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Queer Kids Stuff
Mother's Story: Raising a Gender Non-Conforming Child
Family Acceptance Project: Helping Families Support Their LGBT Children
Video: Girl and Boy
No Such Thing as Girl Toys and Boy Toys
Gender Creative Life
Facts About Affirming Therapy for Trans and Gender Non-Conforming Youth
Boys Will Be Boys?
HRC: Talking With Kids About LGBTQ Issues
Dispelling Myths About Gender Non-Conforming Children
Video: Truth About Honesty and Pink Tutus
Children on Gender Roles
8 Things Not to Say to Boys Who Wear Pink
The Whittington Family: Ryland's Story
The Genderqueer Kid I Never Expected
Kids Explain Gay Marriage
Martie Sirois: How I Chased Away the Bullies of My Gender Creative Child
Families Supporting LGBT Children
Family Acceptance Project Research
Research on adolescents over the past 20
years shows that sexual orientation—a person’s emotional connection and
attraction to another person—develops early. In fact, research shows
that both gay and straight children have their first “crush “ or
attraction to another person at around age 10. Homosexuality and
bisexuality are part of normal sexual identity. No one knows why some
people are gay or bisexual and others are heterosexual. But we know that
no one, including parents, can “make” someone gay. Adolescents are much
more likely to be open about their gay or transgender identity when
they are not afraid of rejection, ridicule, or negative reactions from family and friends.
There are still many myths about sexual orientation. Families and providers often believe that young people have to be adults before they can know they are gay. Many assume that being gay is a “phase” that youth will grow out of as they get older. Some think that teens may decide to be gay if they have a gay friend, read about homosexuality, or hear about gay people from others. These myths are very common and they are also incorrect. Today, adolescents have much wider access to accurate information about sexual orientation and increasing information about gender identity. Accurate information helps them understand feelings they have had since childhood. And a wide range of services for LGBT youth helps many find peer and community support.
Adolescents in our research for the Family Acceptance Project (FAP) said they were attracted to another person of the same gender at about age 10. Some knew they were gay at age 7 or 9. Overall, they identified as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, on average, at age 13.4. Their families learned about their LGB identity about a year later. Research on supporting both children’s gender identity and transgender adolescents is very limited. Most providers have had little training or guidance on how to support children who feel like their inner sense of being male or female does not match their physical body. Children develop gender identity—a deep sense of being male or female—at early ages. They express clear gender choices for clothes, toys, and personal items. And they begin to express gender identity at about ages 2-3.
Children and adolescents who do not look or behave the way that girls and boys are expected to behave by their families and by society are often ridiculed by others. Their behavior may also be called gender variant or gender non-conforming. Many parents are ashamed or embarrassed by their children’s gender non-conforming behavior. They often fear that these children will be hurt by others. And they need education and accurate information to support their child’s emerging gender identity. Adolescents who are gender non-conforming or who identify as transgender also have more access toinformation about gender expression and identity through LGBT community groups and online resources. Such groups and resources help them understand their gender identity at younger ages than older transgender adults who typically came out as adults. Adolescents in our research for FAP who identify as transgender came out as transgender, on average, at age 16.
Acceptance Project: Helping Families Support Their LGBT Children
SAMHSA: Helping Families Support Their LGBT Children
Raising my Rainbow: What Gender Non-Conforming Kids Want You to Know
Celebrities Who Lovingly Embrace Their LGBT Kids
Let Them Be Who They Want to Be
Pink & Blue: Communicating Gender to Children
Clothing Store: Just for Girls?
Raising Owen: A Genderqueer Love Story
LGBTQ Positive Books for Kids
My Genderqueer Kid's Awesome Dad
Gender Roles: Interviews With Kids
Impact of Family Reactions on LGBT
Family Acceptance Project Research
recently, little was known about how families react when an LGBT young person
comes out during adolescence. And even less was known about how family reactions
affect an LGBT adolescent’s health
and mental health. Groundbreaking new research from FAP shows that families and caregivers have a major impact on their LGBT children’s risk and well-being. FAP researchers identified more than 100 behaviors that families and caregivers use to react to their LGBT children’s identity. About half of these behaviors are accepting and half are rejecting. FAP researchers measured each of these behaviors to show how family reactions affect an LGBT young person’s risk and well-being.
