by Julie Belling, LCSW

National Coming Out Day represents the celebration of queer identities. And as a therapist, I am passionate about supporting LGBTQIA+ people because it is life-altering and life-saving work. One of the very first people I came out to in childhood as a queer person myself was a trusted mental health professional, and I am so grateful for that. Even in today’s world, kids and teens have very few safe spaces where they can have these conversations. Kids need a family who can affirm and celebrate who they are; however, many are robbed of this experience. It is an honor for me to help families navigate these conversations and the systems that make it hard for their children to be who they are.

Despite the progress we’ve seen as a society, homophobia, transphobia, and hate persist in many environments your child interacts with daily. Because of this, LGBTQIA+ youth are at risk for experiencing bullying, low self-esteem, and mental health struggles, including suicidal thoughts and self-harm. It’s important to remember we all begin to explore our identity during childhood. This is a healthy part of development for anyone. Often, LGBTQIA+ youth experience being stigmatized for this behavior while their straight peers do not.

How can you create an environment for your child to have safe conversations around gender identity?

It is incredibly important to educate yourself from LGBTQIA+ advocates. There are many resources on the internet, books, and in your community designed to educate and celebrate queer joy. Parents doing the work themselves around diversity and inclusion translates beyond just the dinner table and teaches children how to treat others with kindness.

Time and time again, I find most teens trying to come out at home remember the negative comments and microaggressions you may not even catch in their environments. Learn how to challenge stigmatization and ask about the information they receive about the LGBTQIA+ community in their schools, activities, friends, and the internet. Direct conversations with your child about how you support who they are even when they are not initiating the conversation also go a long way.

Above all else, your child should have autonomy in this process and never be forced to come out. They should not have to console adults or help them process their parents’ feelings about their identity. Seeking out therapy and counseling about how you are experiencing this can be beneficial. Every child deserves to be themselves and loved for it. For this National Coming Out day, start a conversation as a family about how LGBTQIA+ people deserve to be celebrated.

Click here for a list of Philadelphia’s top resources for LGBTQIA+ youth.

Julie works with adolescents and families, and specializes in LGBTQIA+ mental health, gender identity, anxiety, depression, and more. To learn more about Julie visit her profile here. Ready to get started? Fill out our booking form here and we will match you with the right therapist for your child or family today.

Celebrating National Coming Out Day


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