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Affirming Support

Upcoming Webcast: Navigating Your Child's Coming Out Journey Together Wed. June 21, 2023 10am PT
Navigating Your Child’s Coming Out Journey Together 495 402 cj

Navigating Your Child’s Coming Out Journey Together

Navigating Your Child’s Coming Out Journey Together

All parents desire the best for their children, but many are caught off-guard when their child comes out as LGBTQ+. They are unsure of what to say and/or how to react or even “what this means.” LGBTQ+ youth can also face some unique challenges that parents often feel unprepared to tackle. In this webcast you’ll learn how to navigate this journey, find support, and ensure everyone’s well-being.

This webcast welcomes parents, educators, professionals, and the community at large.

During this webcast, we discussed:

  • Understanding the coming out process for young people
  • Exploring and normalizing common reactions when a child comes out
  • Learning how to compassionately support you and your child during their coming out process
  • Hear from a parent about their experience and journey


  • Dr. Jason Bolton (He/Him, Moderator), VP of Admissions & Community Partnerships at The Help Group
  • Jay Baldwin (They/Them), Program Director of The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope
  • Christina K. (She/Her) – Proud Parent

To learn more about our programs and services, please visit…

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round
Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round 495 401 cj

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family Durning the Holidays and All Year Round

Embracing Chosen Family During the Holidays and All Year Round

By Jay Baldwin

“It’s the most wonderful time….of the year.”

This time of year is typically associated with family gatherings full of celebrations, joy and togetherness. We are inundated by Hallmark movies, TV commercials, and social media posts that would have us believe that everyone should be sitting around a fireplace with their loved ones having the most wonderful holiday celebrations. Not everyone, however, has a family of origin they can or even want to be with for a variety of reasons. An increasing number of people, especially folks in the LGBTQ+ community, opt to surround themselves with their chosen family instead of their family of origin, not just during the holiday season but all year round.

Chosen families are the people we surround ourselves with who love us, support us and embrace us for exactly who we are. For many, they are far more loving and nurturing than the families they were born into. But it’s also important to note that a chosen family does *not* require the absence of a family of origin. Chosen family can exist as a powerful source of community in and of itself, or as an additional source of joy and support in addition to one’s family of origin.

Chosen families in the LGBTQ+ community have existed for decades. For centuries, the queer community has found a way to connect with each other and build systems of support when the heteronormative world was not a safe place to be seen and known. For many LGBTQ+ people who are seeking acceptance and understanding of their full selves, surrounding themselves with likeminded and like-identified folks can transform and even save their lives.

This holiday season, I invite you to think about our LGBTQ+ young people who are still navigating how to come out in their own families, facing rejection, or struggling to find their chosen family. I am proud to be donating to an organization called Transanta that helps deliver gifts to transgender youth in need, safely and anonymously. Transsanta was created because “right now, young trans people, particularly Black and Brown trans youth, are under attack across the country and around the world. The pandemic has exacerbated unsafe conditions for trans youth who are houseless, in foster care, in detention, and in abusive or otherwise unsafe housing situations. Transanta was created to show young people that they are loved, supported, and have a family of people around the world who care about them and want them to succeed.”

No matter what community we are a part of, we all desire and deserve meaningful and supportive connections throughout every stage of life. Whether you identify as LGBTQ+, or as a member of a different community entirely, I invite you to think about the concept of chosen family if you haven’t before, or what it means to be part of someone else’s chosen family. Who have you invited into your life who you consider family, even though you didn’t necessarily grow up with them? What kind of family do you want to surround yourself with and be a part of that you perhaps haven’t before? Whether you are with your family of origin, your chosen family, both, or neither, whether you are celebrating a lot, a little, or not at all, I see each and every one of you, and I wish you all a safe and healthy holiday season.

Coming Out Again and Again
Coming Out Again & Again 495 401 cj

Coming Out Again & Again

Coming Out Again and Again

Coming Out Again & Again

By Leo Kirkham

As Dr. Sarah Bruce wrote in her blog post for last year’s Coming Out Day, coming out is a journey, not a destination. There is rarely one single moment in a person’s life where they come out, but rather, a series of choices every single day about whether to come out to the random stranger cutting your hair, or to your neighbor, or to your doctor. This puts LGBTQIA people in the position to choose safety or authenticity: Do I choose the comfort of this person knowing my identity, or the comfort of them not knowing?

