I believe in one supreme mandate when it comes to parenting: love what’s there.
We don’t get to choose who or what our children are, anymore than they get to select us as their parents. Obviously, as parents, guardians and caretakers, our role is to shape and guide children but it is not our job to define them. They know who they are. As Lady Gaga, and any queer young adult knows, they were “born this way.”
There are plenty of articles written by experts on psychology and members of the LGBTQ+ community on what to say if or when your child comes out to you. But I don’t think you should wait until then to have discussions about LGBTQ+ individuals and realities with your children.
With the rather recent emergence of open LGBTQ+ celebrity kids in mainstream culture, kids everywhere are seeing representations of queer youth for the first time and so are their parents.
When YouTube superstar JoJo Siwa came out at the beginning of the year, a small percentage of her millions of followers criticized her. But how many tens of thousands (or more) young fans saw acceptance and hope in JoJo being someone like them?
I saw an opportunity to show my kids an example of a happy, talented, young LGBTQ+ person. To tell them JoJo is happy and that she fell in love and has a girlfriend. To normalize young queer love and lifestyles. After all, Siwa is still the same effervescent, captivating performer she was before coming out January 2021.
There’s more than one example in pop culture to normalize LGBTQ+ youth.
Actress and podcaster Busy Philipps shared that her eldest, Birdie, identifies as queer with they/them pronouns. And while Philipps understandably approached discussing her child’s personal identity delicately in public forums, she respected her child’s self identity. Ultimately, Philipps was surprised and moved to learn, Birdie had no qualms about their mother discussing their queerness. The young teen surmised that Philipps saved them a lot of time by coming out to a large swath of people at once. They hoped maybe it would help those people not to misgender them. This made me think of the immense effort it takes to navigate our heteronormative society as a young queer person. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if as parents, we helped our youngsters feel supported and advocated for as they face massive ignorance and suppression?
Another fantastic example for the youth is Dwayne Wades daughter, Zaya, who publicly came out as transgender last year. Retired NBA Superstar Dwayne Wade revealed in a sit down with Good Morning America his daughter had known who she was since age three. In the press that followed, Wade and his wife, actress Gabrielle Union, took the time to model for other parents how to understand, accept and celebrate your children’s unique identity.
“Meet Zaya,” Union tweeted about her stepdaughter. “She’s compassionate, loving, whip smart and we are so proud of her. It’s Ok to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are.”
Obviously, these children will fare better with their parents’ support and acceptance. Future lgbt kids will grow up with less adversity and risks if we join them and normalize celebrating queer youth.
LGBTQ+ issues are parenting issues, because you don’t get to choose if your child is gay. But you can make the world a better, safer place for all the kids that are born this way.