Michael Mancilla, LICSW, a clinical social worker at Children’s National with 20 years’ experience serving the LGBT community, shares his thoughts on how parents can support their LGBTQ child or youth.
“Mom, Dad, I have something to tell you. I think I might be lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) or may be questioning my feelings about my sexual or gender identity.”
When your child decides to “come out,” which is the process where an individual shares his/her identity as a LGBT person, realize it is an act of courage and trust. How you as a parent (or we as healthcare providers) respond will have a direct impact on his/her physical and mental health.
According to a survey by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) 91 percent of LGBTQ teens are out to their friends, 56 percent are out to their parents, and 26 percent identify rejection by their family as the most important problem in their lives.
- Stop and Listen: Create an accepting atmosphere, whether at home or in a professional’s office, where your child can discuss his/her fears and concerns. These may include fears of rejection by you and other family members, experiences with bullying by peers or in school, or fears either of you may have about high-risk behaviors—which can lead to discussions about sex. Realize that when it comes to the latter, your child may not be immediately forthcoming so be sure to communicate that you can help them identify support resources, such as the healthcare providers here at Children’s National who are part of our Youth Pride Clinic, or someone who may be trained in LGBTQ health in the community.
- Acceptance: While many LGBTQ youth do have accepting parents and go to schools that are affirming, for those that don’t have that experience, the health risks can be significant. In a study of LGBTQ students in grades 7-12, students who have been bullied at school or are not accepted at home were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide and have higher rates of depression and substance abuse. Acceptance also can impact school attendance, with up to 20 percent of LGBTQ students missing at least one day of school or more in a 30 day period.
At Children’s National, we can support you and your LGBTQ child in a number of ways:
- Our newly opened Youth Pride Clinic for LGBTQ youth ages 12-22 offers primary and specialty care throughout the Washington, DC, area. Appointments can be made by calling 202-476-2178.
- We provide support to HIV-positive youth, and have been doing so for the last 30 years at the Burgess Clinic, and can be reached at the same number above.
- For patients and families who are struggling with gender identity issues, appointments can be made with our Gender and Sexuality Program in the Division of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at 202-476-4172.
We want to be your partner in providing the best care for all children regardless of their sexual orientation, gender expression, or HIV status.