Updated: Jan 29, 2019
By Alessa Keener.
We live in unprecedented times, where many Americans can proudly and safely live as out lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. One measure of progress is in the number of states that have marriage equality–15 states as of today and the District of Columbia.
Despite the many positive steps our country continues to take to overcome discrimination and crimes against LGBTQ people, concerns still exist about the safety of our young people and their coming out process. Substance abuse, self-injury, homelessness, and suicide affect a disproportionate number of youth who identify as LGBT.
When children grow up both gifted and LGBT, they oftentimes experience a double whammy of differences in the way they experience the world and the way they attempt to fit into the world. In an effort to simply be accepted, or to even have a friend, many of these kids may wish away their giftedness, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity for the hope of just being “normal.”
Even in today’s more welcoming social landscape, coming out as gifted and LGBT is a complex process fraught with many emotionally charged concerns. No matter how safe and supportive a family may be, a young person may still struggle with these questions:
· “Is my family still going to love me?”
· “Will I be kicked out of the house?”
· “How will I ever go to college if my parents disown me?”
· “Will I get beat up at school?”
· “Do I take a risk and tell my crush I like him or her?”
The social-emotional turmoil that comes with struggling with these questions can cause the most confident and intelligent of kids to just freak out. The overwhelming feelings of fear and self-doubt can lead to depression. Trying to make sense of their new feelings and self-awareness may lead to less energy available for schoolwork. Teasing and bullying in school can result in skipping classes, an all-around drop in grades, or even dropping out of school.
Family support is an important factor for helping any LGBT person safely come out and not fall prey to the sad series of statistics. A supportive school environment also plays an important role in helping to provide physical and social-emotional safety to LGBT youth.
How you support your gifted LGBT child will be guided, in part, by family dynamics; personal, cultural, and/or religious affiliations; the geographic region you live in; as well as local and state laws that support equality and anti-discrimination against LGBT people.
The following suggestions may be helpful in guiding some of the choices you may need to make.
Sharing news about one’s sexual orientation or gender identity is a very personal decision, often made carefully after considering issues about physical and emotional safety. This is especially true in the early stages of a coming out process. Thanking your child for trusting you is the first step you can take in affirming your acceptance.
Don’t assume that just because you’ve been told the news that someone is LGBT that you have permission to tell other people or to talk about the news with your friends. Ask your child who already knows and if there are safe people you can talk to. Remember, you out your child every time you confide in someone about your child’s sexual orientation or gender identity– and your child might not be ready for all that attention, even if it’s coming from within your own family or a trusted teacher.
Be Patient About Grades
More than ever before, teenagers are coming out LGBT while still in high school. Many supportive fami