Imagine how much easier bullying would be to deal with if you know your family has your back?

A recent study found that family acceptance of your sexual orientation leads to less chance of depression or suicidal thoughts. Via CNN.

Family acceptance of LGBT youth predicts positive outcomes in mental health, self esteem, and overall health status, finds a study in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing. And nonheterosexual young people are more likely to receive punishments in a school or criminal justice setting, says a study in Pediatrics.

Based on interviews with self-identified LGBT young adults, researchers found that family acceptance seems to protect against suicidal thoughts and behaviors, as well as depression and substance abuse. The study comes from the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, which aims to increase support among families with LGBT children.

Homophobia that is learned and perpetuated at home often causes and compounds bullying in school. I say parents should just be supportive of their kids period, because it is important for all youth to feel loved and supported in who they are. That reduces the number of young people that suffer shame and depression for who they are and also decreases bullying since often the cause of bullying is feelings of lack of acceptance. This is doubly true for queer youth who are experiencing homophobic violence at school.

Related: Turns out LGBTQ youth are more likely to be punished by authorities then their straight counterparts. More reason for them to have familiar support and acceptance when needed.

Join the Conversation

  • nazza

    My partner grew up in a family where it would have been completely accepted had she not been heterosexual. As I’ve written about, my family was not supportive at all. At one point, my father said that if I had a boyfriend, he would not be welcome ever. So, if I was seeing a man, I knew I didn’t need to mention it to my parents and that he could never meet them.

    Their behavior when I was beginning to come to terms with who I was made a bad situation worse. It would have been nice to have some support when I was questioning so much about myself and desperate to have firm footing anywhere. One of my father’s good friends had a son who was gay, and the friend’s son was constantly invoked as to the destructive power of homosexuality. As the story goes, the son’s homosexuality created “great problems” for the father and the son refused to do the right thing and completely move away at his father’s request. I personally don’t think the son in question had anything to hide and should have had the right to live anywhere he wanted, regardless of whether it made his father uncomfortable, but I was not free to share that view around my own father.

  • Amanda

    This is a great post, and I totally agree.

    Whenever I think about parents who reject their children on the basis of their sexuality, I almost want to cry, because I just can’t imagine a parent not accepting his or her own child on the basis of something so superficial – because I don’t think it matters what gender your child’s new partner (or potential partner) is. It matters if he or she is honest, respectful, kind, and caring, among other things – not what race, ethnicity, class, religion, or gender he or she is.

    I think the issue at hand when parents worry about their child’s partner is that they want to protect their child, which is only natural. However, I think focusing on race, socioeconomic status, or religion is the wrong thing to focus on. Just because a partner has a steady job and makes good money doesn’t make them a good partner. Same goes for any religious or ethnic/racal group. My extended family likes to joke with me about marrying rich, and I know they don’t mean much by it, but it still makes me glad that my mother taught me from a young age to avoid unhealthy/abusive relationships rather than relationships with someone with a small paycheck.

    Parents will always worry about their children, but hopefully they can start to worry more about the right things and less about the inconsequential things. It’s better for everyone involved.

  • Sam

    I agree with the idea that parents should be more supportive of their child’s sexual orientation. I have a family friend who just attempted suicide due to homophobic bullying. Although his parents would have been completely supportive of his sexuality, he chose to not talk to them about it, therefore missing out on a great support system that ultimately could have prevented him from attempting suicide. So many young men and women are bullied every day for being homosexual, and are too scared to tell their families. If parents embraced their child’s sexual orientation rather than shunning it, more and more young men and women would feel comfortable being openly gay. Unfortunately, young adults are resorting to suicide to deal with the bullying, rather than seeking help and support.

  • Shannon Drury

    Total, unconditional acceptance of your child is the most difficult thing about parenting, especially in a consumer culture that feeds us the message that our kids are not only our property, they’re the culmination of our years on earth. It’s very difficult to separate our children from ourselves, as any New York Times trend piece on Upper West Side helicopter parents will tell you. I conformed to my parents’ sexual orientation expectations, but I failed to measure up in other ways and found myself estranged from them. I struggle every day to accept that my children are unique individuals with the right to be themselves, not who I want them to be. I guess this means my daughter is getting that Barbie Princess she wants for Xmas, gawd help me.