Support groups are providing parents who are worried about the safety of their LGBTQIA+ kids with information, comfort and guidance.
Being a part of the queer community while the US is constantly passing anti-LGBTQ laws is an extremely difficult position to be in. Moreover, having a queer and trans kid in these times is filled with fear as parents try to fight for the identities of their children. Among these parents is Aimee Keppinger, whose 16-year-old daughter came out as transgender in February. Keppinger has expressed concern about the state they were located in at that time. According to the advocacy organization Equality Texas, Keppinger and her family have lived in Texas for years, where several anti-LGBTQ legislative bills have been proposed in the 2023 session of the Texas Legislature.
When #LGBT+ kids are supported by their parents, that support can literally save lives. Always show unconditional love and acceptance.— LGBTQ Shrink (@DrRonHolt) June 21, 2023
Please RT to show your support for #LGBTQ+ youth. pic.twitter.com/D8JBLMy9oM
As per Texas Tribune, bills banning care for transgender children, restricting transgender athletes in college sports, and restricting "sexually oriented performances," all of which were signed into law, were included. Texas is now one of more than a dozen states that have prohibited or are considering prohibiting gender-affirming youth care, reports ABC News.
Keppinger shared what was her reaction to her daughter's identity with Good Morning America, "My initial outward reaction was, 'I love you, no matter what.' My inward reaction was being a little bit scared, to be honest." She expressed her fear as a mother when her eldest child Niyah, who is biracial, came out. "We live in Texas, which is already not always a safe place for the LGBTQ community and we live in a small town where she's struggled with being one of the only black people in our community."
Her struggle was exacerbated since she didn't know any other local parents with LGBTQ children. Keppinger said she went online the morning after Niyah came out to look for support groups that could provide her and her family with more information and guidance.
We love it when parents not only love their LGBTQ kids, but celebrate them as well! pic.twitter.com/1CamAZ6RIV— Mama Dragons (@Mama_Dragons) June 23, 2023
She has since joined private Facebook groups such as Support Network for Parents of Trans Kids and Mama Dragons, a nonprofit that provides support groups, resources and parenting classes specifically for mothers of LGBTQ children. According to Keppinger, despite the fact that these groups have thousands of members, they have been a welcoming online network. Most children fear their parents' reaction to them coming out but Keppinger is a parent, supportive enough to make her children feel safe.
"I know people my age that are adults, people that I've grown up with that are in the LGBTQ community, but kids? No, I haven't really been surrounded by parents with children in the LGBTQ community. It's all new to me and reading those experiences, it just feels like it gives me the fuel I need to keep fighting for my kid in a state that is fighting against my kid," she expressed. "Mama Dragons is like a warm hug, which is funny to say about an online support group," Keppinger said. "[There are] so many vulnerable posts and the comments and the interaction are just love."
With the increase in LGBTQ youth and increased advocacy, mom Heather Diaz, one of many concerned parents said that there has been a corresponding increase in online support groups for parents of LGBTQ+ youth offering community, support and, most importantly, a safe space. Diaz, who grew up in a conservative family, was at a loss for words six years ago when her eldest child, Eli, came out as nonbinary and her second child, Max, came out as a trans boy about seven months later.
Everything Diaz and her husband knew vanished, and she had no idea where to turn for support. "It was a time of trying to figure out 'How do we feel about this? How do we incorporate our faith?' All those big questions. What we've been taught versus what our heart is feeling," she shared. Diaz stated that a close friend, who also had a trans son, suggested she look into a private Facebook group called Mama Bears and invited her to join the social media group.
Diaz described her experience with Mama Bears as "life-changing." Other "mama bears," according to Diaz, did not judge or reprimand her, and instead of simply sending supportive messages, they were "hugely helpful" in guiding her family through various challenges and new experiences.
Liz Dyer, the founder of Mama Bears, explained that she was inspired to do so after her own personal experience with her children, one of whom came out as gay in 2007. "I was starting to realize that my gay son didn't have the same rights that my straight son did, or that I had, or that my husband had, and I was beginning to realize that he had a lot of obstacles to overcome just because of his sexual orientation -- and I wanted to do something to change that. I wanted to make the world a kinder, safer, more inclusive place for my son and other LGBTQ people to live," Dyer said.
Mama Bears has nearly 38,000 members, eight additional groups, and over 60 chapters in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. Members, according to Dyer, largely self-direct their own groups and plan their own social events, coming together to provide mutual support based on their geographical location.
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Ginger Chun, a Texas mother whose transgender child came out of the closet recently, discovered the Transgender Education Network of Texas (TENT) and became a member in 2017. Chun's involvement with TENT inspired her to return to school for a master's degree in social work. She is now the education and family engagement manager at TENT. Chun claims that connecting with the local LGBTQ and transgender community in Texas and sharing her own story has vastly expanded her world.
TENT works to connect families with transgender youth together to create a community network of support throughout Texas. Learn more about TENT's work and others trans family organizations across the nation. https://t.co/j3oOJvBT1x— TENT (@TransTexas) June 27, 2023
TENT has evolved to connect, educate, and train local community members and families to advocate and lobby lawmakers in support of the LGBTQ community as more anti-LGBTQ laws have been proposed.