Episode 50: A Parent’s Guide to Supporting Your LGBTQ Child

In this episode of The Family Couch, we talk with John Sovec about how to support your child who identifies in the LGBT community.  Sovec is passionate about helping teens and parents with the coming out process.

We jump in and discuss what a hetero-normative experience is.  Sovec asks the question, “When did you have to come out as straight?”  He asks this question when he does speaking engagements to bring up the idea that as an LGBTQ person, he has gone through a process that a straight person may not have gone through.  When you’re an LGBTQ adolescent, you may not have the tools to speak out against the dominant hetero story which can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network put out a study in 2015 with 12,000 respondents where 70% of kids who identify as LGBTQ still feel unsafe in their schools as a result of bullying.  

We next discuss why there still aren’t systems in place or people are overlooking this population even though there is more language around supporting these adolescents.  Sovec feels that these modern changes are starting to occur in major cities, but we have an entire world that isn’t ready to recognize that these students are the and a vital part of the population.  With the development of online communities, there has been more of a chance for these students to feel connected and have their voices heard. Kids can go online and find a supportive community. Sovec recommends the Trevor Forum which is a vetted forum for LGBTQ to create community around the world.  Since it’s vetted, it is a safe space for these teens. One of the things Sovec recommends for parents and educators is to go to PLFAG.com (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). They have local chapters, and the main website has fantastic free resources.

We change gears and discuss what LGBTQ means.  Sovec explains that there are several other acronyms.  The L stands for lesbian–which is a female that is attracted to another female.  This is not just a sexual component–it includes emotional, spiritual and intellectual needs.  Gay usually refers to a male that is attracted to another male. Gay used to be a bigger umbrella term, but the lesbian community realized their needs were not being met under that umbrella.  Bisexual is a community of people who are attracted to people of both gender orientations and presentations. T is for transgender. A transgender person is someone whose assigned sex at birth does not integrate with their sense of self.  Cisgender means that the assigned birth sense and sense of identity are in alignment. There are many layers of the coming out process happening for transgender teens. Queer was initially used to be derogatory. Activists and advocates have taken this word back and turned it into a powerful term.

We begin discussing what a parent can do to support their child as they go through the process of coming out and sharing their gender identity.  Sovec likes to explain to parents that they will probably go through a grief process when their child comes out to them. This means that they’ll go through some stage of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance–the classic grief stages.  This addresses the idea that a kid is born and then parents project the entire lifetime for the child. When a kid comes out to them, this dream is often shattered. Sovec feels it is important to create some space around the grief process.

Once they have gone through this process, Sovec recommends gathering information and then trying to understand the layers of the coming out process.  This is a lifelong experience. Sovec encourages parents to have a safe space of conversation. It is also important to understand that the parent will have a ton of questions but the child may not have the answers.  The best thing to do is provide unconditional positive care.

It is also important to understand how families connect into communities, communities of color, communities of religion and spirituality, etc, and see how the messages of these communities affects the coming out process for the kids and the families.  The kid should have control of how the news is released. The biggest thing Sovec hears from parents is that their kids do not listen to them. He often asks parents if they are creating a space to listen to the kids. Are you telling them how they should be….or learning about who they are?  Sovec encourages to be curious, ask questions and be present with this new story.

Sovec also mentions creating equity in the household.  He shares an example of a client that had tried to commit suicide and came to him as a result of that.  After working with Sovec, he was doing well and his family was doing great supporting him. This patient had an older brother with a steady girlfriend that was allowed to stay overnight at the house.  When the client’s boyfriend wanted to spend the night, the parents did not want to let this happen.

We finally discuss a little more in depth how the communities of color and religion affect the coming out process for a kid.  Additionally, education levels and socioeconomic status of the family affect this process. Sovec sees kids who go to high-level private schools and identify as white who have the resources and family support to come out.  Often, kids in families of color get support within their family but are told not to tell anyone else. This gives a message of a damaged identity. Sovec talks to parents about how their religious belief systems. If the parent is part of a church that sees their lifestyle as an abomination, the kid associates the parent with the church and thinks they will never understand them and kick them out of the house.  Many families cannot support an LGBTQ adolescent with their religious beliefs. Sovec brings up the topic of transgender healthcare and provides that most physicians are not trained to work with this population. Many individuals that live in secondary areas cannot find a doctor to administer hormone therapy. Providers need to be educated to create these spaces. Transgender kids will often wait until they are out of the family home to explore their identity as a result of the difficulty of navigating that process.  

As a final thought, Sovec mentions that many parents will say, “I accept my child exactly as they are.”  Sovec pushes against the word accept. He prefers words like embrace, love, care for, and support.



John Sovec is a psychotherapist practicing in Pasadena, CA.  He specializes in helping teens and families with the coming out process.  He is also an adjunct professor at Phillips university. Sovec travels the country to educate adolescents, clinicians and families on how to navigate the coming out process and all that is associated with it.



WEBSITE:  http://johnsovec.com/

WEBSITE: http://gayteentherapy.com/

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/JohnSovecTherapy/

PHONE: 626-374-7046


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