I feel self-conscious about having supportive parents when my friends don't


Hello, I'm 13 years old, and I just feel self-conscious about the fact that I am very fortunate. I came out to my family as bisexual and they completely support me, and I am SO VERY grateful that they are not in any way homophobic. They even bought everyone in my family LGBT Pride socks and bought me a Pride T-shirt and earrings too, but I am feeling self-conscious because my one friend (I will call her B) is pansexual, and her mom is homophobic. It isn't immediately obvious, but there's hints like, she'll tell B that she doesn't have a problem with her CHOICE in crushes and whatnot. My other friend, (I will call her Em,) she and her mom had a huge fight when she came out. Her mom has gotten better now, but I still feel weird talking about my parents because my parents and I have such a good relationship. (I even feel weird talking about it on this site, because my problems are nowhere close to as bad as other folks' problems.) Even though my other LGBT friends don't have homophobic parents, they don't have activist parents. And I really should NOT feel awkward about this at ALL. It is not a big problem, but I want to know if there is a way to get over this awkward feeling any time I talk about homophobia and parents with them?

First off, I'm so glad that your family has shown you so much support. Everyone deserves to have loving support from friends and family if and when they choose to come out⁠ to them, and it's great that your family's standing behind you right now. Their acceptance and support of your bisexuality is a positive thing, full stop. I don't want to downplay any awkwardness or discomfort you feel when you compare your situation to your friends', but it wouldn't make their lives any easier if your parents weren't supportive, you know? Discomfort or guilt can be a common response when people realize they're in a position of privilege, but it isn't your position that's a problem, and what I want is for you to be able to feel happy and grateful, not guilty, about your family's support.

I can see why it might feel awkward or weird to know that some of your friends, who deserve that support just as much as you do, aren't receiving it. It's hard to enjoy something good when you're aware of the folks who aren't in the same position as you. Feeling guilty or awkward about privilege is understandable, but while those feelings of guilt aren't helpful on their own, it often can be possible to use that privilege to provide some extra help to people who are struggling. I wonder if there are ways that your family's support could be used not just to help you, but also some of your friends, either directly or indirectly.

If your friends ever come to your house or spend time around you when your parents are present, your parents may want to find a way to establish themselves as allies and sources of support. They could make sure they're using the right name and pronouns for your friends or people they may be in relationships with, offer to take them with you to Pride or a queer⁠ community center if one's in your area, or take steps to establish your home as a place where people know they can talk about their own queerness, crushes, or relationships without being judged for it. Something as small as openly acknowledging queer people in a judgment-free way can go a long way towards creating a welcoming and supportive space.

If you do talk to your parents about ways they can create an affirming atmosphere for your friends, I would make sure to either mention your friends as a general group or ask individuals if they're all right with your parents knowing their orientation. I wouldn't want you to out your friends without them giving the go-ahead first, but I do know that sometimes friends' parents can be wonderful allies to young queer people who aren't getting a lot of support from their own families, so it may be worth asking about.

It sounds like you have less stress in your life that's wrapped up in your sexual orientation⁠ than some of your friends do, which may mean you have more emotional energy in reserve to offer your friends on that front. A great thing you can do for your friends is to tell them specific ways in which you're willing to offer them support when they need it. Are you good at listening to a friend's problems or frustrations and giving them affirmation and care afterwards? Do you have a talent for providing a distraction in the form of hosting a movie night or sending pictures of puppies? Can you remember to send periodic "thinking of you" messages or check-ins? Whatever way you feel like you're best at supporting your friends, make sure they know you're there for them.

It sounds like you're a little worried to discuss your relationship⁠ with your parents around your friends, but I think there are ways to talk about it that will be honest reflections of your experiences while still respecting and holding space for the experiences of others. Have you ever had a friend get a big or expensive gift that not many other people could afford? If so, you've probably noticed that there's a huge difference between expressing excitement and gratitude for a surprise windfall while acknowledging that it's a privilege and rubbing good fortune in someone else's face in an attempt to show off or make them jealous. If you're thoughtful about the way you approach this topic, I think you'll be able to talk about your own experiences without alienating or upsetting your friends. You might feel awkward, sometimes, but sadly there's no way to entirely remove akwardness from daily life (I promise I would tell you if I knew of one; I'd be first in line to learn the secret if there was one!)

In all honesty, the fact that you're already thinking about how to make things more comfortable for your friends is a good sign; even if you ever misstep in what you say, or catch a friend on a day when they're especially sensitive, I think your kindness and thoughtfulness will shine through and you'll be able to clear up any conflict without too much trouble. It's great that you're keeping your friends' feelings in mind, and I bet they appreciate having you in their corner.

I want to leave you with just a couple links to some more resources. If your parents want some more information on how to be good allies to you and your friends, I've found PFLAG to be a great general source for information and tips; in particular, their "Our Children" booklet is helpful and available to download for free.

This article is written specifically for people living with unsupportive parents due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the tips could be helpful for anyone living with family members who may not be supportive of their orientation: This Isn't Going to Be Your Forever. In addition, while your friends may not be in actively abusive situations, if it does ever sound that way, or if your friends ever mention feeling unsafe at home, we've put together the Scarleteen Safety Plan which can help them find ways to protect themselves as much as possible while they're at home and plan for the future when they'll be able to leave.

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