Last year Time reported that Hallmark now offers two cards in their in-store Valentine’s Day selection for same-sex relationships: ‘Love: Man to Man’ and ‘Love: Woman to Woman.’ Wow, a whole “one” card for each grouping, what a lonely number. As the parent of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender teen, you are already aware that society still has a ways to go in accepting and supporting the gay community. And though Valentine’s Day is about celebrating love, for many gay teenagers, February 14, can be a torturous reminder about how different they feel during a holiday that still predominantly celebrates heterosexual love.
For all too many, cards or chocolates will be substituted with mean remarks in the hallway from peers about their orientation, or even worse, straight out physical bullying from homophobic teens. That’s why, with the date approaching, it’s important that you make a special effort to make LBGT teens feel accepted, supported, and loved. Explain to your teen the night before that if they should receive a nasty valentine, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with them. Kids Health suggest saying to your teen that: “Some kids just want to see if they can make other kids sad or angry. Tell your kids to just throw it away without giving the sender what he or she wanted — a reaction.”
But if parents aren’t there to be supportive after you child has come out to you, many teens wind up taking their own lives after so much bullying and alienation. According to a study published in Pediatrics in 201l, “Lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender teens are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers—but those living in a supportive community might be a little better off.”
Read Related: LGBT: Equality for All of Our Daughters
Dan Savage, the writer and social commentator, decided to create the non-profit organization It Gets Better.org, to inspire hope for young gay people facing harassment. In an NPR interview he said, “The bullied straight kid goes home to a shoulder to cry on and support and can talk freely about his experience at school and why he’s being bullied. I couldn’t go home and open up to my parents. I did think about suicide briefly — not because the bullying had gotten so bad, but because I thought that it would be the good Catholic-son thing to do for my parents.”
Though parents want to be accepting of their children, it doesn’t come so easy for many and they struggle with what to say and how to behave when their teen comes out as LGBT. As Live Science reports, according to the Family Acceptance Project, ways that parent of gay teens can be supportive is by: Expressing affection when your child tells you or when you learn that your child is gay or transgender; requiring that other family members respect your gay teenagers; supporting your child’s LGBT identity even though you may feel uncomfortable; welcoming your child’s LGBT friends and partners to your home; and supporting your child’s gender expression. From here on in start a Valentine’s Day family tradition, with presenting your kids with a card, flower, or other small gift to help them feel appreciated and loved. This way they’ll have something special to look forward to each year, even when it’s a gloomy day for them.
Valentine’s Day is time for everyone to express love, even if it’s platonic. Not just straight couples, but mothers to gay sons, aunts to gay nieces and friends to friends. Go and get your LBGT teens a Valentine’s Day card and tell them how much you love them and support them. And if you can’t find that Hallmark card for gay people, be creative and find one that you think they’ll like. Teach your child to remember to give themselves love as well and appreciate who they are and believe that they are worthy of love and that, like Dan Savage’s organization wants everyone to remember, life and gay life, only gets better. Or instead of flowers, get your teen the book, It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, which includes essays by celebrities, religious leaders, politicians, parents, educators, and kids just out of high school, that will be sure to bring hope to your teen on this Valentine’s Day and all those in their sunnier future.