At the LGBT Helpline we are here to listen and offer non-judgmental and confidential support and information to family members on a range of issues relating to sexuality and gender identity. No worry is too large or too small.
National Parent Week and the LGBT Helpline
By Paula Fagan
‘It’s Ok to Ask’ is the theme of this year’s national parent week, and is also one of the first things that we say to parents when they contact us. Fearful that by looking for help, they may appear unsupportive of their child’s sexuality or gender identity, parents can often be apologetic for getting in touch, or can feel anxious that we, as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender volunteers, will be offended if they articulate worries about being LGBT.
On the contrary, we are delighted when a parent contacts us for support and information. Reaching out in this way is hugely supportive in itself. By having a chance to talk through their concerns and seek out information, parents are not only getting support with understanding their child’s LGBT identity, they are also modelling the importance of getting help when you need it.
All too often in our service, we talk to people who have concealed their sexuality or gender identity from their parents because they fear rejection or they believe their identity will hurt their parents deeply. And unfortunately this can be the reaction of some, but for the majority of parents who contact us, their main concern is for their children’s happiness. They often have worries around their child’s safety – will they be bullied? is a common concern. Or for their child’s mental wellbeing, having witnessed their struggle to accept themselves, they’ve seen them withdraw from friends and want to support them as best they can.
As parents we can often feel we should have all the answers particularly when we see our children struggling. We know that they need our support but we may be unsure how to start the conversation about a particular issue or situation, or we need help to process how we feel ourselves. At the LGBT Helpline we are here to listen and offer non-judgmental and confidential support and information to family members on a range of issues relating to sexuality and gender identity. No worry is too large or too small.
To mark National Parent Week, we are running a series of blog articles aimed at providing information for parents and family members by exploring some of the key topics which come up in our services. We’re delighted to have a range of contributors writing for us throughout the week and we hope that their words will encourage others to join in this conversation. Blogs featured on lgbt.ie will include:
David Coleman, psychologist, broadcaster, and author: Reflecting on the age old question – When is the best time to talk to children and teenagers about sex and sexuality? David’s blog will look at some of the reasons why Irish parents are reluctant to talk to their children about these topics! And will offer advice on when and how parents can give their children information and guidance about sex and sexuality, to allow them to make good, healthy and safe choices throughout their lives.
Harry Matthews and Jamie O’Herlihy, a transgender couple who regularly discuss their life together on their YouTube Channel ‘ThatTransCouple’: Entitled ‘Dear Parents’, the couple’s article is an open letter to parents who have an LGBT child, or who may be worried that their child is struggling with their sexuality or gender identity. Based on their own very different experiences of coming out, they offer insight into how parents reactions can impact on their children. The letter ends with information about parents support services, with an appeal to parents to seek support for themselves to help them deal with the situation and learn more about what it is their child may be going through.
Vanessa Lacey the Health and Education Manager with Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI): Writes about the origins of the Irish peer support service for parents and family members of trans people, called TransParenCI. Speaking openly about her own experience of the lack of support for her family when she transitioned, Vanessa describes the many challenges that families face when their child is trans and the importance of having the opportunity to speak outside the family about their situation. In five years TransParenCI has grown from one small group of parents, to a thriving peer support service, offering support groups and an annual residential programme, for parents, siblings, children, spouses, aunts/uncles, grandparents, neighbours and friends!
Dr. Mel Duffy Lecturer in the School of Nursing & Human Sciences, DCU and Lesbian Mum On accepting herself as a lesbian 30 years ago, Mel grieved the fact that meant she would never have children. In 2008, with her partner of eight years, that fact changed with the birth of their first child, a beautiful baby boy. With a brother and sister to follow, family life became the focus but so too did the painful reality that to all intent and purposes Mel was ‘a nobody’ to her children in the eyes of the state. Mel’s article reflects on what it was like to live through this reality, and what it meant to become a legal guardian of her children in 2016.
If you would like to contribute a blog article or find out more information about our services, we’d love to hear from you. You can contact us by emailing [email protected], or for support and information our helpline 1890 929 539 and online chat support services on www.lgbt.ie, are open 7 days a week, see our opening hours below.
Monday to Wednesday 6.30pm-9pm
Friday 4pm – 9pm
Saturday & Sunday 4pm- 6pm
Paula Fagan is the national coordinator with the LGBT Helpline. She has been an activist on LGBT rights for many years and has authored a number of research reports including The LGBT Parenthood Study, published in 2011. Paula lives in Dublin with her partner Denise and their two boys.