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How to Support Your LGBTQ+ Child

Parenting can be a difficult journey to navigate for anyone, but for LGBTQ+ parents and parents raising LGBTQ+ children, there can be added challenges and pressures. At AXA Investment Managers, we build policies that are inclusive of LGBTQ+ e.g., our global Parent Policy is inclusive of same-sex couples and adoption. Employees and their families also have unlimited access to a 24/7 Employee Assistance Program (EAP) that provides confidential support for both personal and professional issues. We also partner with Eutelmed, a digital wellbeing solution, to provide our employees with access to self-assessment and immediate feedback, including the chance to discuss any concerns with an expert.

We spoke to Steve McCarthy, our Head of North America, Real Estate. He is a proud parent of 4 sons. In the following interview, he shared his experience of the time when one of his sons came out to him as gay, along with advice for other parents of LGBTQ+ children.

 

Hi Steve, thanks for chatting with us. Can you tell us a little about your family?

I have been married to my wife, Sissel, for 37 years, and we are the proud parents of four grown sons, ages 31, 27, 24 and 22. We live in the village of Bronxville, New York (population 6,000), about 15 miles north of New York City, where I work for AXA Investment Managers as Head of North America, Real Estate.

Can you tell us about the journey of your son coming out?

Our third son, Julian, came out to his mom and me one winter afternoon during his senior year of high school at age 18. My wife and I had suspected Julian was gay for quite a while, but that did not diminish the importance of his announcement or the courage that it took for him to open up to us that day at the kitchen table.

I remember that he was a bit nervous, which made us a bit nervous and prompted us to respond quickly with our love and support. Hugs were definitely exchanged, and a tear or two might have been shed. Only later did we learn that Julian had come out to his older brother a night or two before he told us. I am happy to report that all three of Julian’s brothers responded to the news with a healthy mix of kindness and good-natured teasing like, “What took you so long?”

Did you access any external support or advice to understand more about LGBTQ+ identities?

My wife and I did not reach out for counselling, but we would have if we had felt that we needed it. We did reach out to a few gay friends who provided helpful perspectives.

How did you support your child through the process of coming out?

We let Julian set the pace for sharing his news with school, family, and friends. I know he had previously confided in several school friends. He was lucky to attend a high school in a town within the relatively liberal communal orbit of New York City. Over the next three months, Julian reached out to his grandparents and close family members on a one-to-one basis. At some point, he gave us the green light to share his news with our best friends. Everyone reacted as hoped, and I think Julian felt loved and supported.

What would be your advice to parents of LGBTQ+ children?

My advice would be to create and foster an inclusive environment at home so that, when the time is right, your child feels comfortable taking the plunge and sharing their sexual preferences with you. Foster your own friendships with gay people and lead by example. Reach out to a counsellor or gay friends if you need support.

What would be your advice to LGBTQ+ young people who are looking to come out to their parents?

I will defer to Julian here (the following words are his): “My best advice would be to move at the speed you feel most comfortable with. “Coming out” is such a personal experience; you shouldn’t feel like you are on anyone else’s timeline but your own. If you are feeling nervous about delivering the news to your parents and how they may react, I recommend leaning on other trusted family members and friends and making a plan for how to best deliver the news.”

What do you think needs to change to make the world a more inclusive place for LGBTQ+ young people?

I think it all starts at home with the parents and then, by extension, with the broader family and school. Recognize the LGBTQ+ members of your family and community and speak openly about the importance of those relationships. 

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