Learning How to Love My LGBTQ+ Daughter a Little Louder
By Jennifer Durrant
The football stadium was more than sold out. Music from my favorite bands and solo acts echoed throughout the overflowing venue. This was the biggest concert event of the summer and, walking through the gates, I was still reveling in the fact that we’d managed to snag such in-demand tickets.
LoveLoud Festival 2018, the second annual concert sponsored by the LoveLoud Foundation, is designed to raise money for LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention. Founded by Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds, the foundation hopes (per the mission statement) to “ignite the vital conversation about what it means to unconditionally love, understand, accept and support our LGBTQ+ friends and family.”
Amid the flurry of excitement of seeing the concert’s headliner, Imagine Dragons, I couldn’t help but let the gravity of this event sink in. This concert meant a bit more to me that day as both my husband and I continued to grapple with and fully accept the reality that our youngest daughter, 19, had announced that she “liked girls” just 10 months earlier.
Silently, contemplatively, I sat and watched the eclectic mix of people around me. There were flamboyant men flirting with their dates, and women walking hand-in-hand with their loves. There were also youth proudly donning rainbow and gay-pride T-shirts, as well as families with two moms or two dads excited to treat children to their first concert. And there were families where mom, dad, and the children wore T-shirts exclaiming their love for a family member who had committed suicide over guilt for their same-sex attraction.
With heart-wrenching stories of bullying and torment balanced out by proclamations of “Love is Love” being shouted from the stage, I reflected on the last two years in my own home, two years of witnessing a beautiful young woman struggle to find happiness, battle severe anxiety, and depression, and withdraw from family and friends.
Because her father and I were both raised to believe traditional families are made up of a man and a woman, this sweet daughter of ours was torn with how to reveal her same-sex attraction. And, in all honesty, her announcement shook us. We were blindsided.
After that initial shock, however, it dawned on us why she had been struggling socially and emotionally for so long. The weight of something she had known since she was in 6th grade was overwhelming her ability to find happiness and self-worth.
Still struggling with this new reality and the possible turmoil it would cause within our extended family, I sought advice, strength, and support in a number of ways. My search uncovered valuable advice and resources any parent of an LGBTQ+ child can lean on.
Seek Out Resources for Your Child
Suicide statistics among LGBTQ+ youth are staggering. LGBTQ+ youth are three times more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives. Those same youth living in unaccepting homes and communities are eight times more likely to die by suicide and three times more likely to engage in risky drug use. For those reasons and more, it’s vital that your child has access to supportive resources.
My daughter found the strength to come out to us after a year’s worth of counseling sessions originally prescribed for her depression and anxiety. After gaining the courage to reveal her news, she found other support services. In our area that resource was Encircle, an LGBTQ+ family and resource center. Other national LGBTQ+ resources include websites like The Trevor Project, the Tegan and Sarah Foundation, and GLADD.
Seek Out Parenting Support Groups
Admittedly, despite having more than a year to process and absorb the news of my daughter’s lifestyle, I continue to struggle to fully accept her new reality . . . a reality where I fear she might never be free from bullying and discrimination.
Because a supportive family can greatly reduce the suicide risk among LGBTQ+ youth, there are resources to inform, support, and encourage moms and dads to become true allies for their children. Resources I’ve sought out include PFLAG, Mama Dragons, Listen, Learn & Love, and Affirmation.
Remember that Love is Love
Not only does the statement “Love is Love” reflect romantic affection, but it also means that as parents of an LGBTQ+ youth, we need to love them, unequivocally and unconditionally.
Ultimately, while my daughter still struggles with anxiety, the bright light, witty sense of humor, amazing smile, and even sassiness have returned as she finally feels more comfortable with herself. And, as her mother, it is one of the joys of my life to love every bit of her.
As my daughter continues to travel along her road to self-discovery, my road to acceptance and love can and should be much easier as long as I help her find supportive resources, seek out parenting support groups for my husband and myself, and ultimately remember to love unconditionally.
Jennifer Durrant is a 25-year journalism veteran and ever-improving publicist. She loves writing about home decor, trends, the local music scene, theater, fine arts, food, and general human interest stories. She thrives on traveling with her husband, Pinterest, Diet Coke, and chai tea lattes.