Parenting a young person who is LGBTQ+ can be challenging. You’ve got all of the usual challenges of parenting, but on top of it, you want to help them build the resilience necessary to ward off the stress from the stigma and discrimination that our culture still unfortunately throws at them. But most parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ youth are themselves heterosexual and cisgender (cisgender is someone who has a gender identity that matches their sex assigned at birth) and may have little, if any, experience or understanding of how to deal with the homophobic and transphobic aspects of our society.
We know that the stress of stigma and discrimination can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and worse. Fortunately, we also know that LGBTQ youth who have supportive families have higher resilience (Trevor Project). But young people also need and want social support from others who are like them. And as parents and caregivers, we can’t be their friends, nor can we create an identity-based community out of thin air. The internet has been a boon for LGBTQ+ folks because it enables folks to find each other. LGBTQ+ youth are active users of the internet and are already accessing resources and building community online. But as a parent and caregiver, we may worry about the wild west aspect of the internet.
As a founder of Q Chat Space, a safer space online for LGBTQ+ teens, I am here today to share with you a few resources from CenterLink, the organization I work for, that you can share with the LGBTQ+ youth in your life.
- CenterLink is a member-based association of over 325 organizations and programs. Many of them have virtual programs for youth. Find the center closest to you and see if they provide online programs for youth using the CenterLink LGBTQ Community Center Member Directory.
- Q Chat Space provides online live chats for LGBTQ+ teens 13-19 years old. There are 10 chats weekly lasting 1.5 hours. All chats are led by two trained staff from LGBTQ+ youth programs across the US which are members of CenterLink. With the support and training of CenterLink, these facilitators encourage community building, ensure it is a secure and safer space, and help youth build a positive sense of their LGBTQ+ identity. Chat topics are diverse, from fun topics like video games and pop culture to more serious topics like coming out and coping strategies. Q Chat Space hosts specific chats for Spanish language speaking youth, trans and non-binary youth, youth of color, asexual and aromantic youth, and bisexual and pansexual youth. Check out Q Chat Space.
- imi.guide is a digital, research-backed, mental health tool that youth can use on their own. It was developed by Hopelab, in partnership with CenterLink and the It Gets Better Project. imi.guide supports and helps LGBTQ+ teens explore and affirm their identity and learn practical ways to cope with sexual and gender minority stress that are helpful, relevant, inclusive, and joyful. This is done through supportive and affirming resources, activities, and stories from LGBTQ+ youth in 4 areas of interest and need: minority stress, queerness and LGBTQ+ identity, internalized stigma, and gender identity and expression. Check out imi.guide.
And since we know that you too need support as a parent/caregiver, here are some resources for you.
- 75% of CenterLink’s member organizations have programs and support for parents of LGBTQ+ youth. Find the center closest to you and see if they provide programs for parents and caregivers using the CenterLink LGBTQ Community Center Member Directory.
- PFLAG Connects: Communities (PCC) provides a safe, virtual, moderated space where people with shared experiences can connect each month. PFLAG National’s current communities gather people of Latino, Black/African American, and Asian American and Pacific Islander backgrounds to gain support, ask questions, and learn from others who have been through similar experiences. These meetings are catered to those who are parents/family members of LGBTQ+ individuals.
- PFLAG also has a network of 400 local chapters that provide support to parents and family members or LGBTQ+ individuals. Find your closest chapter using PFLAG’s chapter directory.
- TransFamilies provides online support to families of trans and gender diverse children. Check out their offerings.