In recent months LGBTQ kids from the streets of Russia to communities around the world have seen a country arresting its own citizens for being gay. In Uganda a law was passed making homosexuality illegal. The law also provides long prison sentences for anyone who supports the civil rights of LGBTQ people or offers them aid. Not only is it illegal to be gay, it’s illegal to not report someone you suspect of being gay. It reminds me of Nazi Germany.
Right here in America, we witnessed a father of a talented NFL draft pick express his disapproval of his son when he came out as gay. Reading Michael Sam, Sr.’s response to his son’s coming out breaks my heart. I know first-hand the long-term impact that kind of response has on our LGBTQ kids. It affects their self-esteem and can lead to depression and substance abuse and in some cases, even suicide attempts.
In sharp contrast to Michael Sam’s father, LGBTQ kids around the world saw a powerful model of parental acceptance when Magic and Cookie Johnson shared their love for their openly gay son on the Oprah’s Next Chapter Program on the OWN television network.
Oprah asked whether or not they knew their son was gay. I so related to Cookie. Like a mom, she suspected from a very early age. “He’s your child. You love your child and you support your child, no matter what they are. Being a mom, I knew.” Cookie said. Magic said, “It was a shock in the beginning but also I knew.” Magic relays that he told his son, “E.J., I love you so I’m going to support you no matter what… He wanted my approval. He wanted my support.”
If only all LGBTQ youth had that kind of support from their parents when they come out. Sadly, that is not the case. Even when parents love their kids no matter what, as Magic said, it can be a shock in the beginning and parents may need to go through a period of adjustment. During that time, their LGBTQ child may feel rejected even if that is not the parent’s intent. So much can be done to alleviate those feelings and to help the parents move along their path and build a bridge to understanding and acceptance in a way that supports both the parents and the LGBTQ youth.
For parents who love their child and want to understand, there are tools available to move toward acceptance and understanding. Love denied is a tragedy, and it is time to bring in the healing. Parents and LGBTQ youth continue to struggle. Here are some tips to lay the foundation.
- Start by acknowledging and accepting where you are. If you don’t start there, you won’t be able to move beyond it.
- Be courageous and open in discussing uncomfortable topics with one another.
- Show compassion and caring in your communications so you will be heard and understood. Communicating out of anger, frustration and disappointment stops the message you are trying to deliver from being heard.
- Be patient with yourself and one another. It takes time to adjust one’s expectations and there is no one way and no one right way. Everyone has a unique path.
- Trust yourself, your feelings, and who you are. When the foundation of love is still there, you can trust that you will be able to build a bridge back to understanding and acceptance.
To learn more about Susan Berland and download her A.C.C.E.P.T.™ Manifesto, click http://susanhopeberland.com/gift.
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