Our children and youth are disproportionately at risk to fail in school and in life. Church, societal, and family environments are unhealthy — threatening the physical, cognitive, creative, social, emotional, and spiritual development of children and youth. According to TrueColorsFund.org, in America, up to 1.6 million youth experience homelessness each year. “The statistics for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) homeless youth are even more shocking, as this group represents up to 40% of all young people experiencing homelessness. The disparity of LGBT youth experiencing homelessness is unfathomable.” TheTrevorproject reports that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among young people ages 10 to 24. “The rate of suicide attempts is 4 times greater for LGB youth and 2 times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth. LGB youth who come from rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times.” Family dysfunction and school bullying claim thousands of lives globally each day. Younger children are dying at the hand of negligent, more often than not, immature parents that are not intentional about giving birth, just having sex.
Children need strong families and communities to thrive. My gay middle child, Micah, helps me pen a timeless definition of family: “Family is your support system – who you love and who loves you –whoever provides love, peace, forgiveness, happiness, inspiration, sanctuary –regardless of any biological relationship.” Hence, the practice of forming affirming family units, composed of rejected LGBT youth and adults, that engender affirming communities like the Castro District in San Francisco, CA; Midtown of Atlanta, GA; and Greenwich Village of New York City, New York.
Children need physical food and protection, socio-emotional food and protection, intellectual and creative food and protection, and most importantly soul/spiritual food and protection.
The true mark of advanced civilization is where children and women are honored and protected.
The cultural practice in the first century was to kill children born disabled at birth, sometimes “girl” children were killed at birth or sold into slavery.
Jesus honored and valued diversity by respecting women and children — even though the cultural practice was to treat this population as property. And further, Jesus advanced acceptance because Jesus did not condemn LGBT children and youth.
I love my family, it’s blended. My former husband (gay) and his partner (not pictured); my 3 sons: two straight sons (Taylor and Eddie) and one gay son (Micah) and their partners; my grandchildren (granddaughter not pictured); myself, and my special friend (not pictured). Challenges come of course; but, love keeps us together.
So many families are destroyed when a child comes out. There are many things Dennis and I wish we had done differently. If we knew then, what we know now, we would have done a better job parenting, because information is power. Helen Keller says “life is a succession of lessons that must be lived to be understood.”
Still, we all love Micah deeply and embrace him. We are present and support him. We did not condemn him or cause him to want to run away from home because of hostility.
Finally, the following are some LGBT parenting ideas that we found to be helpful:
1. Don’t Freak Out — Instead “Find Out” through research and counseling the real truth. Rejection; lack of emotional support; demanding conversion therapy or anything like this that attempts to alter human sexuality identity; and demanding that your child leave the home (with and without words) — are very inappropriate;
2. Love your child unconditionally — you can’t fake this. Affirm and cultivate the gifts identified in your child.
3. Communicate frequently and be present — Communication and transparency engenders intimacy and love. Be involved and concerned about how your child’s day went. Don’t let your child suffer in silence — because you are not present to know what’s going on — or you may feel inadequate and/or too perplexed to address any concerns — get help. Your child may be in danger — being bullied, molested, or some other harmful situation.
4. Please don’t ADD to your child’s pain – they experience enough pain from church, school, and society. Again, get “non-toxic” help if you need it (via research/counseling/support groups).
5. For any parent, in need of research and resources concerning the legitimacy of being LGBT and Christian visit my website (www.lydiaMmeredith.com) for a reading list from my Master’s thesis: “A Christian Education Model: For Helping the Black Church Love and Accept LGBT Populations.”