A Family-Friendly Guide to Support, Affirm & Celebrate LGBTQIA+ Youth

In honor of Pride Month, celebrated throughout June and culminating in festivals, parades, and calls to action centering queer joy and unity, the Columbia Gender & Sexuality Program (CGSP) offers a family-friendly guide to support LGBTQIA+ youth and caregivers and to events taking place across the city.

NYC’s Pride 2024 theme is “Reflect. Empower. Unite.” Events throughout June highlight the unique contributions of LGBTQIA+ people, serving as both a celebration and an opportunity to center queer liberation and authentic self-expression.

Check Out These Events for Youth and Families

  • Queer Teen Night: June 14th, Whitney Museum of American Art, 4-7 pm.
  • Youth Pride Fest: June 15th, Pier 76, 2-5 pm.
  • Cathedral Pride Sunday: June 23rd, Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, noon-5 pm.
  • Youth Pride: June 29th, Pier 17, noon-6 pm.
  • The Center: Programs for youth ages 13-22, featuring special Pride events.
  • Children’s Museum of Manhattan: Month-long Pride celebration with special programming.
  • NYC Pride March: Sunday, June 30. Columbia Pride invites all LGBTQIA+ Columbians and allies to join in the annual tradition of marching in the event. Don't miss this amazing opportunity to connect with the community and show your pride!

The Importance of Family and Peer Support

Kareen M. Matouk, PhD

Social support from family and peers is vital for queer and trans youth. Research consistently shows that parental acceptance, support, and advocacy lead to positive mental health outcomes for LGBTQIA+ children and adolescents, while the absence of such support is associated with increased distress. The role of caregivers and family support in fostering a positive environment cannot be overstated.

Creating a Supportive Environment

Visibility: Bringing LGBTQIA+ pride and visibility into the home helps create a safe and supportive environment for gender-diverse youth. This can be achieved by engaging with books and TV shows featuring LGBTQIA+ characters, participating in community activities with other LGBTQIA+ families, and discussing positive stories about LGBTQIA+ individuals in the media. Some youth might prefer to express pride by putting up a Transgender Pride Flag in their room. It's crucial to affirm their identity by supporting their authentic self-expression and respecting their choices about sharing their identity.

Dialogue: Open discussions about sexuality and gender are essential. Initiate these conversations, but also respect your child's wishes if they do not want to talk about their identity. Letting your child lead and directing you in how to be most supportive can improve your relationship and their sense of comfort and trust.

Pronouns: Introduce yourself with your name and pronouns to model allyship and invite other family members to do the same. However, avoid pressuring your child to out themselves, especially in potentially hostile environments. Simply using your pronouns signals allyship and support.

Building Community and Support Networks

Ani Fredman, PhD

Community Involvement: Creating a safe and supportive community involves attending LGBTQIA+ affirming events and supporting youth in connecting with LGBTQIA+ communities. This can include online or in-person support groups or drop-in spaces.

Advocacy: Advocate for LGBTQIA+ rights in your community, which signals allyship and acceptance. Support your LGBTQIA+ youth by advocating for gender- and sexuality-affirming support at their school, introducing them to LGBTQIA+ friendly social spaces and encouraging connections. Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) provide safe environments for LGBTQIA+ youth, significantly reducing the risk of depression and increasing well-being.

Supportive Peers: Seek opportunities to introduce yourself and your children to other LGBTQIA+ and gender-diverse adults who are thriving. Educate yourself on the diverse history of trans-rights activism, especially from your cultural background.

Respect and Encourage Self-Exploration

Encouragement: Encourage your child to explore new forms of expression without judgment and with unconditional positive regard. Support their gender-affirming presentation choices, even if you don’t fully agree. Youth who experience gender-affirming interpersonal interactions build self-esteem and improve their overall quality of life.

Boundaries: Respect your youth’s boundaries regarding information sharing and disclosure. Pressuring them to explain themselves can lead to frustration and withdrawal. Reflect on whether your questions might feel too personal or difficult to answer. Model that it’s okay not to know or to be in the process of discovery.

Communication: Ask your child how they feel about sharing their name and pronouns with family and friends. Respect their wishes and let them guide you in how to be most supportive, which can improve your relationship.

Cultivating Caregiver Self-Compassion

Self-Exploration: Explore your own history and experiences with sexuality and gender identity. This self-awareness can help you better support your child. Reflect on your earliest memories related to these aspects and how they have evolved over time.

Community Support: Identify sources of support for yourself, such as affirming friends, family members, teachers, mental health professionals, and support spaces. Building your resilience includes seeking support and having reliable resources.

Self-Care: Prioritize your self-care and resilience. Show your children what self-love looks like by celebrating your uniqueness and practicing self-compassion. By fostering a supportive environment, building community, and engaging in self-care, caregivers can play a vital role in affirming and celebrating their LGBTQIA+ youth.

Additional Resources for Parents

  • PFLAG: The largest organization connecting family, friends, and allies with the LGBTQ+ community, offering local chapters and support resources.
  • Human Rights Campaign: Strives to end discrimination and achieve equality for LGBTQ+ people.
  • Gender Spectrum: Provides support for creating a gender-inclusive world.
  • GLSEN: Ensures safe learning environments and offers inclusive LGBTQ+ training.
  • Family Equality: Advances legal and lived equality for LGBTQ+ families.

The Columbia Gender & Sexuality Program offers gender-affirming services, including therapy for LGBTQ+ children and their families. We provide inclusive care through a cultural lens, emphasizing intersectionality.
For more information, please visit our website.

Written by Ani Fredman, PhD [any (they/she/he)], Postdoctoral Fellow, Gender & Sexuality Program Department of Psychiatry, and Kareen M. Matouk, PhD (she/her), Clinical Psychologist, Assistant Professor in Medical Psychology (in Psychiatry), and Assistant Program Director, Gender & Sexuality Program, Department of Psychiatry, Columbia University Irving Medical Center.