Theo blogs at The Neon God They Made.
Some background for consideration: I am a homeschool graduate, now in college. I identify (right now) as queer and trans*. I no longer practice my parents’ religion, but I grew up in a conservative-evangelical Christian community. Certain aspects of that culture have not only made it difficult for me to understand and accept myself, but also deeply harmed my relationship with my parents.
I realize that Christian/homeschooling parents may not be eager to take parenting advice from someone like me, someone who turned out very differently than my own parents expected and hoped I would, but — my parents did their best to give me a Christian education. To raise me to serve Jesus.
I became who I am anyway, in spite of their efforts to control my future. I hope that parents in this culture can try hard to listen to the stories my peers are bravely sharing, so we can work together to build healthier, respectful relationships.
Speaking as a member of the LGBT community, a child of evangelical Christians, and a homeschool grad, the best advice I can give parents struggling to come to terms with their child’s differentness is to listen without condemning. Even if it goes against what you’ve been taught. If you want to maintain a relationship with your kid, you’re going to have to learn how to let go of your expectations for them. They’re going to be who they are anyway, with or without your acceptance.
This is in no way an exhaustive list of things you can do as a Christian/homeschooling parent to actively support LGBT youth in general and your kids specifically, however they identify — just a few things that would have dramatically improved my self-image and my relationship with my parents.
(1) Create an environment of approachability.
Employ positive parenting techniques so we can learn how to be confident and capable from a young age. If you teach us to conform or else, you’re teaching us to shut ourselves off from you in order to protect ourselves from what we perceive to be a real threat, regardless of your actual intentions. Our relationship with you will suffer, and we may also suffer long-term emotional consequences.
(2) When you tell us that you love us “no matter what,’’ prove it.
Don’t undermine our trust by simultaneously expressing hateful views of others. If we catch you lining up at Chik-Fil-A to protest federal protection of LGBT employees or cracking transphobic jokes, we will determine that your love for us is very conditional indeed.
(3) If you want to raise us with a knowledge of Christianity, do some research into textual criticism.
Catch up on the latest theological scholarship. Educate yourself so you can distinguish between what’s good and helpful, and what’s overly simplistic, lacking in nuance, or downright harmful. If this is uncomfortable for you, remember that many Christians — in fact, entire denominations — have found that being open to new information has led to a richer, more vibrant faith.
If it’s not consistently encouraging you to love more, if it’s sending mixed messages or advocates a systemic hierarchy wherein queer people are “rightly” treated as subpar humans, even in subtle ways, it’s not a safe community for us.
(5) Thoroughly research Christian textbooks before you purchase them.
Don’t blindly accept curricula just because it has “godly” and “biblical” stamped all over the cover. (This might require you to confront other assumptions, like theories of origins or structures of society.) Unfortunately, many of the big names in Christian-homeschool publishing are pushing a very specific political agenda that does kids a big disservice by discouraging and suppressing critical thinking skills.
(6) Treat other LGBT people in your life with kindness and respect.
Make our home a safe zone for our queer friends. Stand up for us. When we’re bullied, when we’re discriminated against, when “authority” figures in our world act with arrogance and hate. Be proactive in supporting political policy, at all levels of government, that seeks to protect LGBT people from discrimination and hate crimes.
(7) Don’t interpret any point of divergence as a personal attack.
We love you, but we are not you, just as you differ from your own parents. Everyone has the right to express themselves and make their own life choices. If we grow into happy, healthy, functioning adults, you should see that as a sign of success! You’ve done your job well.