Conflict and Rejection
researchers found that families who are conflicted about their children’s LGBT
identity believe that the best way to help their children survive and thrive in
the world is to help them fit in with their heterosexual peers. So when these
families block access to their child’s gay friends or LGBT resources, they are
acting out of care and concern. They believe their actions will help their gay
or transgender child have a good life. But adolescents who feel like their
parents want to change who they are think their parents don’t love them or even
hate them. Lack of communication and misunderstanding between parents and their
LGBT children increases family conflict. These problems with communication and
lack of understanding about sexual orientation and gender identity can lead to
fighting and family disruption that can result in an LGBT adolescent being
removed from or forced out of the home. Many LGBT youth are placed in foster
care, or end up in juvenile detention or on the streets, because of family
conflict related to their LGBT identity. These factors increase their risk for
abuse and for serious health and mental health problems.
Research from FAP shows that family rejection has a serious impact on LGBT young people’s health and mental health. LGBT young people who were rejected by their families because of their identity have much lower self-esteem and have fewer people they can turn to for help. They are also more isolated and have less support than those who were accepted by their families. LGBT teens who are highly rejected by their parents and caregivers are at very high risk for health and mental health problems when they become young adults. They have poorer health than LGBT young people who are not rejected by their families. They have more problems with drug use. They feel more hopeless and are much less likely to protect themselves from HIV or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). And this behavior puts them at higher risk for HIV and AIDS.
Compared with LGBT young people who were not rejected or were only a little
rejected by their parents and caregivers because of their gay or transgender
identity, highly rejected LGBT young people were:
than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide
--Nearly 6 times as likely to report high levels of depression
--More than 3 times as likely to use illegal drugs
--More than 3 times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and STDs
Many LGBT youth and those who question their identity feel like they have to hide who they are to avoid being rejected. Many hide so that they won’t hurt their parents and other family members who believe that being gay is wrong or sinful. But hiding has a cost. It undermines an LGBT adolescent’s self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Being valued by their parents and family helps children learn to value and care about themselves. But hearing that they are bad or sinful sends a deep message that they are not a good person. And hearing this negative message affects their ability to love themselves and care for themselves. It increases risky behaviors, such as risk for HIV or substance abuse. It also affects their ability to plan for the future, including their ability to have career or vocational plans. And it makes them less likely to want to have a family or to be parents themselves.
Uncertainty and Concern
Many parents feel uncertain when they learn that their child is gay. They are unsure how to react. And they don’t know how to support their child. They love and want to help their LGBT child. At the same time, however, they don’t want to encourage their child’s gay or transgender identity. And they don’t want to push their child away. Parents and caregivers often fear that others may try to hurt their gay or transgender child. So fear motivates many parents and family members to try to protect their LGBT children by reacting negatively to their gay or transgender identity. For example, they say: “Tone it down.” “Do you have to wear those clothes?” “Can’t you wait until you graduate to tell others you’re gay?” Youth often hear these comments as rejection, but too often parents use them to mask their anxiety and fear of what can happen to their child in a hostile world.
Families are motivated to learn how to support their gay or transgender children when they realize that their words and actions have a powerful impact on their LGBT children’s survival and well-being. Parents are shocked to learn that how they react to their LGBT children can increase these children’s risk for suicide, HIV infection, and other health problems. But they are relieved to learn that behaviors like talking with their gay children about their identity, and expressing affection for their gay or transgender children, can help protect against health risks. These supportive behaviors can also help promote their children’s well-being.
researchers also studied families who openly accept their children’s gay or
transgender identity. Accepting parents and foster parents express support for
their LGBT children in many ways. They tell their children they love them when
they learn about their child’s LGBT identity. They require that other family
members respect their LGBT child. They stand up for their LGBT child when their
child is mistreated or harassed by others. And they work to make their own
religious institutions more supportive of LGBT members. Or they find supportive
congregations and faith communities that welcome their family and LGBT child.
Parents of LGBT Children
Curious and Questioning
Children's Book List
Teen Book List
Youth Resource List
Encouragement for LGBT Youth
Supporting Our Gender Creative Child
there are people who don’t understand why, or don’t agree with the fact that my
family is out & proud, advocating publicly for our youngest, gender creative
child. That’s okay. They don’t need to understand or agree with us because it’s
our family, and it’s what’s right for us, right now. But we know there are
people who don’t understand (though they might, if they cared to simply ask us).