Coming out can bring feelings of joy, relief, and even euphoria – but it can also bring feelings of fear or anxiety. For some LGBTQIA people, in their journey of exploring their gender and sexual orientation, find that they need to come out again as something new.

Personally, I came out as bisexual before I came out as a lesbian. Then I came out as nonbinary, changed my name, and starting using they/them pronouns. Each coming out marked a new stage of my journey to finding myself, and a step closer to my truest, most authentic self.

But coming out again, and again, was scary. Will the family members and friends who loved and accepted me as a lesbian, still love and accept me as nonbinary? Will they use my new name and pronouns? If I change my name or pronouns in the future, will they understand?

Every new coming out brings with it a new wave of doubts and what-ifs.

Sometimes, family members or friends are accepting of a person’s sexual orientation, but not their gender identity. Or they are okay with their child being gay, but they don’t believe bisexuality is real. Or they were fine with someone changing their name and pronouns once, but think, does that person have to change them again?

There is also the fear of reinforcing negative stereotypes about the LGBTQIA community. For example, I feared coming out as a lesbian and reinforcing the stereotype that bisexuality isn’t real, or that all bisexuals come out as gay in the end. This stereotype isn’t true, but often LGBTQIA folks, like other minorities, face the burden of having to represent their entire community. Stigma and stereotypes arise when individuals are taken to represent all LGBTQIA people.

Instead, we should give individuals the freedom to explore their identities without judgment. Every new coming out should be greeted with joy and celebration. Tell your child or loved one, “Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for telling me. Thank you for being your true, authentic self with me.” By creating a safe environment for your loved ones, you encourage them to be confident, be brave, and be themselves.

How to Affirm Your LGBTQ+ Students
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How to Affirm your LGBTQ+ Students

How to Affirm Your LGBTQ+ Students

How to Affirm your LGBTQ+ Students

By Jay Baldwin

It’s back to school season, and schools across the United States are welcoming a new set of youth into their classrooms. Going back to school can cause a variety of emotions for students, and LGBTQ+ students are no exception. Many queer and transgender young people have a particular set of challenges to navigate in school settings, and teachers and school staff can make a profound difference in their LGBTQ+ students’ lives by showing them support, affirmation and acceptance. The statistics for many students in the LGBTQ+ community are staggering. The Trevor Projects’ National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health reports:

  • 6 in 10 LGBT students report feeling unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation.
  • LGBTQ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers

It is important to emphasize that LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk and mental health issues because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but are at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. (Trevor Project, 2022)

As a teacher, staff or other student support individual, here is the statistic that is most important to remember:
LGBTQ youth who report having at least one accepting adult in their lives are 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt in the past year.

Being an accepting adult could save one of your students’ lives. Here are some simple but meaningful ways that you can be an affirming and accepting adult for your students:

Create visual cues in your office/classroom that signal support for the community

Because many people in the LGBTQ+ community rely on non-verbal cues to know whether someone or somewhere is safe and accepting, small items like a rainbow flag, a safe space sticker, or a pronoun pin that says your own pronouns can signal to your students that you are going to affirm and support their identity.

Avoid gendered language

Using non gendered language is one of the simplest but most affirming ways to create an inclusive atmosphere and also avoid misgendering students. Instead of saying “boys and girls” or “ladies and gentlemen,” try “folks”, “everyone” or “friends.” Use your students’ names as opposed to referring to them with “Mr. or Ms.”

Ask students how they’d like to be referred to

Some students may use a different name or pronouns than you may first assume. One helpful tool is creating a “getting to know you” form that includes asking students what pronouns and name they’d like you to use for them at the beginning of the school year. Because some students live in homes that do not affirm their identity, make sure to ask whether or not it’s okay to use these pronouns and name when speaking with their parents or caregivers.

Keep an open mind, and be prepared to make mistakes

Do you have a student whose identity you don’t completely understand? Maybe you keep slipping up on pronouns, or feel like you don’t know the right terminology? It’s okay to make mistakes or not understand everything right away. The most important part is to keep an open mind, apologize when you make a mistake, and be committed to continually getting to know your students and the ways they want to be seen and known.

