Summer is typically a happy time for most of us — a time of year where all sorts of celebratory milestones are enjoyed. Our kids are out for summer break or graduating; we’re attending family weddings; the weather is enjoyable, and we look forward to the start of summer.
During June LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning or queer) Pride Month was celebrated. It is a time when the LGBTQ community comes together to promote sexual diversity, equal rights, and a positive self-image; and to discourage discrimination, hatred and shame.
A 2017 Gallup poll concluded that 4.5% of Americans identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ community (5.1% being women and 3.9% being men respectively). It's likely that you have a loved one who is part of the LGBTQ community. Some of us may share in their pride; but others may not feel as lighthearted. We may be mourning our vision of what we hoped for our child’s life, or may even be grappling with our own feelings of confusion and perhaps acceptance.
The revelation of our child being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning/queer affects the entire family. We must grieve our “traditional” hopes and dreams for them and work out our own spiritual and personal beliefs. In many ways, we must also relearn who our children are and educate ourselves on what it means to be LGBTQ in today's world.
In other words, supporting and accepting our child begins with us. It begins with the reconciliation of our emotions, thoughts, and beliefs. It requires some self-exploration about a topic we might have assumed we’d never really have to face. However, it’s important that we ultimately arrive at unconditional love and support for our loved ones who are part of this community -- especially due to the significant discrimination, shame and bullying the community has faced from others for decades in our country.
Pride Month had a very dark beginning. In the 1950’s and 1960’s very few establishments welcomed gay people. At the time, the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village catered to patrons of all walks of life. However, on June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, an act that quickly led to violent demonstrations that continued on for several days. These demonstrations are now referred to as the Stonewall Riots. Within weeks, the community organized and focused their efforts on establishing places for the gay and lesbian community to be open and share their sexual orientation without fear of oppression and arrest.
With a history as violent, discriminatory, and oppressive as the LGBTQ community has had, as parents, it's our responsibility to ensure we foster a safe, loving, accepting, and expressive environment for our family members that are LGBTQ. The community often discusses, shares and supports one another in their “coming out.”
In fact, every member of the LGBTQ community can pinpoint the day they identified and/or accepted they were in fact LGBTQ and the day in which they shared it with their loved ones. Why? Because our children don’t want to let us down — they fear judgment, rejection and ridicule.
Understanding these facts may help you in sorting your own feelings out, or you may prefer to seek out additional support. Organizations like PFLAG
— Parents for Lesbians and Gays — is the country's first and largest organization uniting parents, families, and allies with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, questioning (queer), and ally. You can access information about the organization, additional support, and local chapters at https://pflag.org
Individual and family therapy can also be very beneficial to individuals and family members of those who identify as LGBTQ. The Hellenic Therapy Center (567 Park Ave., Scotch Plains) offers such therapies in a warm and supportive environment where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. If you are interested in scheduling an appointment or finding out more about the services offered at Hellenic Therapy Center, please call or text us at (908) 451-3452 or visit us at www.hellenictherapy.com
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