And we know there are people who disagree (though they’re judging only what they
can see on the surface, and are all too happy to tell us).
There could be many reasons. Maybe they don’t know that my son Charlie encouraged me to write more publicly about him, something beyond my little blog with 2 subscribers. I’d been keeping journals my entire life. I always loved writing, and called it my brain-purging; my therapy. My youngest child actually wanted his story told. Before I ever went public, he heard the first piece I wrote about him and said, “Mom, I not only want you to do this; you have to do this.” Charlie, though very young at heart, has always been wiser than his years. So I listened. And I auditioned. And then I read some of my writing for an audience for the first time ever, in the Listen to Your Mother Show.
LTYM was a turning point in my life. The thanks all goes to mom blogger and humoritst Ann Imig, LTYM founder, and local producers Marty Long and KeAnne Hoeg, who heard something in my audition piece they found worthy of a larger audience. LTYM was a place of tremendous growth for me. I was collaborating for the first time with powerful women who were published and accomplished writers in every genre from young adult lit to poetry. At the core of it, though, we were all mothers. Political differences aside, we all understood the literary theme of unconditional love.
This cast of writers changed my entire outlook on life. I began to understand the importance of hearing individual stories. Really hearing, without judgment, without envisioning things through the rose tinted lenses of cis, hetero, white privilege. There was a special kind of juxtaposition in peacefully sitting and hearing someone else’s narrative, and then agonizingly sitting and feeling quite a bit of my own discomfort that needed confronting.
Maybe people don’t know that Charlie also wanted to meet other kids out there just like him. And that’s exactly what has happened, in spades. First, with the launch of our (now official) program of the LGBT Center, S.E.A.R.CH. (Safe Environment for the Acceptance of Rainbow CHildren), Charlie has met several local gender creative and *transgender children. More than anyone would’ve thought are out there.
As a result of our support group and advocacy, Charlie has gender creative and transgender 10-year-old pals across the world now. Conversely, because of my child’s bravery, hundreds more kids and adults have reached out to us in confidence, or have “come out.” Just this weekend, Charlie received a large envelope of “fan mail” from the Prospect High School GSA, in San Jose, California. Charlie’s “viral” story from September had reached them, and they were compelled to reach out to us. Inside were dozens of handmade cards relaying messages of love. He nearly cried tears of joy as he thoroughly read each one. When he got to the last two, he said, “Oh no… just two left… I don’t want this to end.”
Thankfully, the messages of love on this family journey from acceptance to advocacy have spoken SO MUCH LOUDER than the messages of hate. But the hate is still out there, and we know that.
But here’s the thing. We continue to be public advocates because you can’t be a silent advocate. Just like you can’t unconditionally love your child, but then tell them you “don’t accept” the part that they are LGBTQ+. And also, we do it because someone has got to stand up to the bullying, and in the process, “fish” for other advocates. If you sit idly by and watch someone get bullied, and you do nothing to stop it, you’re just as guilty as the bully. We teach that lesson in elementary school.
And here’s the other thing. Ever since we went public with Charlie’s story, that was the moment that localized, to-his-face teasing and harassment ended. Sure, he still gets asked “are you a boy or a girl?” by the younger kids at school. But I’ll take that any day over what was being said to him before.
Most importantly for us, though, was this: the moment we went public was the moment that Charlie came out of a year-long battle with crippling depression and crisis-mode anxiety. At 8 and 9 years old. You can’t imagine how excruciating it is to watch a child so young be in so much distress because the universe is trying to put them in a box where they don’t fit.
not believe a child is capable of such “adult” emotions like anxiety or
depression. But I’m the one who kneeled beside him, up to three times a week at
the toilet in the school’s health room bathroom, for 45 minutes a stretch,
holding a cold, wet paper towel on his neck as my baby shook and vomited
relentlessly from the anxiety he had been holding in all morning. Were you
there? If so, you would’ve seen firsthand that anxiety and depression can indeed
thrive in children.
