When children come out as LGBTQ, parents can experience an over-protective response to the child regardless of their age. They want to put them in the contraption the "bubble boy" lived in and keep them away from the world. They want to be sure no one hurts them. This is a natural and quite healthy response. We live in a world that is very hostile and violent to people who are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender. If a person is transgender or gender variant (see essay on gender variance) they are more likely to encounter violence inflicted upon their person. The response most parents have to protect their children, in a world that has in many ways communicated its distain for LGBT people, is an adaptive response. A parent never wants their child subjected to violence or marginalization based simply on who they are. In order for parents to reconcile this need to protect their child they must understand that their child needs them to love them not shelter them or panic. For the most part, when a child reaches the point that they disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to their parents they are at a place in which they know what they are up against. The child has probably already experienced or witnessed discrimination, may already have experienced violence from their peers based on their identity and most likely has the developed survival mechanisms to battle the injustices of being "other" in our society.
Parents of LGBTQ children, who they themselves are not LGBTQ, must learn what it means to LGBTQ in our country. Unlike children born into families that understand marginalization due to their racial, ethnic, religious or other identity, LGBTQ children are usually born into heterosexual families which do not prepare them for what society will dole out to them. If a family wants to support and address these issues with their children they must learn the various levels of oppression that LGBTQ people experience. These realities are diverse, as diverse as the LGBTQ community. There is not one list of challenges that everyone in the LGBTQ community face but there are some experiences that can be similar. The life of a gender conforming white Lesbian can be very different than that of a Bisexual gender variant black man. Both of these people may feel isolated because they have not found people like themselves but a man that is black and gender variant will more likely experience higher rates of violence because of society's reaction to how they express their gender and the lack of investment our culture has to black men.
There are a few things parents can do besides locking their children in a glass box. They can take an active interest in the lives of their children. Get to know who their friends are and have them spend time in your home. If your child and their friends are in your home, you will know who they come in contact with and you will be able to provide the safety they deserve. Get to know where your child and their friends hang out when they do go out. Some neighborhoods are safer than others and you can help your child figure out what areas they should avoid, although they may already know that based on their experiences. Get to know LGBTQ resources in your community that will provide safe recreational spaces for your child. Even if they are not within an LGBT organization, they may be inclusive of LGBTQ youth and a better option than a club where alcohol is served. Find a support group for you, a local P-FLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group may be a great option. P-FLAG is a national organization with chapters throughout the country that provide support to families of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender people. If this does not exist in your community get in touch with P-FLAG and start your own chapter. Most importantly love your child. We hear too many stories about children who commit suicide for fear of sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity with anyone and that does not have to be your child. Tell your child you love them and most importantly show them you love them. Take an interest in their lives, dedicate time just for them each day and know who they are as a person. If you are closely connected to your child they will trust that they can confide anything in you and they would never lose your love. If you notice your child is acting differently do not be afraid to ask for help.
Remember there is nothing wrong with your child. They are wonderfully them! They are not going to break...in fact they are going to get stronger with your love. They are not broken...society is broken, but we can fix it!!!