I am a straight mom with a grown lesbian daughter and co-chair of our local PFLAG chapter. We have many young people attend our meetings which has encouraged us to work with our school system. The one area we are finding difficult is the (straight) kids with lgbt parents. The ones we’ve met who are in middle school and even high school absolutely refuse to tell anyone they have gay parents. The schools that do try to be inclusive [of lgbt youth] have to be reminded to include non-discrimination against kids with gay parents because of the harassment factors. These kids also don’t want to hang out with the gay kids who come to the meetings and appear to feel very isolated. What can we do to help?
First of all, thanks so much for your advocacy on behalf of these sons and daughters! As you now know from personal experience, too often the needs of these youth are forgotten about. Some of them face the same level of harassment that queer youth face — teasing, taunting, threats, and sometimes physical violence.
Outreach to kids of GLBT parents if very difficult for many reasons. Some of those reasons are:
- Their parents are not officially “out” to them.
- Lack of transportation.
- The parent does not want the children to tell anyone.
- The children fear that going to a “support group” about having queer parents would betray their family.
- They worry that other kids in the group will “out” them.
- The other (straight) parent won’t allow their children to be involved with anything queer.
- Some kids can’t fathom what their parents’ sexuality has to do with them, much less how they could fill an hour talking about it.
- The children might be dealing with their own homophobia and turned off to anything with the word “gay” in it.
- Because of the broad range of these and other reasons, no one group can meet the needs of all of these family situations.
Some kids of GLBT parents will take part in a Gay Straight Alliance at their school with or without officially coming out as having a queer parent. But unless a group has an activist focus (like a GSA) I do not think that queer youth and kids of queer parents should be put in the same group. They really are two different groups of kids with two different sets of needs and experiences. (The exceptions, of course, are the queer youth who are “second generation.”)
Having a group specific to kids of LGBT parents ensures that their needs are not lost in the shuffle. Even if no one shows up for several meetings, have faith that your are making a difference. To some kids, just knowing that there are safe, caring adults out there is a comfort to them, even if they aren’t comfortable coming to a group.
And keep working with the school system. Ensuring that schools are safe for everyone — including children of LGBT parents — is the best way to help them.
PFLAG(“Parents Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays” — the mission statement now includes bi and trans.)
COLAGE(“Children of Lesbians and Gays Everywhere” — serving people of all ages who have LGBT parents.)