raising lgbtq kids

I always thought I would be such an open and accepting parent. Parenting takes a lot of understanding and compassion, and I felt really ready to support my children in any possible way. Maybe I didn’t have all the answers, but as long as they didn’t come home and tell me they were Yankees fans, I’d love and support them no matter what. My kids are my greatest gift.

So, when my teenage son came home and told me he was dating a transgender person and was “probably not straight” and felt connected to the LGBTQ+ community, I thought, “I got this!”  

Spoiler alert: I did not have it. At all.

I asked a ton of questions. And then anytime his social life came up in conversation, I asked more questions. I wanted to be open and inclusive, and I felt like I needed more information to be fully accepting. Ensuring he felt loved and supported by his parents was such a high priority for me, so I had visions of heart-to-heart conversations and meaningful, life-changing chats. I wanted to know how he identified and what he felt like his label would be. “Are you gay? Bi? Queer?” I tried so hard to get everything right.

And that’s where I went wrong.

After a conversation (or, as he remembers it, an interrogation) full of questions from me and typical teen answers of, “Yep,” “Nope,” and “I don’t know,” he stopped me. “Mom, why do you CARE so much? What’s the big deal? I don’t have these answers — I’m just figuring it out.” I froze. Didn’t he see that I was asking because I cared so much? How did he not see how much I was trying to understand? Was I making this a big deal?

Then he said something I will never forget: “Mom, you don’t have to understand and know everything to accept it. You just have to accept it.” And boy, did I let that sink in.

I was so busy trying to figure out which of the LGBTQ+ letters were “his” that my barrage of questions made him feel pressured to give answers he didn’t have. And I inadvertently caused him to feel insecure about his identity. He simply wants to fall in love with whoever he falls in love with, and he doesn’t need — or want — labels at this point. He wants to be part of an open community as he explores what his gender and sexuality mean to him.

And that is so OK.

So, when my younger child told me a few weeks ago that she feels connected to the Pride flag but isn’t sure how, I said that was cool. When she told me she wants to fall in love with a person’s personality and not because of their gender or identity, I let her know that was a good plan. And when she said she knows she is part of the LGBTQ+ community but isn’t sure how she fits, I told her there isn’t a place to “fit,” there’s just a place to “be.” As she smiled, I felt confident in my hope that she’ll always know she has a safe place with her parents. 

Who knew that less would be more? Turns out I didn’t. Turns out this isn’t as big of a deal as I was making it. Turns out acceptance is way easier than I anticipated!

And don’t worry, I went back to my son and thanked him for opening my eyes. I have learned that accepting my children — and all people — doesn’t mean I have to understand everything. It means I accept everything I learn. Not only has this put less pressure on my children to feel like they have to explain themselves, it also allows me to just “be” as their mom.

For support for an LGBTQ+ child or teen, visit the Trevor Project and the Greater Boston PFLAG.

My daughter’s recent painting.
Michelle Mady
Michelle is a lifelong New Englander who lives in Stoneham and works in Charlestown. She is a preschool teacher and Assistant Director at a small private preschool and holds a master’s degree in early childhood education, which has come in useful at both work and home. She has a supportive stay-at-home-dad for a husband and is a mom of five children. She has three boys born in 2005, 2007 and 2008, plus two girls born in 2012 and 2015. Michelle teaches infant and toddler classes for early education teachers and is an adjunct professor for The School Of Mom. She also runs her own business, The Parenting Survival Expert, offering parenting tips and support. In her spare time, she can be found reading a murder mystery novel, sipping far too much coffee, and dreaming of a home in the mountains.