Provide statements of affirmation.

Tell your students that their identities are valuable and beautiful. In a world where LGBTQ+ people are regularly under attack, your students need this more than ever.


Wishing you all a wonderful back to school season, and here is to creating a safer and more inclusive world for all of our LGBTQ+ youth.

Webcast: Providing Affirming Therapeutic Support to LGBTQ+ Youth and Young Adults
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Affirming Therapeutic LGBTQ+ Support

Providing Affirming Therapeutic Support to LGBTQ+ Youth & Young Adults

June is Pride Month, and we discussed the benefits of providing affirming, therapeutic support to LGBTQIA+ youth and young adults. LGBTQ+ Affirmative Psychology is a branch of psychology that embraces a positive view of LGBTQIA+ people and addresses the negative impacts of the biases and prejudices they may encounter. We also discussed ways to integrate Queer affirmative principles into clinical practice and to support your LGBTQIA+ clients and loved ones. For allies, parents, educators, therapists, and the community at large.

Topics covered in this session include:

  • History of LGBTQ+ Affirmative Psychology
  • The need for affirming support • Benefits of LGBTQ+ Affirmative Psychology
  • Core components of LGBTQ+ Affirmative Psychology • Clinical considerations when working with LGBTQ+ youth and young adults
  • Q&A Panel Speakers


  • Jason Bolton, PsyD (moderator) – VP of Community Partnerships & Admissions at The Help Group
  • Sarah Bruce, PsyD, (she/her), Post-Doctoral Psychology Fellow and Therapist at Lumina Counseling Center
  • Joselyn Valle, PsyD, (she/ella), LGBTQ+ Therapist at Kaleidoscope and Lumina Counseling Center

To learn more about The Help Group, Kaleidoscope, and Lumina Counseling, please visit…

What Does It Mean To Identify As Non-Binary? 495 401 cj

What Does It Mean To Identify As Non-Binary?

What Does It Mean To Identify As Non-Binary?

If you watched the Sex And the City reboot titled, And Just Like That, then you saw the character Charlotte learn that her 13 year old child Rose now identifies as non-binary and wants to be called Rock. Charlotte is at first utterly baffled but then decides to learn all she can about what it means to be non-binary. At the series’ end, Charlotte is completely supportive of her child.Some viewers of the show found Charlotte’s journey very relatable, while for others this may have been the first time they learned about people who identify as non-binary.

What does the term non-binary mean? Non-binary can mean different things to different people. For some, being non-binary means they don’t identify as exclusively male or female. Other non-binary people may have a fluctuating gender identity or identify as nongendered. If your child identifies as non-binary, then the best way to understand how your child defines themselves is to ask your child how they personally define non-binary.

To further explain, when a baby is born, the doctor assigns the gender as male or female based on external anatomy. However, as the child grows up, the gender assigned at birth may not align with how the child feels internally. We now know that gender is a social construct, meaning children are socialized to behave in ways that align with society’s expectation for what is “male” or “female”. Some children feel strongly that their assigned gender does not fit with who they are as a person and those people identify as transgender. And some children feel that they are both male and female genders, or neither gender, or maybe that their gender changes. These people identify as being on the non-binary spectrum. Other terms for non-binary are genderfluid, genderqueer, or agender. How a person feels about themselves is very unique so there is no way to look at a person and know how they identify.

When your child declares that they are non-binary, it is a normal reaction to feel scared or confused. Some parents feel a sense of grief for the loss of what was and find it challenging to move to a place of embracing their child for who they are now. If you find yourself struggling, you can seek support and counseling from Kaleidoscope’s therapeutic services or join with other parents of non-binary children in a safe environment such as Kaleidoscope’s free monthly Parent Support Groups.

Although parents may feel overwhelmed when their child shares that they are non-binary, parents should do their best to respond to their child in a non-judgemental  and compassionate manner. It is important to remember how brave their child was to share their authentic self with their parents, and how confusing it must be for them as they travel this journey of self-discovery.

Parents should focus on being their child’s support team and to be there with love and affirmations. Tell your child that you love them and accept them unconditionally. Let your child take the lead. Ask what pronouns they prefer and if they are comfortable with their name. If they decide to use a chosen name and different pronouns, make every effort to use them.

