People say it gets better for LGBTQ people and their parents. So why does it sometimes not feel that way?
- It’s validating and potentially life-saving that newly out LGBTQ people, especially our high risk youth, can envision a positive future where they create a fulfilling life.
- If we come out when as young children or teens, it’s often hard to separate the issues of being LGBTQ with the pain and struggle that comes with childhood and adolescence.
- If our parents reject us, it can seem impossible to navigate the world without that cushion of love, support, and validation.
- If we’re parents of LGBTQ youth, we can conflate the very real issues of being LGBTQ with the normal stress, angst, and turmoil of growing up.
- As we continue our journey as adults, we still encounter the particular stresses we face for being LGBTQ.
- Everyone has their highs and lows, but LGBTQ people carry the extra weight of stigma and discrimination and the people who love them share that pain.
- Our challenge is to see the truth of our lives and still believe it gets better.
Why do we sometimes feel that being LGBTQ means everything is always going to be harder?
- For most of us, some things will be harder, some of the time, until we have equality. That is true for any group that experiences discrimination, though the impact on each individual can be quite different.
- LGBTQ people still face obstacles, including rejection from our families and/place of worship, work discrimination, navigating romance and marriage in a straight-oriented culture, and the more rare possibilities of violence.
- Parents of LGBTQ children worry and feel concern for our children because we fear they are vulnerable to the worst of possibilities.
- With these messages, it’s not surprising that LGBTQ people and their parents sometimes believe that our lives would be easier and better if we were straight and cis gender and that we don’t have the same chance for happiness.
So how do we move beyond that?
- When we are LGBTQ or love someone who is, it helps to separate the challenges that lie ahead from the many inaccurate or negative perceptions about LGBTQ lives.
- When we equate being LGBTQ only with hardship and heartbreak, we’re selling ourselves and our children short.
- A big part of fighting homophobia/transphobia is not accepting the stereotype that LGBTQ people live inherently tragic existences.
- Though our fight continues, we have lives to live, and they will be much better if we embrace them.
- We can’t deny our challenges. But we can also feel pride in how far we’ve come and have hope for our future.
- Many people who face adversity still find their niche. Sometimes it entails moving to a more progressive community, creating a found family, and finding the right support system.
Isn’t there a backlash now?
- Yes, there is backlash against LGBTQ rights.
- It impacts the entire LGBTQ community, so we all feel more scared and vulnerable.
- It’s even harder for high-risk, vulnerable groups, such as our youth, our elderly, and trans women of color.
How will we get through it?
- We are a historically resilient community. We push back and move forward. PFLAG and other LGBTQ advocacy groups are highly mobilized and stand on our track record to form powerful alliances and open hearts and minds.
- We are fueled by the extraordinary and historical change of the last twenty years. Our activism and advocacy has created anti-discriminatory policies and laws, including equality marriage and a military open to gay people.
- We keeping our eye on the prize. Civil rights movements have always faced opposition and yet our shared agenda remains unchanged—to obtain equality.
- We still see positive change. Transgender people become elected officials, school districts adopt policies that address bullying and harassment, LGBTQ youth and senior centers are created, and more people are coming out.
- We know that each year, more parents advocate for their children: they join PFLAG and march with their children in Pride Parades; they work to change the bathroom policies of their school districts; and they raise their straight children to be allies.
- We are seeing powerful support from new and even unexpected sectors of society, including large and powerful corporations and professional athletic organizations.
- Polling shows that the younger generation is significantly more progressive than our parents on LGBTQ issues—they are our future.
- Our lives go on. Like anyone else, we hope for ordinary joys and many of us find them. Queer people fall in love every day. Many marry and create families, too. We follow our passions and interests. We spend time with the people and things we love.
- We help each other and ourselves. Some days we give strength to someone and other days we receive it. And some days we need to just take care of ourselves.
What if I’m struggling and it’s not getting better?
- Remember that you don’t have to do it alone.
- Attend a PFLAG meeting for peer-on-peer support and to connect with Eastside LGBTQ people and allies.
- Recognize if you need professional help and seek LGBTQ-affirming counseling and support.
- If you are in danger of self harm or suicide, call a 24-Hour Crisis HelpLine.
- Tap into resources—there are many LGBTQ organizations and groups that provide extensive information as well as free or low cost help.
- For positive accounts from LGBTQ individuals, including prominent members of the community, consult the book It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating A Life Worth Living as well as its companion website.
What is our truth?
- Being LGBTQ is a normal and an innate trait, which has always been a part of the human experience.
- We don’t need to know or justify the origins of our sexual orientation or gender identity. We don’t know why people are straight or binary, either.
- We are worthy of respect and equality because we are human beings.
- The fact that we have to fight harder for equality cannot diminish our sense of dignity and self-worth.
- Our lives might be more difficult in certain ways, but it doesn’t take away our capacity for fulfillment and joy.
- We’re part of an amazing community of LGBT people and allies.
- Believing it gets better is not a prediction. We don’t know the whole story of our lives—nobody does. But believing in a better future as LGBTQ people and allies let’s us live with hope. And as Harvey Milk said: “Hope will never be silent.”