Q: He hasn’t come out, but I think my sixth-grade son is gay. I am fully supportive, but I think he feels ashamed. How can I let him know I will always support and love him, and that I just want him to be comfortable with himself?
A: This question makes me happy to read. You are already on the right path by even asking this. I’m going to advise you to be patient with your son. It may be tempting to bring it up directly in an attempt to get it out of the way or to make him feel comfortable, but letting him go through his own process is important —sacred, really — and all kids are different. Let him be the driver here.
As a school counselor, I’ve had students come out to me as the first person they’ve told they were gay (or bi or trans). You know what I did? I acted like it was the most important news I’d ever heard. I thanked them for trusting me even when — especially when — I had thought for ages that they were LGBTQ. I told them I was proud of them and asked how I could support them.
I would suggest that you be sure to mention LGBTQ+ folks in a positive way, but I’m going to guess you already do that. Reassure him regularly that you love him no matter what, check in with him about his life without too much problem-solving or judgment, make sure he’s exposed to all kinds of diversity, and if/when he comes out, don’t say, “I knew you were.” Oh, and check out online resources like PFLAG, and talk to other parents or LGBTQ friends.
Sahjo Brown is a 20-year veteran of school counseling, mostly at the middle-school level. She has one kid, a dog, a cat, five chickens and some fish. (And secretly wishes she could add in some rabbits.) Her favorite part of working with middle schoolers is their desire to connect and build relationships; plus, their pop culture references keep her on her toes.