Parents, family and friends can have a big impact, especially in the lives of LGBTQ youth. Sometimes, these people are the ones who help us get the support we need – other times, it’s us who connect them with life-affirming resources.
For some LGBTQ young people, family and friends aren’t a part of their support system at all because of things like rejection, discrimination, or a lack of understanding. That can be really difficult, but we want you to know that you aren’t alone. No matter how your friends and family affect your life, or how you make a difference in theirs, The Trevor Project is always here to support you. You are a worthwhile person and deserve to be treated with respect and love!
1. My friend told me that he felt like killing himself. I told him not to, but I don’t know what else to do. Please help!
We’re glad you reached out for help! That is a brave and important thing to do. Your friend is lucky to have someone who cares so much about his future.
Suicide is a very serious issue. Let your friend know that he is not alone, and that his life is worth fighting for. If he’s between the ages of 13 and 24, please encourage him to reach out to The Trevor Project’s 24/7 Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. You two can even call together. Our counselors are always standing-by to listen and talk through any problems he may be having. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also available any time at 1-800-273-8255.
If there is ever a time when you feel like your friend is going to act on his feelings, call 911 immediately or get him to a hospital. Even if he’s upset, he will be grateful that you helped save his life in the long-run.
You can also read through the warning signs of suicide on Trevor’s website. If you recognize any of these in someone you know, like your friend, there are steps you can take to help. Connect the person to resources, like The Trevor Project. Accept that their feelings are real, and take them seriously. Respond if you’re concerned and tell a trusted adult right away, whether it’s a teacher, parent, counselor, doctor, or relative. Lastly, empower the person to get help, like by calling the Trevor Lifeline. It is not an easy thing to do, but it may be life-saving. Remember, you are not responsible for anyone who chooses to take their own life.
2. My parent’s won’t let me see my boyfriend, who I love very much. They say I’m not gay, and that I’m just confused. It’s so frustrating! I am openly gay at school and have really supportive friends, but how do I help my parents understand?
First, we’re so happy to hear that you are out and proud at school. It sounds like you have some solid support from your friends and from your boyfriend. That’s great! It’s also brave that you’ve come out to your parents – we know that isn’t always easy.
The situation with your parents is a tough one, but we hope you know that you are not alone. Every parent takes a different amount of time to understand and accept their LGBTQ child. Some may take longer than others, and in certain worst-case scenarios a parent may choose not to become accepting. Have you heard about PFLAG? It stands for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, and it’s an awesome organization that helps families grow to support their LGBTQ child. Since you’ve told your parents that you’re gay, maybe you can try to share some PFLAG resources with them. It might help them feel less alone, too. Here are some PFLAG tools that we recommend:
- “Our Daughters and Sons: Questions and Answers for Parents of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth and Adults” – This booklet can be read online or printed, and it’s a great first step for many parents.
- PFLAG Chapter Finder – If your parents want a place to other parents with LGBTQ children, seeing if there is a chapter meeting nearby could be a great idea. http://pflag-chapter-map.herokuapp.com/
- You can guide them to the PFLAG National website (www.PFLAG.org) so that they can do some research themselves.
We know this is hard. Keep being proud of who you are, and continue to spend with your supportive friends and boyfriend. The people in our lives who accept us for who we are can really help us get through tough times like these.
3. I think my younger sister may be transgender. I was wondering, are there things I can do to support her?
Your sister is lucky to have such an observant and caring person like you in her life. Please know that your support will help her so much, however she decides to identify when she is ready.
Keep in mind that your sister may not be sure about her identity yet, and there is no rush for her to figure it out. The best thing to do right now would be to show her you’re there for her no matter what, and educate yourself about gender identity and what it means to be transgender.
For instance, starting a conversation with her about well-known transgender people, or transgender characters on TV or in movies, might give your sister a chance to talk about how she feels. Having discussions about gender identity can demonstrate your openness and support and help pave the way if or when she is ready to come out. Also, just offering a nonjudgmental ear for listening can go a long way.
You can also learn more about gender identity and transgender identities through online resources like The Gender Spectrum and The Gender Book. How awesome would it be if you could be there for her if she ever has a question, or when she isn’t sure who will understand what she’s going through? As your sister explores her own identity, your love and support will make a world of difference.
4. I came out to my dad about 2 years ago, and he’s been terrible ever since. He says things like: “I love my son but not the f** inside him.” Thankfully I live with my mom now, who is super supportive, but I can’t forgive him for the way he has treated me. People tell me that I need to have a relationship with him because he is my father, but I just can’t. What can I do to heal an already tattered relationship?
It’s a wonderful thing when our parents treat us with love, support and respect; but it can be terrible when they act in ways that are cruel and disrespectful. Despite what people have said, you don’t need to have a relationship with your father if you don’t want one. No one can force you to change your mind.
You’re the only person who can set boundaries for the relationship you want with your father. It’s hard to do, especially with our parents, because we’re not used to saying, “I want us to communicate in this way,” or “I’m not going to stand for that kind of language.”
It’s important to know that your dad’s hurtful words and actions reflect his issues, not yours. You may not be able to change his behavior – what he chooses to say or do is up to him. However, you can control whether or not you want to involve him in your life.
Have you talked to him about wanting to heal your relationship? If you’re leaning toward having no contact with him until he can be more supportive and less homophobic, you might want to let him know. Talking over the phone, with email, or through a letter are all good ways to share your thoughts in a safe way. Be clear about what he is doing that is causing you pain, what you want to see change, and what you’re going to do until he changes. Consider giving him a date when you’ll contact him again to hear his thoughts. Then, it’s up to him to decide whether or not he’s going to change how he’s been acting.
Do you think you might want a relationship with him, even if he’s being homophobic? Maybe you’ll decide to give him a chance, while setting up some protections for yourself in case things get difficult – one of these protections might be setting limits for how long you’re willing to be around him, or explaining that you’ll leave the room if he starts to get verbally abusive. As always, it’s up to you to determine how you want to handle your relationship with your dad.
After you’ve thought about it, you may decide to just keep away from him until something changes. That’s ok too. The most important thing is to make a decision that keeps you as safe and supported as possible. Are you able to talk to your mom or another trusted adult about your concerns about your dad? Teachers, co-workers, or counselors are also good people to reach out to. Going through this stuff is hard, and everyone needs someone that can stand by their side. You can also always call the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386 to speak with a trained counselor, or go on www.TrevorChat.org (instant messaging online) or www.TrevorSpace.org (our safe, secure social network site). You are not alone!