I remember reading an article when my kids were little stating that teenagers need just as much sleep and attention as they do when they are toddlers. Reading this article, I audibly announced, ” yeah, right, as if!”
I had two toddlers; I was a full-time stay at home Mum; both babies one year apart in age and one with special needs.
Life was a crazy mix of vegemite-scroll-crumbs, sticky surfaces and smells I never wish to revisit. Days were LONG; a roller coaster of laughter, tears and tantrums (from the three of us) until Adam came home to save us from the monotony of life in our suburban world.
The thought of them needing as much of my time and attention once they hit high school was unfathomable. However, two years into life with two teenagers, this article could not be more accurate. The level of attention required is the same; it’s less physically demanding, there’s more time spent driving them from place to place, I make just as many meals + snacks, and my poor washing machine works around the clock. There’s laughter, tears and tantrums (from the three of us), and Adam can still be found being our saving grace at the end of the day.
The most significant need is their emotional stability. This is what I want to talk about today. My eldest baby is gay. He has been out and proud since the age of ten. He’s turning 14 in a few weeks. Living with two intelligent, passionate teens raised to speak up, be proud of who they are, advocate for others and never accept the status quo has taken us on a journey. With no topic off limits, the conversations at our dinner table are in-depth, opinionated and passionate!
The issues that have recently been discussed are around being part of the LGBTQIA+ community. Oliver has personally taken on the initiative at school to speak up for all students who identify in the community. This post isn’t about his efforts to create change, even though it should because we are so proud; it’s a post for another day.
Today I want to talk about the stories that come home about the discrimination that kids in the LGBTQIA+ community face EVERY single day, at school AND home.
If you’re reading this post and are thinking, “I don’t need to worry because I don’t have a gay child”, KEEP READING!
One of the most significant burdens children who are openly gay face are questions from heterosexual students about gay sex, what it means to be L G B T Q I A or +. Oliver is a gay male who uses the pronouns he/him. He is just one of many colours in the rainbow. He knows who he is, but he’s not responsible for educating a large student body about all the different colours in the rainbow or ANY question relating to sexual intercourse. It’s is also unfortunately not taught in the curriculum; I wish with every fibre in my body it was, education creates understanding, understanding creates acceptance. Unfortunately, it seems it’s also NOT a topic parents of teens cover either. Leaving a massive gaping hole needing to be filled and hence a burden on teens who have come out.
The other burden, which is SIGNIFICANTLY more intense, is having a student come to them and tell them that they are gay or identify in the LGBTQIA+ community, and they don’t know how to tell their parents.
More often than not, it’s because they fear their parent’s reaction. A fear that you can only assume is legitimate; because not feeling safe enough to tell your parents about who you fundamentally are speaks volumes.
We have raised our kids in a home where we do NOT give a farrk what their sexual orientation is; we concentrate our efforts on making sure they feel safe, loved, happy and how to manage anxiety, anger and disappointment. How to set goals, be humble and respectful. BUT also stand their ground and fight for what’s important.
You would NOT believe how many kids are frightened to come out to their parents! Wonderful, intelligent, beautiful souls are living in fear.
Did you know 21.1% of High School students identify as LGBTQIA+?
Did you know 75% of LGBTQIA+ experience bullying?
81% of LGBTQIA+ students believe their school doesn’t support them.
This statistic rang true to us this week when a teacher suggested to Oliver that he hide who he was at school and just “be himself” at home to make others more comfortable! But, again, this is a post for another day.
The MOST shocking statistic is 25.6% of LGBTQA+ young people aged 16 to 17 had attempted suicide in their lifetime.
Let me repeat this 1/4 attempt suicide!!
25 out of 100 beautiful humans feel death is a better option. This makes me weak at the knees, and I want to vomit. The thought of Oliver attempting to take his life because he was unable to be himself shakes me to my core, and I fucking hope it does the same to you. If not, have another look at the picture in this post, look at his face.
Do you need to have a conversation with your child? Do you need to look at the way you talk about people in the community? Do you have prejudices that need to be adjusted? Do you need to… (you can fill in your own blank here)
CHANGE HAS TO HAPPEN!
June is pride month; there are many things you can do during the month to raise awareness or simply become better informed.
I personally want to scream from the rooftops that identifying as LGBTQIA+ is NORMAL, that all sexuality needs to be taught in schools, and all parents should be comfortable enough to discuss sexuality in all its forms to their teens. But I’m embarrassing enough as it is, so I will refrain from doing said screaming upon rooftops. This Facebook post will have to do.
Oliver has been working with a wonderful organisation Minus18 to raise awareness for all members of the community. If you would like to know more as a school, workplace or parent, their website www.minus18.org.au is an excellent resource! Or even if you just want a little more understanding on how to have conversations with your kids, it has brilliant articles on how to approach those conversations.
I also ask that you share this post; often, just seeing someone openly talking and sharing their story can help someone who is struggling. We want to spread the word and potentially save families from the devastation of suicide. PLEASE share away!!
From The Mitchell Fam