Firstly, it is important for parents of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) teens to remember each child is unique and will have their own experiences and feelings along the way.
“Coming out” is a lifelong journey of understanding, acknowledging and sharing one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation with others. It may be quick and easy for some, or longer and more difficult for others.
Feelings of being “different” emerge throughout childhood, although it may not be clear to the child what the feelings means. Children may begin exploring gender and relationships before kindergarten, so “coming out” and sharing these feelings of being different with others may happen at any time. For many kids, gender identity becomes clear around puberty as they develop gender characteristics and stronger romantic attractions. However, many LGBT teens have said, in retrospect, that they began to sense something “different” about themselves early in life, and for gender diverse youth, sometimes as far back as preschool. See Gender Diverse & Transgender Children.
It is common for LGBT teens to feel scared or nervous during this stage. Some can start to feel isolated from their peers, especially if they feel that they don’t fit in or are given a hard time for being different. Just remember that children who feel loved and accepted for who they are have a much easier time.
- Parents and families can:
Play an important role advocating for safe spaces where their child can explore interests without judgment or stereotypes.
- Support diverse friendships and social involvement without focusing on expectations around gender.
- Provide exposure to people working and enjoying activities outside of conventional gender expectations.
- Engage in conversations and check regularly with your children about their interests, friend groups, romantic attractions, and any bullying or teasing that may be taking place.
“I think I might be gay (or lesbian, bi, or trans), but I’m not sure, and I don’t know how I feel about that.…”
Beyond just feeling “different,” young people begin to wonder if they might be “gay” (or lesbian, bi or trans) or some other label they may prefer. Many teens have mixed feelings when they first try on a new way of identifying. It can be a mix of excitement, relief, and worry.