How To Talk To Kids About LGBTQ: A Guide

For parents, it can sometimes be challenging to address the questions that arise and engage in open, honest conversations with their curious minds. If you find yourself navigating through these uncharted waters, you’re not alone. We hope this helps your child & you find some answers.
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LGBTQ, Gay, Lesbian, His/ Her/ They – Are these terms your child is hearing or reading about and you have no idea how to deal with all the questions?

I had a conversation with my teen daughter and son a few months ago which stuck with me. They have a friend who has come out about their sexual preferences. I was a little bewildered I have to admit. I didn’t realize my kids were so grown up that their friends would be discussing this. Hesitantly I asked them what they thought and what was the reaction of the other kids around. It made me happy to know that not one kid from their circle of friends had made a joke or ridiculed this child. They had all cheered him on and told him they had his back. I can only imagine what courage it must have taken for this boy to talk about it.

Recently the news was full about the suicide of 16-year-old make-up artist Pranshu. Hate comments about them being queer are what apparently drove Pranshu to commit suicide.

Bullying poses a significant threat to kids and if you are struggling or open about your sexuality, especially during middle and high school, it can be a lot worse.. It goes beyond name-calling, often involving physical and sexual violence from both peers and, distressingly, even teachers. The consequences on these children’s emotional, mental, and physical well-being are immense, sometimes tragically leading to suicide.

Global data shows that LGBTQ+ young people face higher health and suicide risks compared to their peers.

Explaining sexual orientation to a child, especially in a culturally sensitive context like India, requires a thoughtful and age-appropriate approach. A child’s sexuality may be turning up in a direction or they might still be experimenting.

As per Mumbai-based psychologist Dr Shwetamabara Sabharwal

A 2019 UNESCO New Delhi report reveals that 60% of high school and middle school students experience physical bullying, with 50% affected in higher secondary schools. Shockingly, the same report notes that sexual violence reaches as high as 43% in primary schools.

Sexual Orientation Is Different From Gender Identity

Sexual orientation is about who you’re attracted to and who you feel drawn to romantically, emotionally, and sexually. It’s different than gender identity. Sexual orientation is about who you want to be with. Gender identity is about who you are.

Sexual Orientation Terms Explained

Research suggests that children identify their gender when they are as young as 3 to 5 years. Many adult queers say they know but often get disoriented by the social expectations of their gender. So the first step should be listening and talking to the child and how they feel and how they want to represent themselves.

Heterosexual individuals are attracted to the opposite gender, where women are attracted to men, and men are attracted to women.

Homosexuals/ Gay/ Lesbians experience attraction to members of the same gender.

Bisexuals are attracted to both men and women.

Queer are those who are uncertain about their orientation and may identify as queer or questioning.

Asexual individuals do not experience sexual attraction to anyone.

How Does One Know Their Sexual Orientation?

Many individuals find their gender identity as teenagers or young adults with little or no prior sexual experience. Someone may observe, for example, that their sexual ideas and behaviours are focused on individuals of similar sex or both sexes.

Dr Shwetambara Sabharwal, also says

Sexual orientation isn’t a choice and can’t be altered. While there are many who conceal their sexual preference, there are others who come into the open. As a parent, our job is to support our kids and make them feel safe.

Preeti Yadav, Pranshu’s mom says

pranshu yadav

“Every child is unique, and I accepted my child the way they were. I would have always stood by them. I wish they would have given me that chance,”

And the most important thing is for your teen to believe and know that you have their back. Mansi Zaveri, Founder of Kidsstoppress.com has recently published her book “The Parents I Met”. She spoke to the famous Indian model, actor, singer, psychologist, motivational speaker and drag queen Sushant Divgikr’s parents, for her book. You can buy the book The Parents I Met here

She was taken aback for a minute at the clarity they had about what parents need to offer their children. She wanted to find out what it takes to raise a child with such a strong sense of self and here’s the takeaway message she shared with us

That hit hard for me, as a parent, something I will remember for a long time. 

A Few Words Of Advice

  1. Tailor your explanation based on the child’s age. Younger children may need a simpler explanation, focusing on the diversity of families, while older children may be ready for more detailed discussions about romantic feelings and attractions.
  2. Encourage the child to ask questions and answer them honestly. If you don’t know the answer, express your willingness to learn together.
  3. You may find it uncomfortable as well. Many parents find their children’s sexuality a sensitive, complex, and even terrifying subject, so try and remain patient and non – non-judgmental.
  4. Stress the importance of accepting and respecting everyone for who they are. Reinforce that diversity is a beautiful part of life.

Remember, the key is to create an open and non-judgmental space for discussion. Encourage your child to express their thoughts and feelings, and be prepared for ongoing conversations as their understanding deepens over time. Always be attentive to the child’s comfort level and adjust the conversation accordingly.

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