Children and teens are increasingly identifying as LGBTQ+. According to the global analytic firm Gallup, a whopping 20.8% of Gen Z adults in the US identify as LGBTQ+ as of 2022, compared to 10.5% of millennials and 4.2% of Gen X. The increase of LGBTQ+ identifying youth allows for increased visibility, but LGBTQ+ children and teens are still very much in need of support from their loved ones.
Here are 4 steps to support the LGBTQ+ youth in your life.
1. Ask for their pronouns and share yours. Trans, non-binary, and queer youth may use pronouns other than he/she. Learning a person’s pronouns demonstrates respect and care for LGBTQ+ youth and can help prevent accidentally misgendering someone (the act of incorrectly assuming another person’s gender). We don’t know until we ask! Keep it simple. Ask: What are your pronouns? Go the extra mile and model the sharing of pronouns by saying, “Hi, I’m Emily, and I use they/she pronouns.”
2. Help them find community. LGBTQ+ youth may naturally gravitate to their LGBTQ+ peers, but many LGBTQ+ children and teens face challenges in meeting other LGBTQ+ youth and adults. Most LGBTQ+ youth are the only LGBTQ+ identifying person in their family, which can feel lonely and confusing. Find local or online LGBTQ+ youth support groups, take LGBTQ+ youth to LGBTQ+ community events, or introduce your child/teen to an LGBTQ+ elder who can act as a mentor. There are even summer camps aimed at helping LGBTQ+ children and teens find community with other LGBTQ+ youth.
3. Do your own research. Try to avoid asking your LGBTQ+ child/teen about the LGBTQ+ community and how to support them. Existing as a LGBTQ+ person in a heteronormative society is already a significant burden to bear and asking LGBTQ+ youth to educate their loved ones is an additional burden. Instead, educate yourself by reading informative books, searching reputable websites, and speaking to a therapist or counselor if necessary.
4. Enjoy diverse media representation. Most books, television shows, and movies feature heteronormative characters and storylines. LGBTQ+ youth are left to feel invisible or that their lives aren’t important or interesting when they lack LGBTQ+ representation. Search the internet to find recommendations for positive and diverse LGBTQ+ representation in media. Choose something that is developmentally appropriate for the LGBTQ+ child/teen in your life, then enjoy reading books together, or have a movie night!
Learning how to support LGBTQ+ children and teens can feel like a daunting task. Taking these steps is a positive start towards showing your love through advocacy and allyship.