The Shameful Fallout of Parental Rejection for LGBT Kids

 teenage girl in hat outdoorsThe foster care system has a disproportionate number of LGBT youth in its care—the result of so many being abandoned by their parents. This often happens at a time when children most need support and guidance, during their preteens and teens when they are figuring out who they will be as adults. It is the ultimate rejection, and the wounds can last a lifetime.

Regardless of whether the parent-child relationship was good or bad before the child came out, being rejected by those who are supposed to love and protect you unconditionally is devastating. Severe damage is done to self-esteem, trust, security, future relationships, and one’s view of the world.

What would cause parents to legally and morally divest themselves of their responsibilities and emotional ties to their children? The answers lie not in the children, but in society and the parents themselves.

Mothers are often blamed for any perceived flaws in their children. Many men feel it is a mark against their masculinity to produce a gay child. Other parents feel shame due to religious teachings. Still others are upset that their children don’t fit in with socially prescribed gender roles. They seem to forget that gender roles, clothing styles, and what is perceived as masculine or feminine have changed many times throughout history. It is a misguided sense of shame, a shame so extreme at times that it can be relieved only by disconnecting and distancing from the child.

As a society, we encourage shame in both parents and children by denying LGBT people basic civil rights. This makes a powerful statement that they are somehow “less than” and therefore their neglect is more acceptable. This system has been used against minorities throughout time. In most minority groups, however, parents and children share the minority status and therefore parents will protect and guide their children. In contrast, most LGBT kids have heterosexual, cisgendered parents, making the kids minorities within their own families.

When parents feel shamed by their gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender kids, they typically blame the child instead of looking at their own feelings. They resolve their discomfort by getting rid of what they perceive as the source—the child. Ironically, the parents end up placing the burden of their child’s care on the very society that created the situation. These now-homeless youth are vulnerable to abuse, drug addiction, and prostitution. They have committed no crime, but are treated worse than criminals. The emotional damage is just as painful.

Even those people who come out to their families as adults often face rejection. Many LGBT people create their own substitute families from close friends, and they may have spouses and their own children. They may be content and feel that they have moved beyond the parental rejection to a place where they are valued and loved. This is perfectly possible. Nevertheless, the love and caring of a mother or father is unique, and rejection from them always leaves a scar.

How do we, as a society, stop this abuse? As with all complex issues, there is no one solution. Change has to come through many channels. The LGBT community and its allies need to continue to work for full civil rights. Parents need more education to learn that there is nothing wrong with them or their children. Schools need to expand their education about the LGBT community and their anti-bullying practices. As a society, we have to see the abandonment of LGBT youth as reprehensible.

We need to believe that ALL children are worthy of love and nurturing, from their families and from their communities.

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  • Nori

    Nori

    March 19th, 2015 at 10:33 AM

    I love all of my children specifically for their differences, not in spite of and could not ever fathom turning them out on the streets. Unimaginable

  • Glynnis

    Glynnis

    March 19th, 2015 at 4:16 PM

    I too can’t believe that a parent would turn their child out over this, but at the same time are we any better by shaming them for their beliefs than they are for what they are doing? Wouldn’t the better thing be to offer education and encouragement of just more shaming?

  • Rogan

    Rogan

    March 20th, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    There are plenty of my friends at school who have been shamed by their parents because of their sexuality and you want to just tell them that they don’t deserve that, that they should walk away, but how do you do that when I know just how hard that this would be for anyone?

  • Gemma

    Gemma

    March 20th, 2015 at 10:10 AM

    But what about the families who honestly feel that this is not a choice that they want for their child? I am not saying that I would turn her out, but I would express to her that I have some concerns about what her life would be like if she chooses to stay on this path. I know that there are those of you who will criticize me for taking this approach but I only want what is bets for her and I see how hard life is for those who choose to live this way. If it is wrong for me then shouldn’t I be able to share these thoughts with my family?

  • Leslie

    Leslie

    August 17th, 2016 at 8:24 PM

    What is wrong is not a discussion but using the word “choice.” Sexuality is not a choice. It is biological. It is WHO YOUR CHILD IS, not who he/she chooses to be. You can surely talk about concerns and worries but you cannot accuse a child who is gay anymore than a child who is not of “choosing.” Before you talk to them, just do some reading about what rejecting a child’s sexual identity can do to that child.

  • Dillon

    Dillon

    March 21st, 2015 at 5:56 AM

    I am still not really understanding why there is so much fallout from someone saying that they are gay. I don’t think that this is about that person, but it is more about the feelings that we a a society overall feel about being gay. You know, maybe there was a time in my life when this thought scared me, but now I just wish that we could be more like live and let live, and if it doesn’t effect me, then why am I going to worry about it?
    they don’t judge me for the way that I live my life so why should I feel the need to judge theirs?

  • moore

    moore

    March 22nd, 2015 at 5:06 AM

    You might not agree with them but at the end of the day this is still your child who deserves to be loved.

  • Horace

    Horace

    March 23rd, 2015 at 10:35 AM

    I know people who have for many years hidden their true feelings about someone all because they are worried about how their other family members will react to their story.

    I say that it is time to come out and tell your story, because you are only making your own self uncomfortable and feel untruthful by hiding this big part of yourself.

  • carson

    carson

    March 24th, 2015 at 10:45 AM

    Even if you face that rejection form them when you are a grown adult, that type of rejection still hurts a whole lot.

  • Cat

    Cat

    March 25th, 2015 at 12:10 AM

    @Gemma: It may not be a matter of choice for a child who realizes he or she is LGBT at a young age. Unlike taking up drugs or something, LGBT kids may be simply born that way – they can’t “decide” to be straight any more than you or I could “decide” to be gay.

    Most LGBT kids also are very aware that by coming out as gay, they’re getting a lot of downside and not much upside, but the urge to live authentically and be true to themselves is often so much stronger than their (well-placed) fears of how society will treat them.

  • Gemma

    Gemma

    March 26th, 2015 at 11:39 AM

    Cat- I understand what you are saying, but this is till not something that I think that I could ever agree with or see as right. I don’t know, I haven’t faced this ever in my own family so maybe if I did then I would feel differently.

  • keith g.

    keith g.

    March 28th, 2015 at 7:28 AM

    Overall I think that society is becoming much more open and aware of the very different feelings that many of us have about our own sexuality. What makes all of this more difficult though is that even though we may be open to it for everyone else, there is still some small part within many that says that this is alright for others but it feels uncomfortable when it happens within our own circle. That is where we need to begin the work now, saying that this is not only okay for everyone else, but that it is ok for everyone to have the same happiness and be allowed to experience the same happiness that others do.

  • Susan J. Leviton, MA, LMFT

    Susan J. Leviton, MA, LMFT

    May 8th, 2015 at 6:07 PM

    A parent’s first obligation is to a child’s health and well being. Good parents, when confronted with something new or difficult, will seek out more information–read about it, speak to professionals, reach out to others who have experienced the same thing. They will talk to their children, and listen to what they have to say. If someone is okay with abandoning their child to the streets and says it is because of their personal values, they are lying to themselves. At that point it becomes about their own pride, fear, and other personal issues rather than any value system.

  • gerard

    gerard

    May 21st, 2015 at 6:06 PM

    It doesn’t matter to me as long as my child or children treat others with respect, they are only “my children” for a very short period of time but they will be the world’s children forever

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