Not sharing your authentic self with your family can feel like you’re hidden behind a mask—like you’re hiding in plain site. If you’ve experienced this, you know that is can manifest as shame, stress or even chronic anxiety.
Your mental health, well-being, and having a safe place to call home should be a given. Regardless of your sexual orientation, you deserve to be accepted and loved.
But, what if your parents are less than accepting of the LGBTQIA+ community? Even worse, what if they are actively homophobic and dismissive of gay people? This can be incredibly hard to deal with.
If this is your reality, this article will teach you 11 actionable steps that you can take to deal with your homophobic parents in a responsible and healthy manner.
Dealing with Homophobic Parents
Whether it’s your parents, siblings, grandparents or other relatives who are homophobic, you deserve to be the person you were born to be. With this in mind, here are 11 trusted tips for dealing with your homophobic family.
1. Pre-Plan What You Are Going To Say
This is a high-risk and critical conversation, so don’t go into it unprepared or unsure of what you might say. Take the time to jot down a few of the key points you want to bring up.
Have an order to them and know where you are going to go in terms of the conversation if it starts to get hostile.
Practice your conversation in a mirror or read it aloud to yourself. Find the power in your words. Use it as a way to feel strong and confident before you have the actual conversation.
2. Focus on Feelings Overs Identities
This tip is a big one, because trying to express labels and identities to your parents can be extremely difficult. If you’re not comfortable or able to put the right words together to articulate a queer identity to your parents, then don’t.
Instead, focus on expressing what you feel to your parents.
When you talk about how you feel—for example, identifying as a certain gender or being attracted to people of the same sex—you may find that your parents are better able to listen and learn.
3. Tell A Trusted Adult
Depending on your age and whether you are still dependent on your parents for food, shelter or money, this step can be extremely important.
Take the time to tell an adult you trust what you are planning on doing. Ideally, this adult should be able to support you emotionally, as well as back you physically.
They might offer you guidance, help you practice what you are going to say, or provide a safe place for you to stay if the conversation doesn’t go well.
If you don’t have a trusted adult you can think of, a teacher or church member will work too. It’s about finding an adult you trust who can provide you with support as you prepare for a tumultuous conversation.
4. Tell a Few Trusted Friends
Coming out to your parents can feel like an overwhelming process, and you will need the emotional support of your friends at this time.
Only tell people that you trust and who are discrete in their conversations, and friends that will, of course, be there for you.
Sometimes when parents aren’t as supportive, it’s up to our friends to raise us up. They can be our cheerleaders and sources of comfort when our families don’t understand.
5. Decide Where to Talk to Your Parents
There is no right or wrong answer to this, it is wherever you feel most comfortable and at peace. Of course, you are naturally going to feel nervous, so the environment you have this conversation can help with that.
Do you think its best to be in the garden? At the kitchen table? In your own bedroom? Perhaps even a public place if you are feeling overly worried.
Imagine yourself in those scenarios and choose the best place for you.
6. Have an Emergency Plan
If your conversation with your parents doesn’t go well at all, make sure you have a backup plan.
Perhaps you can have a code word to send to your trusted adult or friend. Then they will know that something has happened and can be prepared to take further action.
Do you have somewhere you can go and stay if your react in a way that is unsupportive, controlling or volatile? They might just need a couple of hours or nights to allow them to process it.
Even a local cafe or coffee shop might be handy if you feel like you need some space.
7. Allow your Parents to React in the Moment
This might be a lot for your parents to take in and process all at once. Silence is not necessarily a bad thing or a knee jerk reaction. They might be confused or upset but this doesn’t mean they don’t love or care about you.
Give them the space to speak if they want. You might feel like you are doing all the talking or trying to explain everything from your point of view.
Allow them the time to react and ask any questions they might have.
Practice deep listening in response to their questions and feelings, so that they will feel heard too.
8. Allow your Parents the Time for the News to Settle in
Everybody processes information and news differently. Some parents or a parent might just need a few hours to comprehend things. Others might need days or weeks.
It can be a frustrating time if you feel a relief from finally opening up about your sexuality, but they aren’t ready to discuss anything further.
This doesn’t mean they never will, you might just need to give them a bit of space and time to come to terms with it.
9. Seek Out Others Just Like You!
It’s time to find your tribe! There is nothing better than finding friends who have gone through or are going through the same things as you.
It is refreshing and exciting and you can learn so much from their own experiences and stories.
Coming out to your parents can be a frightening experience, so find people that you can laugh about it with and swap stories.
Perhaps there is an LGBTQ+ youth group, or writing group, or online community you can tap into? Maybe there’s a sport team or an art or poetry group that isn’t exclusively queer, but is very LGBTQ+ friendly?
10. If Helpful, Seek Out Counseling
If you have a negative or painful experience trying to explain your sexuality to homophobic parents, that experience can be traumatic.
You don’t want those negative ideas to follow you around. As a wise mentor once said to me, “We tend to repeat the experiences we don’t heal.”
If helpful, look into getting counseling in person or online. It can be empowering to share your feelings and be heard by someone with the professional skills to help you process this difficult experience.
If you’re not sure who to turn to, it can be extremely helpful to speak with a queer-affirming licensed therapist.
11. If You Are in Danger – Seek Out Immediate Help
If the worst thing happens and you are physically in danger from your parents, then seek immediate protection and intervention. Depending on the severity of the situation, you may need to call the police or your trusted adult.
You can also access support from local LGBTQ+ groups in your area, who might be able to provide housing, food, or shelter.
If needed, you can always reach out to The Trevor Project. This organization has trained counselors ready to support you 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, you can call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386.
How to Deal with Homophobic Parents
I hope these strategies for how to deal with homophobic parents were valuable…and actionable.
While coming out to your parents is a difficult and scary task, thousands of people before you have walked the same path. If you need proof, you can watch an endless stream of inspiring stories shared by people just like you at ItGetsBetter.org.
And remember: If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love somebody else?
Do you have other questions about how to handle homophobic parents or grandparents or family? Ask them in the comments below.
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