A parent’s support can give their non-binary child the secure foundation for their healthy development. Parents can demonstrate love and support by showing interest, asking questions and trying to learn all they can about their child’s identity.  For example, ask your child if they would like your help with advocating regarding any school related issues, such as their new name added to the school’s roster of students.

One issue that can be difficult for parents is when their child informs them that they no longer want to be called by their “deadname” which is a term for the name given at birth. Some parents find it painful that their child loathes the name that they spent time choosing and bestowed with love. But their child may feel that their deadname represents the pain they feel when forced to be in a gender category that doesn’t feel “right” to them. Selecting a new name signifies a fresh start and the hope of a more content sense of self. When a parent uses the name their child prefers, it signals acceptance and love, and the understanding that your child is who they want to be.

All parents want their children to lead happy and fulfilled lives. By following their child’s lead, by demonstrating affirmative support, and by loving their child unconditionally, parents of non-binary children are helping to chart their path toward a happy life.

Webcast: The Intersection Between Autism Spectrum Disorder and LGBTQIA+
The Intersection Between Autism Spectrum Disorder & LGBTQIA+ 495 401 cj

The Intersection Between Autism Spectrum Disorder & LGBTQIA+

The Intersection Between Autism Spectrum Disorder & LGBTQIA+

The Help Group, leaders in the field of nonpublic special education, and Kaleidoscope, a new program by The Help Group that supports neurodivergent and neurotypical LGBTQIA+/Questioning youth, young adults and their families in building healthy relationships, higher resiliency, and critically needed life skills, are excited to host a dedicated webcast covering a unique topic that you won’t want to miss!

We discussed the intersection between Autism Spectrum Disorder and LGBTQIA+, covering the following areas….

  • Overview of language/terminology
  • What the data tells us about the high degree of intersectionality between ASD and LGBTQIA identities
  • What does it mean to be a dual minority
  • How to create safe spaces for LGBTQIA autistic folks


Moderator: Jason Bolton, PsyD – VP of Community Partnerships & Admissions

Dr. Laurie Stephens – Sr. Director of ASD & LGBTQ+ Programs

Dr. Sarah Bruce – Help Group Postdoctoral Fellow

About The Help Group’s Kaleidoscope Program Kaleidoscope supports LGBTQIA+/Questioning youth, young adults and their families in building healthy relationships, strong social connections and critically needed life skills. Through high quality, innovative programming, using the latest research and evidence-based programs, our mission is to help each person realize their unique potential and thrive!

To learn more about The Help Group or Kaleidoscope please visit…

May 2021 blog feature image transgender flag graphic with moon phases
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When It’s Not A Phase

May 2021 blog feature image transgender flag graphic with moon phases

When It’s Not A Phase

Parents of transgender children are often asked, “When did you suspect?” The answer to that question varies as no two kids are alike. But a common theme often emerges: there wasn’t one single instance, but rather dozens of small signs that added up to “suspecting.”

Some examples of “signs” that parents have noticed is the insistence on stereotypical “girl” or “boy” clothing, hair styles, and toys that do not correlate to the child’s biological gender at birth. Many parents share that when their child is told they cannot wear the clothes they prefer, or not allowed to play with certain toys, their child expresses intense sadness. But when allowed to express themselves in the clothing and hairstyles of their choosing, their child is filled with joy. The collection of these signs point to an unwavering truth: their child knows their gender identity.

It is important to acknowledge when a child is asserting things about themselves that are a part of their identity. For some parents this can be overwhelming and confusing.

Researchers at the University of Washington found that gender identity (the concept of knowing whether one’s self is male, female, or non-binary) is as strong in transgender  kids, including those who are neurodiverse, as it is among typically developing children. An interesting component of this study is that transgender children’s gender development mirrors that of neurotypical and neurodiverse children, and that they can start to identify with clothes and toys in line with their authentic gender from a rather young age.

Gender – defined

 An infant does not know what it means to be a boy or girl. They discover the meaning of these words from their parents, older children, and the people in their lives. Young children also receive a lot of messages from their culture and the media: boys wear blue clothes and like sports, and girls wear pink and like to play with dolls. But a person’s actual gender does not exist in the binary terms of boy/girl and male/female. Rather, gender is more of a spectrum with people expressing and identifying with degrees of masculinity and femininity. Feeling comfortable with our own gender identity and expression is vital to the way we see ourselves and how we engage with the world.

