Dear Parents: Harry Matthews and Jamie O’Herlihy’s open letter to parents who may have an LGBTQ child
Maybe you’re scared for your child’s future being part of the LGBTQIA community or you simply don’t understand it, but the exact same thoughts are running through your child’s mind – go on the journey with them and be the helping hand to help them love themselves.
Perhaps you are reading this and have an LGBT child, maybe you’re a parent who’s worried that their child may be struggling with their sexuality or gender identity, or perhaps you don’t have a child at all but simply want to prepare yourself if this is a future issue.
Whoever you are, we, as two members of the LGBT community, have both experienced two very different situations when coming out as gay and then transgender, two issues which involve not only sexuality doubts but then also gender struggles. We want to share our perspective as the child involved in order to give an insight of how things shape children facing these difficulties and advise how your reactions mean the world to your child.
Scenario 1 – The Negative Parental Reaction – Harry Matthews
Allow me to introduce myself; I am Harry, a Transgender man who grew up in a strict but also religious household. Growing up with this strict parenting approach meant I didn’t see my parents as approachable or someone I could confide in, they were very much my parents rather than my friends. First I would say this is the wrong approach to parenting – please please please remove the traditional roles that ‘children should be seen and not heard’ – which was very much the case taught to me growing up. This strict non-approachable parenting technique lead me to feeling very isolated with my issues, no one should feel alone but not having my parents as a support, the people that should always be there for you, made it particularly bad. This along with the religious aspect made my coming out long overdue and very scary for myself. When I finally came out the reaction was horrible, my father isn’t religious but he’s very closed off so tried to stay out of the war, yes war, which erupted between me and my mother, I needed a non-religious ally and he wasn’t fully there for me. However no matter what your religious beliefs are, at the end of the day, the basis of religion is to treat others how you would like to be treated – and in this instance, if you were struggling with an issue and had built up enough courage to start to share with others what you were going through, would you not want understanding and compassion? Religion does not give you a get-out-of-jail-free card in order to be nasty and not try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes – remember sexuality or gender issues are not a choice and it’s not like this was something the person (or your child) willingly decided to become, but rather something they were born with and are struggling to accept fully about themselves. These reactions were to me coming out regarding my sexuality, my 2nd coming out as transgender was a bit different – my parents had come to terms with my sexuality but this time showed sadness, mourning and lack of understanding. Again, they viewed it as a choice, a burden I was bringing into their world. This is the wrong perspective, no person would choose to be transgender – to choose to have public scrutiny, multiple surgeries, give up the chance of parenthood and much more, however it is something they <strong”>have to do in order to survive. All I can really emphasis regarding this situation is, your child is your child, when they were born you probably quoted “I don’t care if it is a boy or a girl as long as they are healthy” – let this remain the case for the rest of their life. All any parent should care about is that their child is happy. Shouldn’t they?
Scenario 2 – The Supportive Parental Figure –Jamie O Herlihy
Let me introduce myself, my name is Jamie and I am a transgender woman. My gender expression goes all the way back to when I was a very young child. I had always had the tendencies towards what society deems as feminine objects such as toys, clothes, movies and even colours. My mom Sarah never gendered any of the objects listed; to her they were children’s toys and children’s clothes. Colours were colours and movies were for everyone. So as you can imagine my childhood was very free and my sister and I were never judged at home. We have always had a very close bond with our mom, we really see her as a best friend rather than someone who lays down the rules. We still respect her as our guardian and the woman who brought us into the world but the majority of our respect for her is because she loved us unconditionally. For me that is the key to parenting. Accepting your child no matter what. As long as they are happy, healthy and not hurting anyone else that is all that should matter. Parents who reject their children or put conditions on them turn my stomach and I feel like asking them “Would you rather have a child who was in the LGBTQIA community or have a child who was dead?” Of course if they pick the latter, there is something severely wrong with their way of thinking and I feel very sorry for them. As a Trans woman my journey through parenthood is going to be very difficult I would imagine. I’ve spent late nights up crying over the thoughts of not having my own biological child and not experiencing pregnancy. So for any cis-gendered parent to abuse the gift they have been given by not accepting their children makes me really sad. If you are a parent of a child who is questioning their sexuality or gender, please don’t stress out or view them as abnormal or sick because trust me, your child is fine and is just going through something that they need your unconditional love and support with. They are still your child, your pride and joy no matter what. They are still human. There are parent support groups to help you deal with your situation and to help you learn more about what it is your child may be going through.
- TransParenCI (For parents of transgender youth)* firstname.lastname@example.org
- BelongTo (For LGBTQIA youth) also offers services to parents. * email@example.com
Hope this helps and please love your child no matter what, just like luckily my mum did. Life is way too short and can be taken from us at any time.
As you can see from both our stories the main key is the understanding and unconditional love needed from parents. Maybe you’re scared for your child’s future being part of the LGBTQIA community or you simply don’t understand it, but the exact same thoughts are running through your child’s mind – go on the journey with them and be the helping hand to help them love themselves. Your children are a gift, remember that.
Lots of Love,
To view our YouTube Channel where we discuss life as a Transgender couple including coming out experiences, dealing with negativity etc. search ‘ThatTransCouple’ or follow the link: http://www.youtube.com/c/ThatTransCouple
To read more blogs by Harry search The Thought Provoking Life of Harry on WordPress or follow the link: https://thethoughtprovokinglifeofharry.wordpress.com/