Pride Month: meeting, acknowledging and respecting people where they are

It’s Pride month this month! So we thought we would take the opportunity to not only celebrate the month, but also to say a little something from a Psychologist’s point of view…

Gender and sexuality are more commonly discussed which is amazing but sometimes our young people can struggle finding their way both sexually and with their gender. Not to mention, it can be tricky for us parents too. However, we can’t stress enough the importance of meeting, acknowledging and respecting people as they are at the time.

That can mean many different things – acknowledging someone’s pain and struggles, or respecting someone’s gender identification or sexual orientation. It also means being willing to tolerate uncertainty or our own limited understanding as we make room for exploration, fluidity, and change. 

That can feel so scary as a parent! We don’t have the answers but perhaps our answers are not needed here. What matters is our love, understanding, acceptance, support and flexibility. It is our willingness to make room for perhaps clunky conversations about feelings and issues we know very little about, but it is these very conversations that our child needs.

I have just finished reading “Life as a Unicorn” by Amrou Al-Kadhi. This gives an honest and funny account of the author’s struggles with gender, sexuality, ethnicity, culture and religion. But what is most painful is the rejection and disconnection from his family and ensuing trauma as he seeks connection and reassurance elsewhere but in very destructive ways. His early family experiences left him feeling disgusting; unworthy of love or acceptance.

Amrou described his feelings during a psychological breakdown after years of feeling rejected, degraded and not cared for. He eloquently describes the feelings of dissociation that many clients describe – a sense of being disconnected when we do not have loving and meaningful social relationships to anchor us. 

Amrou described his face tingling, his head light and his vision distorted. He lost time and connection with reality. He described “I felt that the surroundings were imminently about to rip open and dissolve…with very few things keeping me rooted to anything or anyone in reality…of course I don’t belong in this world, it isn’t real”.  He described his shattered identity.

As parents, can we give voice to, show acceptance of, and respect for our children’s chosen identity or current struggles/pain? Can we create space for them to form a cohesive identity, rather than something fragmented with parts of themselves hidden away? Even if we don’t really understand it or have the answers? Even if it may morph and change some more as they mature? Even if we feel scared? 

At Pocket Family Psychologist, we don’t have the answers, but we can support and guidance to parents and families to find ways of validating, exploring and accepting. 

Below are some resources you may find useful:

  • This video with 8 coming out tips for those struggling to come out
  • Mermaids – supports transgender, nonbinary and gender-diverse children, young people and their families.
  • GIDS – Gender Identity Development Service – highly specialised clinic for young people experiencing difficulties with their gender. Information and advice. Assessment service.
  • Gendered Intelligence – working with the trans community, specialising in supporting young trans people aged 8-25. Includes resources for trans and gender questioning young people and their families.
  • Galop – support LGBT+ people who have experienced hate crime, sexual violence or domestic abuse
  • LGBT Foundation – information and support for those who identify as non-binary or gender fluid

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"Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative"

“Dr Andrea Shortland’s session for MediaCom on a children’s mental health was incredibly informative. During the second period of lockdown and home-schooling; parents and children found themselves again in a period of upheaval and transition. Many parents and carers were extremely worried about their children’s mental health and their own ability to be present and engaged whilst also playing the role of teacher and care giver. Dr Shortland gave attendees an insight into how many parents were feeling; tips on supporting children and helping them cope whilst studying from home and also managing their mental health. She also helped us realise the importance of taking care of ourselves in order to effectively support our children. It was such a useful session that we realise it was also pertinent for not only children’s mental health but also adults! We will be holding another session with Dr Andrea and MediaCom soon.”

Avelon Thompson, MediaCom (following a parenting workshop)