What is unique about childhood for LGBTIQA+SB People?
There are three key features that influence the health and well-being of LGBTIQA+SB children and
1. The period of unawareness
For many years an LGBTIQA+SB child and their parents are unaware that the child will develop characteristics that we associate with an LGBTIQA+SB identity.
During this period a child does not have the psychological defences they need to prevent assimilating information that can later be incompatible with who they are. This period is an important target for strategies aimed at reducing suicide in LGBTIQA+SB children and adolescents.
For some children who are taught that LGBTIQA+SB are abhorrent, disgusting, worthless or other terrible and false ideas, there may be an evolving sense of awareness of their own diverse identity.
2. Discordant parental and child identity
LGBTIQA+SB children are generally born to and raised by heterosexual parents. Unlike many other minorities, LGBTIQA+SB people rely upon parents who do not share the same identity. Where parents have characteristics in common with their child, for example ethnicity, the parent will naturally teach the child to have respect and pride in that identity.
For LGBTIQA+SB children to thrive, they require parents who demonstrate values and attitudes that will promote the long term best interest of their own children above the views of any one segment of society.
3. Any child, in any family
Diverse identities occur throughout every population. This mostly occurs as random variation. For this reason, LGBTIQA+SB children will be born into the whole range of possible situations from safe and supportive homes right through to hostile and terrifying.
Children who are fearful of parental or community rejection conceal their identity and live in a state of elevated stress for many years. This prolonged and extreme stress during the critical stages of child development not only alters patterns of thought and behaviour, but childhood adversity can also change a person’s DNA. These are the major factors that increase the rates of mental illness and suicide in LGBTIQA+SB youth.
There is a wide variation in the childhood experiences of the LGBTIQA+SB population. As more and more people in Australia grow up in safe and supportive families, it is important that we continue to have compassion for those who live with lifelong effects of spending much of their childhood terrified.