A transgender person identifies along this spectrum, but also identifies as a gender different from the one biologically assigned based on genitalia. A child is deemed to be transgender by behavior and expression that is consistent, insistent, and persistent about their identity. A transgender child will typically insist over the course of many years that they are not the gender they were assigned at birth.

For transgender kids, family and commuinity support is essential to establish comfort in their true sense of self. Research has shown that when a young person receives affirmative support from parents, grandparents, family members, teachers, and peers, there is greatly improved mental health and well-being. It is important to point out that the research shows that transgender young people are at a greater risk of suicide as a result of rejection and bullying. The reality is, support for a transgender child can make all of the difference to insuring that your child is thriving.

Parenting a Transgender Child

Parents of transgender children go through a transition process along with their child, and that transition carries with it a lot of emotions. A parent may feel genuinely happy and excited for their child as they embark on this new journey, but there may also be feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, and loss. When a child tells their parents that they are not the gender they were biologically born with, a parent can feel frightened and unsure about what the future may hold for their child. Parents of transgender children should remind themselves that all feelings about this experience are valid.

Experts suggest that parents be kind to themselves but also work through their emotions away from their child and perhaps with the care of a mental health professional. Each family member may react differently and come to acceptance at different times. Talking about this experience with a therapist can be helpful. The Kaleidoscope Program provides therapeutic services for neurotypical and neurodiverse transgender children, and their parents. Our therapists have expertise with supporting neurotypical and neurodiverse transgender children and their families, and can provide guidance and tools to assist with the transition.

It may not be a phase.

While many children and teens go through “phases” such as dying their hair black, or being obsessed with a celebrity, this is very different than being transgender. It can be very hurtful for a transgender child if a parent dismisses their thoughts and behavior as a phase. Many transgender children rely on their parents and family members for support and acceptance, as they may not experience acceptance in environments outside of the home.

Parents can show support for their transgender child in a number of ways. To begin, parents should try to make a true effort to use the names and pronouns that align with their child’s gender identity. Further, parents can advocate for their child at their school to make sure there are systems in place that will support and protect their child such as gender neutral bathrooms and locker room spaces. And most importantly, assure your child that they have your unconditional love and support – always.

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.

April Blog 2021 young woman leaning on a white couch wearing a rainbow knitted sweater
The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+ 495 401 cj

The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+

The Overlapping Spectrums of ASD and LGBTQIA+

April is Autism Awareness Month, a time to increase understanding and acceptance of people with autism, and to provide continued support, kindness, and compassion for the autism community. This year, the Autism community is making a shift in their language to now declare April as Autism Acceptance Month. The hope is to ignite change through improved support as well as opportunities in all areas of life including education and employment.

The concept of acceptance is the foundation of the Kaleidoscope program. Our mission is to provide services for young people on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum of Sexual Orientation, Gender, Gender Identity, and Gender Expression. April is an important month for our program as we celebrate our clients who are on both the autism and LGBTQIA+ spectrums.

Several studies suggest that autistic men are more likely than autistic women to identify as heterosexual. In one Dutch study, only 57 percent of autistic women reported being straight as compared to 82 percent of autistic men. The women were more likely to be attracted to both sexes, and also to neither sex.

Research shows that a higher percentage of autistic people identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer than the general population. “Most of the data that we’re seeing is that the rate for autistic people who identify as LGBTQIA+  is two to three times higher,” says clinical psychologist Eileen T. Crehan, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Tufts University. But larger studies need to be done before the true rate is known, she says.

We also know that gender, like autism, exists on a spectrum. The two spectrums, gender and autism, are now considered to frequently overlap. A recent study revealed that gender identity (a person’s internal sense of their own gender) and sexuality are more varied among autistic people than in the general population, and autism is more common among people who do not identify as their assigned sex at birth. Research shows that children with autism are 7.6 times more likely to express gender variance. Clinicians and researchers have noted a trend over the last twenty-five years with increasing numbers of children who are seeking professional care related to gender identity who also identify as autistic or having autistic traits.

Overall, autism appears to be more prevalent among gender-diverse people. A larger percentage of autistic people reported their gender as being something other than strictly male or female, compared to other people. Examples of gender identities included in that study were “genderqueer” and “other.”

