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Coming Out By Proxy

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It is usual for us to speak to our friends, extended family, the people we work with, our neighbours, etc. about our families and the people we love and care for, and because we live in a heteronormative and cisnormative society, the people you speak to may assume your child is not LGBT+ and so make assumptions about their gender and the gender of the people they are attracted to. Or your child may have asked you to tell others about their LGBT+ identity for them. In these situations, you may find you have to ‘come out’ on your child’s behalf as the parent or carer of an LGBT+ young person.

It is up to you and your LGBT+ young person how you come out to others, but it may help you to think about it beforehand and have a plan in mind. Think about:

  • It is important that you discuss this with your young person. Who do they want to know? You must have their permission to share their identity with different people before you do so.
  • A person’s age should not be a reason for not telling them about your young person’s LGBT+ identity. LGBT+ identities are not inappropriate for primary school and nursery aged young people to know about. There are many books aimed at ages two and above that can support you in exploring LGBT+ identities with them.
  • Will you ask to sit down with some people and have a conversation about your child’s identity, will you call some people, with some will you wait for them to ask after your child and then bring it up? There is not one way, or a ‘correct’ way to come out to others, instead choose the way you feel most comfortable with and you think is most appropriate.
  • Speak with your LGBT+ young person about when they would like different individuals to know. Your child needs time to prepare for the people you tell to then come and speak to them. It could be very overwhelming to have the entire family, all of your friends and neighbours, etc. come to them in a short space of time to share their support and ask questions.
  • Again, speak to the LGBT+ young person about what they want others to know. People may ask intrusive questions, or ask for information that your child does not want to be shared, so be prepared to say, “I’m not comfortable answering that” or “That’s something we don’t think is important other people know about”, etc.
  • Hopefully no one responds negatively but it is best to think about how you will deal with negative responses and how you will protect your child from them. Any response that discriminates against, invalidates or makes fun of your child’s identity needs to be challenged. It may be that people need time to come to accept their LGBT+ identity, but that does not mean that they have the right to be LGBTphobic whilst they are on that journey. Your child may be the only LGBT+ person they know and so they may come to them to answer all of their questions. That is a huge responsibility for your child to take on. Instead, people could come to you or you can signpost them to organisations such as ours to take some of the pressure off your child.


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