If you are a parent to an LGBTQ+ child, you know that this brings on a different realm of challenges and joys. The LGBTQ+ community includes those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or are questioning their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Gender identity: the gender one feels internally, this can be different or the same as the sex they were assigned at birth.
Ex: male, female, transgender, non-binary, gender neutral, cisgender, agender, pangender, genderqueer, two-spirit, third gender
Sexual orientation: determined by who one is emotionally, sexually or romantically attracted to, measured on a spectrum
Ex: aromantic, asexual, bisexual, demisexual, heterosexual, homosexual, pansexual
Questioning one’s gender identity and/or sexual orientation is not a new concept. However, with each generation, it has become more and more prevalent and celebrated. Between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of U.S. adults who identified as LGBT jumped from 3.5% to 4.5%. This overall growth is a result of the generational increase in individuals that identify as LGBT. For reference, 1.4% of traditionalists, 2.4% of baby boomers, 3.5% of Gen X and 8.2% of millennials identify as LGBT. While there is not quantitative research done on Gen Z, we can expect that an even higher percentage of these individuals will feel comfortable stepping away from traditional gender identities and sexual orientations.
On average, boys begin having thoughts that they may be gay at the age of 10 and girls at 13. Despite having these thoughts at a young age, the average “coming out” age for boys is 18 and girls is 21. Those who identify as bisexual usually begin having these thoughts at 13 but come out when they are 20 years old. With each generation, the age of “coming out” has become lower and lower. This could be a result of the growing support for same-sex marriage in the way it is influencing children to see it as a positive and feeling more comfortable coming out at a younger age.
As a parent, you must become aware of this possibility and be prepared to support your child in any way that you see fit.
Social media has become an outlet for the LGBTQ+ community to create meaningful connections, spread awareness about progressive movements, engage with allies, provide educational resources, express their Pride and make an impact on individuals who are struggling with their gender identity and/or sexual orientation.
Ways social media has benefited LGBTQ+ individuals:
Despite this positive impact, members of the LGBTQ+ community still experience discrimination and judgment, and like most things, it is amplified online.
Cyber Dive’s Aqua One integrated with its monitoring platform will highlight the benefits your child is gaining from their online experience as an LGBTQ+ member while keeping you informed if they experience any type of harassment or bullying. For example, you could see that they recently followed influencers in the LGBTQ+ community, that they made a post with the hashtag #nonbinary or that they received a text message teasing them for their sexuality.
If your child is questioning their gender identity and/or sexual orientation or learning about their newly discovered sense of self, parental guidance and support are crucial. They will likely have thousands of questions and while the internet can be a great resource, we believe you can be involved as well. Cyber Dive will always present data in an unbiased manner, giving parents factual information so that they can navigate these situations to benefit the emotional and physical wellbeing of their child.
Whether your child is a part of the LGBTQ+ community, an active ally or learning about what it means to be LGBTQ+, having open conversations with them can fuel a healthy mindset when it comes to acceptance and support. This includes talking about their online experiences and how those are affecting their self-esteem and mental health. With your guidance and involvement they will continue to grow and learn more about themselves and others.
For additional LGBTQ+ education and assistance, call The Trevor Project hotline at 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678-678. To talk with a highly trained LGBTQ+ volunteer at The LGBT National Youth Talkline call 800-246-7743.
For mental health support and practical next steps, you can call the National Alliance on Mental Illness hotline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). If you are ready to schedule your child to talk with a mental health professional, visit Talkspace, an online platform that connects patients with licensed therapists.
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