How a Parent’s Journey Can Help Us Be More Inclusive

How a Parent’s Journey Can Help Us Be More Inclusive June 9, 2022

I’m the Parent of an LGBTQ Child… Two of Them!

Our lives changed the day our child Annie called from college (at 20) to say they were bisexual. We lost family, friends, and community. A year later, our youngest came out as well!

Our children took a great risk to come out and live their true authentic lives. I had to learn, and grow, and make mistakes. Annie gave me resources and I did extensive research. They told me stories of people badly rejected by family and community, thrown out like trash. Kids beaten, disowned, thrown to the streets—all because they came out to their parents. Kids abused and thrown into “conversion therapy” programs—all to “make them straight.” It broke my heart.

And it highly motivated me. I knew I had to figure this thing out—to be the mom my child deserves… and to be a mom to those whose parents shame and reject them. And to help other parents on their journey. I wanted to become a voice of love to those who were rejected.

So We Became Fulltime Advocates and Allies. We founded FreedHearts, which has grown into a vibrant community full of extensive resources for parents and for LGBTQ+. Our purpose is to help free hearts to love and be loved.

FreedHearts has now reached millions!

Do Your Own Work. When Annie came out, I realized I was the one who needed to change (not them), to become more expansive, more inclusive, more loving. Society has rejected LGBTQ+ people—and considers them inconvenient because they force us to question our assumptions, expand our thinking, and have uncomfortable conversations. That journey made me a far better parent and far better human being.

The Power of a Parent and an Ally

We parent holds our child’s heart in our hands—and our response matters.

Parents hold tremendous power for change in our communities, schools, places of worship, and homes. Our stories change hearts and move society.

On this journey, we get to find out who our real friends and family are—but we also get to find out who WE are. When something disruptive to your thinking happens, when you are forced to open your box, you really face yourself as a parent and as a person.

The Cost to Be Yourself Can Be Exorbitant. The cost to support someone else to be true to themselves can also be exorbitant, as family and friends abandon you when you support your own child.

Society extracts a high price for being gay! In community, school, workplace. It is cruel and unkind. Countless people are depressed, full of self-hatred—because they’re not accepted and included as they are.

Every day I get emails from people traumatized by family and faith-based rejection. The trauma they experience is NOT because they’re gay, NOT because they’re transgender—the trauma is because they are rejected for being those things. How do I know this? Because those who are embraced, those who are included, don’t usually have those struggles, those bad outcomes. It’s the rejection that causes the trauma.

LGBTQ+ people experience depression, self-harm, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts at alarmingly high rates—and the root cause of this is family and faith-based rejection.

25% of LGBTQ+ homeless youth became homeless the very day they came out to their Christian parents.

57% of transgender youth without supportive parents attempt suicide. When even just one parent is supportive, that number drops to 4%. THAT is what is at stake here. That’s the power a parent holds in their hands.

It can be scary when our children come out—and our foundation shakes.

But then our worldview expands and reveals our faulty assumptions—and helps move us forward!

We may think we can entice/cajole/threaten people back into the closet, but that is the worst response that leads to brokenness and death.

Instead, we can come alongside them on the journey, stand behind them in support, and stand in front of them to deflect arrows.

The Answer Is Lavish Inclusion.

LGBTQ+ inclusion is vital for all of us to be the love we want to see in the world! It’s easy to love people you already like, and think things you’ve already thought. But when you allow your thinking to be disrupted, and expand your understanding, then you can be the love you want to see in the world!

Real love accepts people as they are with room for who they may become.

So, here are a few simple, but critical things a parent of an LGBTQ+ child can do:

  1. Listen more than you speak. This may be new to you but it’s not new to your child. Listen to and learn from them.
  2. Do your own work. Don’t make your child prove what they’re saying… or answer all your questions.
  3. Err on the side of love and acceptance. Default toward love and acceptance, not judgment and rejection. Choose love over being “right,” because love is always right.
  4. Don’t go through this alone. Find parents who have been on this journey for a while. We can help with that. Come say hello at FreedHearts.org

Movement is happening towards greater diversity, expansiveness, and inclusion. Be part of it.

This Applies to All of Us—Not Just Parents.

Bullying is epidemic against LGBTQ+ people and others who are marginalized.

People who feel “different” are most likely to be bullied—whether they’re LGBTQ+, or don’t conform to norms of gender, race, nationality, or color. Bullying, harassment, and abuse increase risk of suicide exponentially.

But the journeys of affirming parents and their LGBTQ+ children can move societies. Your own journey has a ripple effect, whose results you won’t ever see!

Support the Change! BE the Change.

Don’t tell racist jokes, even if no one of that race is in the room, because it perpetuates harmful narrative about people of that race. Don’t tell sexist jokes, even if there are no women in the room, because it perpetuates harmful narrative about women. Don’t tell LGBTQ+ jokes, because it perpetuates harmful negative beliefs about the LGBTQ+ community–and, because you never know who’s in the room! You don’t know who’s in the closet. You don’t know who hasn’t come out of the closet because of exactly those kinds of jokes.

You KNOW someone who has an LGBTQ+ child, someone who is gay, who is lesbian, and who is bisexual, and who is transgender. And many of those people are in the closet! Some are still trying to figure it out.

When someone tells such a joke, you can simply say: “I’d rather we not tell those jokes, because they can really hurt people.”

Here are a Few Simple Ways to Effect Change:

  1. Focus on our own inclusion, acceptance, and affirmation. Support people who work for inclusion, be the people who work for inclusion. Start with the next person we encounter—especially if they’re different from us.
  2. Focus on diversity in our lives. Expand our worldview. Be more diverse in what we read, watch, do—and in the people in our circles.
  3. Switch our focus. …away from what is “right and wrong” to what is loving and unloving. Then choose love, because love is always right.
  4. Learn. Soak up different perspectives. Listen and learn much more than you speak and teach.
  5. Tune your radar. Become hyperaware of inappropriate jokes, comments, and discussions, and be unwilling to take part in any way.

Become inclusive because it’s humane. It’s kind. It’s how we love well. Look for people on the edges, and be love and kindness. Your heart, so many other hearts need us to be part of that change!

Be inclusive. Be affirming. Be the change and the love you want to see in the world.

We have supportive, inclusive community, and extensive resources, for parents, LGBTQ+, and allies.  Just come say hello at FreedHearts.org

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