Go With the Flow: Family Matters

One of the scariest things that a person can do is come out to their family. You might as why that is, but the answer is always that no...

One of the scariest things that a person can do is come out to their family.

You might as why that is, but the answer is always that no matter whether you get along with your family or not, they are still the closest people to you. Most of them have known you for your whole life. And above all, family has power.

The power to help. The power to hurt.

Family always has access to you, and if you like your family, then that’s awesome, usually. If you don’t like your family, or they don’t like you, the connection is still difficult to sever.

Family has access to you if you’re in the hospital, or if there’s something wrong. They have the power of holding interventions.

Family has the power to help you during a difficult time in your life. They can provide emotional support while you undergo transition, or find your own identity. They can provide financial support for medical bills. They can defend you from negative outside forces.

What if your family decides that your gender identity is something they don’t agree with?

This can make a person’s life extremely difficult, especially if the person is not yet a legal adult. Family might choose to withhold financial help, refuse to let you speak to them or other members of your family, especially if they have legal custody of that family member. They can kick you out of the household and refuse your entry.

This is a huge risk for LGBT youth. LGBT youth are still dependants. They might not be able to get a job, especially in the current economy. They can’t legally sign the lease on an apartment either. Many LGBT youth find themselves homeless when their family turns their backs on them.

LGBT youth suicide is also a huge concern.

LGBT youth, whether they stay at home in a hostile environment, flee their home because of physical and emotional abuse or are kicked out of their house by their guardians, are at a risk of depression and suicide.

Sometimes straight people or even other LGBT people might wonder about someone’s personal choice of whether or not they want to come out. I’ve seen it described as a matter of bravery, and that those who don’t come out are somehow failing.

But most LGBT people will tell LGBT youth: only come out if you feel safe.

Because LGBT youth are our most vulnerable members, and the power to hurt them is heartbreakingly easy.

All it takes is a harsh word. The same harsh word every single day from somebody that they trust has the power to do terrible damage. Slurs from members of the community that are supposed to keep them safe such as doctors, police officers and teachers make them feel like there is no one they can trust to keep them safe.

LGBT youth have already experienced all sorts of harm from the world around them.

But the worst pain can be inflicted by their family.

Coming out for LGBT youth can be extremely dangerous and put their emotional and physical selves at risk. Often, LGBT youth can tell when they are in a potentially dangerous environment.

People say careless things all the time, and they might not realize that they are telling LGBT people in their vicinity that they are dangerous to them. Because LGBT people listen. We listen for slurs like “fag” and “tranny”, or insulting ways of using our reclaimed slurs like “queer” and “gay.” When you make stereotypes regarding us, we can hear them.

“She just hasn’t met the right man.”

“Bisexual people are greedy.”

“Gays have AIDS.”

Trans people should just deal with it.”

LGBT people hear those things all the time, and when we do, we make the silent judgment that the speaker isn’t a safe person to come out to. For many LGBT youth, the speaker of those words is one of their parents. Their sibling. Their aunt or uncle. Grandparents.

Many of these youth feel like they are living in the house of their enemy.

LGBT youth often live in a constant state of pain, because they feel like they can’t tell their own family about their self identity, but they are tired of trying to keep it a secret.

In many cases, this type of situation can lead to darker paths.

Family that doesn’t agree with an LGBT person’s lifestyle but still insist on seeing them can also cause hurt. Things like refusing to acknowledge someone’s partner, or continually misgendering someone are still painful.

Young teens already have enough on their plate when if comes to growing up.

Parents have to decide what comes first: their own comfort or the comfort of their child?

Too many parents are making the wrong decision, and LGBT youth are suffering for it.

Some of us are already out and proud, with the ability to fend for ourselves, without the fear of being abandoned by people we rely on or kicked out of our home for our identity. I urge our community, whether it be the LGBT community or others to support LGBT youth in any way they can.

Alex Powell – Contributing Columnist

Alex is a Native American person that identifies as genderfluid and pansexual who prefers they/their pronouns. They have a BA in English from UNBC and they are currently an author for LGBT publisher Less Than Three Press. Alex lives in Vancouver, Canada and would be happy to chat with anybody if they want to talk about just about anything.
Find me at: My Author Page, Twitter, and Tumblr