As founders of the support group for parents of LGBTQ children in Lincolnshire we get many a call, email or message via the website seeking help. Occasionally from people outside of the county boundary, as neither Facebook nor Twitter seem to respect Geography. It does not matter to us as we will try to support people come what may.
We are happy to accommodate all who contact us as they try to seek out pertinent information and find that support they need. We certainly don't have a set plan of action as it wholly depends upon them.
We try to support people in a very bespoke manner - it's an individualised support package if you like.
Often we'll talk on the phone as they tell of their concerns. This can take a long time but then again the time not being able to talk about this has been much longer. These calls can often be very emotional as, possibly for the first time, they can relate how they are feeling, how they have not been able to tell their relations and/or fellow workmates. We can refer those people who are 'out of the county' to neighbouring LGBT Foundations if possible - but we don't cut those now established links with us - unless they want to do so. If parents are happy we'll meet them in a neutral venue, as they direct, where, over coffee, we can listen to their journey. That's all - no magic - listen and empower through respect for their story.
Generally they are very emotional; that anguish, which has been weighing them down for some considerable time with the news that their child is gay or trans*, now starts to be unloaded. Often they will suggest that it is 'their fault'.
I know - I said it as well.
Often it is the fathers who feel the most guilt, especially when young lads are involved. Mums question whether their baby, now a teemager, was ever normal? They discuss that it has been difficult to speak of their concerns to others but by doing so now you can see their shoulders rise, the weight which has been bearing down for so long is now slowly starting to lift.
We provide links to the information on the website to help answer their questions - too many to answer over a coffee. They are just relieved that their questions do have answers! To hear that science is confirming that their child is normal, that it is not their fault, brings a smile to their face; something that this issue has denied them that opportunity for a long time.
For some parents they are now content and do not seek any further support - we don't chase them for, if the support provided is all that is necessary then, they know where we are, and other groups we have signposted, if they want further information. For many they now want to meet up with other parents from across the county. Our bi-monthly meetings now offer that time to share, to chat and to foster bonds of friendship over related LGBTQ matters. Over more coffee and cakes, we can together encourage, enthuse and equip parents to move on, in love and affirming their wonderful children.
We are starting to investigate a youth support group for LGBTQ teenagers: for example, having a clothes exchange system so trans* teemagers can get a start on their new wardrobe.
It is an exciting time as we watch parents come to an understanding that, after initially feeling that they were failing as parents, they are really supporting, loving, their child totally. Long may this continue.