[OPINION] An open letter to parents: Your LGBTQ+ kids are alright
Your son says he likes other guys. You're wondering if your daughter's girl friend is actually her girlfriend. What in the world is pansexual or queer? And is "side" like a side dish? It seems like a perfect time to freak out.
Go for it. Go freak out. Own your feelings. And know that you're not alone. These are all normal. In the same way that we want your bisexual daughter or your transgender son to be genuine, we want you to be your authentic self, too. (READ: WATCH: How did you come out?)
Be angry. Be sad. Your panic is all-consuming, your anger or confusion intense. Have worries your daughter might never get married. You might even think your son would test positive for the human immunodeficiency virus. Go think.
Now, get a grip. Take a deep breath. Hold it for a few seconds. Then, let it all out. Slowly. You might need to do this 3 times – or 50. Pull yourself together. Because your child needs you. Perhaps now more than ever.
Take your time, but not too long. Because the longer you delay listening to your child, the longer you'll miss out on knowing what an amazing human being you raised. You did nothing wrong. They are beautiful.
He might be at risk for depression. She might be more anxious compared to other people. Your son might feel lonely, might then do drugs, or might have lots of sex. Your daughter will have demoralizing, hopeless days.
You've always pictured her in a garden wedding. Nothing fancy. You and her titas put together her favorite food for the reception. You've imagined your son and daughter-in-law bringing your first grandchild for Sunday lunch.
Judgments, unfair opinions
But these risks and lost memories have nothing to do with who they love, what gender they identify with today, or how they speak, dress, dance, or otherwise express themselves. It has instead everything to do with others' judgments not based on facts or actual experience. (READ: The long road to an LGBT anti-discrimination law)
It has everything to do with unfair opinions or outright discrimination. Your child might suffer not because of who they are but because of other people. (READ: 'Tolerated, but not accepted': Filipino LGBTQ+ speak up vs discrimination)
Don't be one of those people.
You want what's best for your child. We know this. Your confusion and anger come from a place of concern. This is why you pray, yell, blame, and might even send them to see a professional. Like any parent, you want your child to be happy and healthy.
Giving them support is not easy. It will feel like navigating through a marginal subculture with separate rules and strange aesthetics.
Love them, be prepared
Tell your son you love him. Tell your daughter you support her. You are their anchor. Your acceptance will be hard to give and even harder to show. This is fine, but when you are ready, say it out and loud. Say that you accept your child. (READ: LGBT rights are human rights)
You do not need to be reminded: When children feel loved and supported by their families, they grow up to be healthier and happier adults – whether or not they identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer, among others. Your child wants to feel loved and accepted just like you, just like all of us.
There are no extra knowledge or skills needed here because you have done this before – letting them know you care.
Recall those moments when their tiny fingers were clinging to yours and your breath shaped into the soft sounds of "Mahal kita, anak (I love you, my child)." They felt joy from those sounds back then. Imagine what it would do for them to hear those words now.
Also, keep talking, but more importantly, keep listening. Be curious about your child's life. Open the lines of communication. You can say something as simple as, "If ever you want to talk, I'm here to listen," "I'm noticing something's up, maybe you want to talk some time; let me know," or “Whatever it is, I'm ready to learn."
When you stay connected to their world and learn about the seemingly mundane – the boring job, the unfair professor, the annoying commute home – this makes it easier for them to come to you for more challenging things – like coming out about their sexuality or telling you about their long-term same-sex relationship. (READ: [OPINION] The B in LGBT: The long journey to coming out)
Drop the misconceptions
Another task is for you to learn the facts. Many people have misconceptions. Your child probably has them, too. After all, they are still navigating the world and finding their footing in it. But here are some quick facts: Blame is not helpful, it is not a "phase," and there is no "cure."
For other facts, go to a reliable website, such as schools of medicine, or health institutes and centers. The best source, though, is your child.
Maybe you're not ready to meet your son's cute and equally fabulous boyfriend, and that's fine. Maybe you're not ready to have lunch with your daughter's girlfriend, and that's still fine. Maybe the pride march in Marikina would be too much of a communion with a seemingly strange culture – seductively sensuous but swaggeringly enticing. Maybe you'll never be okay. This is too bad, but we get it.
But know this: If ever the time comes when you are ready to talk and listen, your son will be ready to answer your questions. If you're ready for that meal, your daughter will accept you with open arms – and maybe even pay for lunch. And she will be so proud of you.
You might not have done everything right, but there is nothing wrong with your child. They're alright. – Rappler.com
Dr. Ronald del Castillo is professor of psychology, public health, and public policy at the University of the Philippines Manila. The views here are his own.