I was there when the teacher came to get me and let me know my child was having what she thought was an anxiety attack. He was. I took him out of the room and talked him off the ledge. Many times. I wiped his tears and hugged him tight, I reassured him, “no, you’re not gay. You’ll figure that out when you’re older, and if you are gay, still, there’s nothing wrong with that, and we will still love you no matter what.” Were you there for that difficult conversation?
I was there helping comfort him during eight years of very painful encopresis. Which I had to figure out all on my own because the pediatrician kept saying, “just give him more Miralax.” I didn’t know then that it was behavioral. I didn’t know then it was typical of gender creative and transgender children. But I knew his pain wasn’t normal, despite what the doctors said. I carried his extra clothes and cleaning/sterilizing supplies everywhere we went, every day, just in case of accidents. Were you there offering help?
Every morning as I drove him to school, my once chipper, non-stop talker of a child became more and more withdrawn, until he was eventually curled up in a ball on the seat next to me, not wanting to live another day because his life felt so incongruent with his mind and his reality. After months of this, I realized it was more important to have an alive child than a stereotypically conforming child.
I offered him medication. I told him there was helpful therapy and medications for someone with such severe depression and anxiety. But, this child was terrified of pills and at age 8 1/2, had still not taken a single pill his entire life. We had to specifically request oral antibiotics for this reason. One particularly violent anxiety-laden vomiting episode when I was holding his head so he wouldn’t bash it on the toilet, I was there when he looked up at me afterwards with bloodshot eyes and said, “I think I’m ready to take the pills now.” In that moment of realization, that moment where my baby child realized he would need to conquer some pretty huge phobias in order to get better, were you there?
When we embraced Charlie and spoke publicly, affirming all the things that our son is, when we began advocating for him, and giving love without conditions, that was the moment we took back the bullying language. Yes, he is feminine. No, there’s nothing wrong with that. No, it’s not related to sexuality. He’s not even thinking in those terms yet. But however he ends up – whether that’s hyper-masculine jock, swishy gay, or asexual – we will still love without conditions. And he will not look back on this time with embarrassment, but with pride, because we’ve taught him to take pride in his whole self. We’ve taught him that “feminine” does not equal “less than.”
Gender Creative Life by Martie Sirois)
Gender Creative Life
Truth About Honesty and Pink Tutus
How I Chased Away the Bullies of My Gender Creative Child
Impact of Family Reactions on LGBT Children
BEHAVIORS TO AVOID
Family Behaviors that Increase Your LGBT Child’s Risk for Health and Mental
--Hitting, slapping or physically hurting your child because of their LGBT identity
--Verbal harassment or name-calling because of your child’s LGBT identity
--Excluding LGBT youth from family events and family activities
--Blocking access to LGBT friends, events, and resources
--Blaming your child when they are discriminated against because of their LGBT identity
--Pressuring your child to be more (or less) masculine or feminine
--Telling your child that God will punish them because they are gay
--Telling your child that you are ashamed of them or that how they look or act will shame the family
--Making your child keep their LGBT identity a secret in the family and not letting them talk about their identity with others
BEHAVIORS THAT HELP
Family Behaviors that Reduce Your LGBT Child’s Risk for Health and Mental Health
Problems & Help Promote Their Well-Being
--Talk with your child or foster child about their LGBT identity.
--Express affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is LGBT.
--Support your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable.
--Advocate for your child when he or she is mistreated because of their LGBT identity.
--Require that other family members respect your LGBT child.
--Bring your child to LGBT organizations or events.
--Connect your child with an LGBT adult role model to show them options for the future.
--Work to make your congregation supportive of LGBT members, or find a supportive faith community that welcomes your family and LGBT child.
--Welcome your child’s LGBT friends & partner to your home and to family events and activities.
--Support your child’s gender expression.
--Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBT adult.
Alabama Safe Schools Coalition
Respect for All Project
The Trevor Project
It Gets Better Project
Advocates for Youth
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays
National Youth Advocacy
Campus Pride Net
We Are Family
Lambda 10 Project
Queer Theory: Parenting Resources
Safe Schools Coalition
APA Report: Gay & Lesbian Parenting
GLAAD: Is Your Child Gay?
Queer Theory: Queer Kids
Parenting Info for Gays & Lesbians
Colage: Children of Lesbians And Gays Everywhere
Suicide Risk and Prevention for LGBT Youth
Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama