To the parents whose child has come out as lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or told you that she is transgender–I bet you’re swinging from one extreme emotion to another.
You might want to know that the median age for children to have same-sex behaviours in the USA is 12-15; to label oneself as gay, lesbian, or bi-sexual is 15-18; and to disclose this identity to another person is 17-19. See: “Sexual Identity–a guide for Parents”
“Sexual Identity–a guide for Parents” is a pamphlet for parents grappling with this new possibility in their family life. It is written by Dr. Mark Yarhouse, who does clinical psychological research on issues of sexual identity, including gender identity. His work is done from a Christian perspective. He runs the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. This resource is a good start to understanding what is ahead for you. See his qualifications to speak on this topic here.
Your first stop might be at the school counsellor’s office, but I would eventually find an outside professional counsellor who does family counselling, who will include you, as the parent, in walking this journey. Schools do not provide counselling for parents. Parental involvement is necessary for the best outcomes.
What children need the most, no matter what the issue, is the unconditional love, support, and acceptance of their parents. Any person or body who attempts to wedge itself between the loving authority of the parent and that of the child, is the wrong person to counsel your child on anything.
Unconditional love, support, and acceptance does not mean rolling over and letting your child run without boundaries. It does not mean easily allowing them to abandon your family’s values. Because, to allow them to abandon your family’s values is really to lose them in the long-run. How you navigate this and what this looks like for your family, is not for me or anyone else—“professional or not” to dictate, but I want to reassure you that children find security in their parents’ boundaries, even if they might appear to be rebelling.
I’ve digested all the following resources, as I researched this topic. The resources are written from a Christian point of view, but I can guarantee that they are written from a point of compassion, because I’ve read them.
For resources from other points of view, I’m sure your student counsellor can point you to those.
If your child has come out as homosexual, bi-sexual, or told you that he is transgender; I would want to do as much reading as I can from all points of view (the IB Learner Profile is ‘open-minded‘). It will be easy for parents to find resources that reinforce mainstream ideas (the “sexual revolution”), since the mainstream media is the loudest bullhorn. To balance that, I offer what is on my bookshelf that offers a conservative point of view. It’s not just my Christian identity that makes me conservative, but my Chinese cultural heritage. Even though these resources are Christian, they have value for all conservative parents, because it is difficult to find resources that are conservative without being hateful. I can guarantee you that none of the resources here are hateful. I’ve read them.
This is what I would do for you, if I met you over tea to discuss this issue. I would recommend reading these books. Recommending resources are part and parcel of being a school teacher.
- Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill is an autobiography of an American pastor who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA) but has chosen not to identify as gay, nor to adopt the lifestyle.
Is God anti-gay? by Sam Allberry is part autobiography and part teaching from an Anglican priest who experiences same-sex attraction (SSA) but has chosen not to identify as gay, nor to adopt the lifestyle.
What does it mean to experience same-sex attraction but not to identify as gay? Well, all Christians believe that trying to “find ourselves” will always result in despair, because peace and fulfillment are never found by being self-seeking. We find “coherence” by aligning our identity to our identity as a child of God. This is the only identity that fulfills. We find peace and fulfillment in our identity as children of our heavenly father; and not in anything else (in collecting wealth, in our careers, in our looks, in our achievements etc. etc.). How this translates to gay Christians is they no longer find their identity in their sexuality. Read the two above books by Wesley Hill and Sam Allberry as nothing explains it better than a personal testimony. (My daughter bought my copy of the book when Sam Allberry went to her university and she listened to him give a talk.)
Dr Mark Yarhouse does clinical psychiatric research on issues of sexual identity, including Gender Identity. He runs the Institute for the Study of Sexual Identity. See his qualifications to speak about these issues here.
When I first started researching the phenomenon of Gender Dysmorphia (gender identity issues), I watched this lecture of his at Calvin College: Understanding Gender Dysphoria. You’ll read lots of negative comments about Dr Yarhouse on the internet. You would expect a lot of polarized views about a clinical psychologist doing research on sexual identity, from the point of view of a Christian. So I suggest you watch his lecture and make up your mind whether he is academic or not, compassionate or not. That’s what I did.
Love is an Orientation by Andrew Marin is Andrew’s story when three of his closest friends “came out”, in the space of three months.
US versus US gives compelling research to bridge the cultural divide between the LGBT community and the “straight” Christian community. It is an argument for tolerance, compassion, and love, because the research shows that LGBT and Christians have more in common, than what separates us. The gay community is spiritual and feels a close connection to God, …if only the church would accept and welcome them. See the following infographic based on the contents of the book:
I have not read the above book, but if had a transgender child, I would want to read this book, because it’s written for laypeople. This was one of the first books written for laypeople about Gender Dysphoria and it came out in 2015, the year that Bruce Jenner transitioned to being female and became Caitlin Jenner. This event, chronicled by the press, made the concept of transgender, mainstream. My generation grew up with Bruce Jenner on TV and on cereal boxes, so it was a very disorienting experience to watch him transition. I can’t imagine what a parent would go through with their own child…
I have not read the above book so I won’t make a comment but you can read about the book on the Amazon website. I include it because the description of the book says: “Sections of the book are also dedicated to helping parents respond to their children and teens who struggle with questions of sexual identity”.
Did you know that there are communities of individuals who experience Same-Sex Attraction (SSA) but do not identity as gay, nor do they adopt the gay lifestyle? We don’t hear about these communities because they have no voice. The LGBT community does not represent them, and the Christian community does not include them. I met several of these Christians at a seminar put on by Journey Canada in my hometown in Canada. There is a support group for this community in my hometown. This organization does NOT teach conversion therapy. Still, they have been vilified in the press. This organization provides seminars for people to explore their sexual identity issues. If I had a child who has come out gay or feels transgender, I would want to attend some of their seminars in order to best help my child, and help myself through the eventual ups and downs of this new reality.
Just to summarize for the uninitiated: In Essence, Christians believe that we should all find our core identity in our identity as a beloved child of our Father in heaven (God). The metaphor to describe God is “father” for a reason. This is where how we find congruence, peace, and well-being. Trying to express our core identities through our careers, our possessions, our educational degrees, our families, our marriages will never satisfy. Just look around you at society, to see that they don’t satisfy. Moreover the futility of finding our core identity through our sexual relationships—any sexual relationships, “straight” or “not”. The Same-Sex Attracted (SSA) Christian community finds its core identity in their relationship to their father in heaven (God). They have NOT lost their attraction for the same-sex, but they find their peace, wholeness, and fulfillment in God. It is not a sexual orientation conversion–which is physical and won’t last, but a spiritual conversion for all eternity.
I greatly hope that these resources will be of some help to you.
Also see my blogpost about 10 Questions to ask your school about its LGBT Sex Ed Curriculum.