Letter: The choices LGBTQ+ youth make
Seidler writes, "The choice that queer youth make is not identifying as queer. The choice they make is letting their parents know. It’s one of the scariest things they can do."
There are many parents who are being told LGBTQ+ identity is a lifestyle. When we call it a lifestyle what we’re really calling it is a choice.
I’m optimistic and I believe the vast majority of parents love their children. I think most folks are aware that being part of the queer community comes with targeted hate, discrimination, or even violence. I believe that when a parent hears their kid identifying as queer, they think that their kid is about to make a very bad choice and they need to stop it, they need to protect their kid.
However, that entire premise is based on the idea that LGBTQ+ identity is in any way a choice and not a core component of just how some people are. The research on this is very clear. While we don’t have a gay gene to point to or a specific chromosonal pattern that indicates transness, we do know a couple of things. We know that trans identity is more likely to be shared by identical twins than fraternal twins. We have decades of medical research exploring these identities as mental illnesses and basing treatment options around this notion. The idea of conversion therapy was the go-to model of treatment and we now have decades of research showing it is not just ineffective, it is substantially harmful.
The choice that queer youth make is not identifying as queer. The choice they make is letting their parents know. It’s one of the scariest things they can do. They don’t know if they will still be loved. They don’t know if they will still have a home. They don’t know if they’ll be safe anymore after they talk about it. They don’t know if they’ll be rejected or supported. What they often do know is that they can’t lie anymore about who they are. And the bravery it takes to risk that for the hope your parents will love and see you is immense.
You cannot impact their identity, because it isn’t a choice. As a parent the only thing you can impact is their choice to be honest with you about who they are. Their choice about keeping you in their life when they grow up. How safe or afraid they are to talk to you about anything else, not just related to queer identity.
Parents don’t have an easy time these days and everyone is shouting about the risks of everything. How do you know what to do? How do you know what’s right? I don’t know everything, but I’ve devoted my life to researching outcomes and supporting queer youth in North Dakota. I grew up in this state and I want to see better outcomes for all of our kids. I’m not the left or right party, I’m not trying to get votes or funding, I just want to make sure our youth have hope. To get connected to resources or education for individuals or organizations please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Faye Seidler is Community Uplift Program's project manager for Harbor Health Initiative.
This letter does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.