So many times, people say “Wow, you’re such a great mom!” when I tell them about my daughter. While it’s a lovely compliment, that someone thinks I have done a good job raising humans, I can’t help but feel like applauding me for loving my kid is a bit ridiculous. I mean, isn’t that really the only job of being a parent? To love your child?
Here are a few tips to be a great parent – and more importantly, a strong ally.
1. Believe them.
When someone shares a big secret with you, answering them with “Are you sure?” tells them that in fact you are not a safe person for them. By doing this, you communicate that you don’t trust them with those words – you are saying that you can’t believe it.
When kids come out as Trans, parents commonly say things like “But you’ve always loved…” and insert some toy or hobby or sport associated with their assigned-at-birth gender. Don’t do this. Open your heart, hear what the child is saying and tell them you love and trust them by continuing to listen to them.
2. Accept them.
This sounds a lot like the point above, and while they are similar they are not quite the same. While you might believe that the child believes themselves to be on the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum, you might not agree with them. You might have moral objections; you might be afraid about what kind of a life this means they’re going to lead. When you’re in that place, you’re more likely to ask questions like “When did you know?” At its heart, that is not accepting, and often the child can’t answer when or how they knew. They’ve always known, just like you’ve always known you’re cis or straight.
An ally doesn’t question anything that’s told to them; an ally says “Ah, thank you for telling me. Is there anything I can do right now to support you?” Remember that your questions about their identity might be construed as disbelief or non-acceptance; generally, it’s best to just listen and continue to support them. And if you feel deeply like you can’t not say anything, then ask how you can best support them, and thank them for trusting you to care for them with this information.
3. Don’t make assumptions.
When my daughter came out, my brain started to fast-forward big time. I was making decisions and plans based entirely on assumptions. This made it difficult for our lines of communication to stay open, because she had no idea what I was thinking. As I learned to simply listen and not ask questions, and to not make assumptions, I learned about what my daughter wanted her journey to look like. All of the experts say, “Let the child lead,” and they say this because it’s the best thing to do.
This was tough for me, I’m not going to lie. I didn’t have much information at all about sexual and gender identity; in fact, I didn’t even know that “sexual and gender identity” was a thing! I began to identify my assumptions, and I dug into education. As I opened up my understanding on these topics, it was so much easier for me to trust my daughter to lead us. She knows what she needs and wants, and my job is to support – and sometimes advocate for – those needs and wants.
4. Use identified pronouns and names.
This seems like a no-brainer; I wish it was! Many people struggle to update their language when referring to Trans and Enby people: “I’ve called you <deadname> for so long, it’s hard for me.”
The reality is, when you replace your cell phone you figure out its updated functionality pretty quickly. This tells everyone around you that you can catch on pretty quickly when you want to.
If you’re struggling with pronouns and names of someone you love, ask yourself if you care about them. If your answer is yes, then work on it. Look at pictures of them when you’re not with them and use their name and pronouns, tell stories about them and use their updated name and pronouns (that’s right: because they’ve always been who they are, you just didn’t know) or write emails and letters to them. Practice and update your language because honestly, it saves lives.
5. It’s not about you.
This is a tough one. It’s tough because everything we’ve been socialized to understand about coming out stories is about the reactions. “What did your mom say?” we ask. Or we watch on repeat the videos of kids coming out and their parents continuing to love them. Or we imagine what we would say if someone came out to us. What we have come to understand through socialization about the LGBTQ2S+ spectrum is that their stories are performances for the cis hetero world. It’s entertainment for us. This dangerous message has led many well-meaning people to make coming out stories about them. “Oh, I’ve known for a while,” or “What will your father/pastor think/tell the community about you?”
The truth is: someone’s identification is not about you. Don’t make the mistake of thinking or saying things like “I can’t deal with this” or “It’s hard for me to understand” or “It’s going to take me some time.” This is about them, and how they are including you in their life with this information.
Listen. Support. Accept. It really is that simple.
Michelle Scrimgeour-Brown is a master energy healer, published author, clairvoyant and non-denominational minister who practices at Spirited Healing. She delights in training others to hone their own intuitive abilities through her program Ignite Your Intuition, and she is excited about the opportunity to shift energetic blockages in real time, making it possible for you to truly step into the life you long for. Her book, In the Past…, is available on her website at www.spiritedhealing.ca/book/ and at local independent bookstores. IG: @revmichellesb FB: @spiritedhealing