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Your Child Coming Out

by Simone

It was apparent from a very young age that Eli had a maturity and self-confidence beyond their years. By self-confidence I don’t mean they were loud or showy; I mean they were robust and didn’t let many things get them down or get in their way.

These attributes meant that I always found Eli to be a good sounding board - even as a kid. Their view of the world and people in it was always calm, measured, balanced and sensible. 

So by the time they reached high school, my husband and I were surprised and devastated to witness a change in Eli - one that meant they seemed less enthusiastic about life, and seemed more self-conscious. We weren’t sure what had caused the change, and put it down to starting high school at the same moment that COVID hit and understandably having a hard time as a result.

I’d always felt that Eli was different to their peers, but I had thought it was their sexuality. When Eli told us at 13 that they were ‘trans’, we had to ask what it meant. At that stage, we hadn’t really been exposed to a lot of queer identifiers beyond the few we’d grown up with.

I like to think that telling Eli that we loved them and supported them however they identified made their coming out journey better than some.

But I do have some regrets about not following my instincts even before then. I remember Eli handing me a perfect opportunity very soon after they’d first started high school.  We were in the car on a long drive together (which I always enjoy, because we enjoy singing together and introducing each other to new music) and Eli told me about a school project they were doing on LGBTQIA+ identifiers. I asked questions about what some of the terms meant, and the natural next question would have been ‘and which do you identify as?’ 

I wanted to ask, but wasn’t sure if it would put too much pressure on Eli to feel they needed to know at that stage. My instinct was that Eli had raised it because they wanted me to ask so that we could talk openly about it.  I regret not following my instinct because I suspect it would have made Eli’s coming out journey easier.

If I could go back in time and give my younger self some advice it would be this. First and foremost, trust your instincts - if you think they’re trying to tell you something, they probably are.

Second, it’s perfectly OK to grieve. To grieve the loss of their birth name, their birth gender; it doesn’t mean you love them any less. But don’t let that stop you from getting to know their new, wonderful self.

And finally, you’ll probably have some regrets about how you handled it, but bloody hell, you’re human. And it’s never too late to tell them that you wish you’d done better.