Gender diverse is defined as an identity beyond the binary (male/female) framework. A 2018 Australian survey of transgender teens and young adults found that 22.5% had been diagnosed with autism. Research suggests that people who have an autism diagnosis or autism traits are more likely to be transgender than the general population. One study found the rate to be two to three times higher in people who have autism.

For some autistic LGBTQIA+ young people, there is a sense of isolation and of not belonging. Belongingness, as defined by Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, at the Stanford Center for Research and Disease Prevention, is “a sense of belonging that is a basic human need – as basic as food and shelter.” Dr. Pelleetier continues, “Social support may be one of the critical elements distinguishing those who remain healthy from those will become ill.”

Our Kaleidoscope team understands that our autistic LGBTQIA+ clients may find some aspects of “belongingness” challenging due to deficits in social communication and difficulty initiating social interactions. Our hope is that our social support groups can be a resource for those who seek to belong in a community. Our online LGBTQIA+ social support groups, Pride Club for teens and Coffee Chat for young adults, offer a sense of empowerment and increased self-esteem for young LGBTQIA+ people, due to a kind, inclusive environment  with non-judgemental peers.

Research proves that accepting behaviors by peers and adults such as respect, support and kindness, can positively impact autistic LGBTQIA+ young people as evidenced by higher self-esteem, better overall health, and a belief that they can be healthy, happy adults.

Cheers to a happy Autism Acceptance Month for all of our wonderful ASD and LGBTQIA+ clients!

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.

The Value of Parent Support Groups 495 400 cj

The Value of Parent Support Groups

The Value of Parent Support Groups

Growing up is rarely a smooth and easy journey. This is especially true when you are figuring out who you are, and trying to affirm and assert your sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Parents of LGBTQIA+ children and teens may also find their child’s maturation a challenging time. But family support and acceptance is vital to the physical and emotional health of young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer.

Joining a parent support group is a wonderful resource for parents of LGBTQIA+ children as it can be comforting to talk with fellow parents who are on the same journey. Kaleidoscope offers an ongoing, bi-monthly support group for parents and caregivers of LGBTQIA+ young people.

I am the proud parent of a gay son and a member of Kaleidoscope’s parent group. I find our meetings to be uplifting and inspiring. Recently I had a conversation with our group leader, Kaleidoscope Therapist Bryan Scheihing, and we talked about the importance of group support:

Hi Bryan, Can You Describe The Dynamics Of A Parent Support Group?

A support group helps participants cope with common challenges that they are facing or have faced. Kaleidoscope’s support group is a safe space for parents to connect with one another, share their experiences, give and receive support, and learn about resources.

How Can A Support Group Help Parents Prepare For Mental Health Challenges Their Child May Face?

Attending our support group can help parents gain skills that will allow them to feel prepared if their child develops mental health challenges related to their LGBTQIA+ identity. Conversations regarding potential challenges, adversity, and safety concerns are instructive for parents and allow them to help their child develop the “emotional armor” they need to withstand negative messaging and recognize that the real problem lies with those perpetuating the message.

Our parent group is also a source of information so that parents can learn how to help their LGBTQIA+ child develop a strong sense of self-esteem which can serve as a protective factor to help reduce feelings of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse behaviors. In addition, parents in our group learn about opportunities available to their child to help find peers to connect with and how to access resources within the LGBTQIA+ community.

What Advice Do You Give To Parents Who Feel Stressed, Confused, Or Surprised By Their Child’s Coming Out?

That these are normal reactions! At Kaleidoscope, we always assume that parents are coming from a good place and want what is best for their children. For many parents, acceptance of their child is just a natural response. For other parents, acceptance is a journey. There are parents for whom their initial reaction may be that they won’t be able to accept their LGBTQIA+ child’s identity. In those times, it may be helpful to think no matter how difficult it may be for a parent to learn about their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity, it was much, much more difficult for a young person to come out to their parents. Our group is a safe space for parents to share their feelings about their child’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity with other parents on the same journey without fear of judgement.

How Can The Support Group Help Parents Who Love And Support Their LGBTQIA+ Child But Are Feeling A Sense Of Grief That The Life They Had Imagined For Their Child May Not Come To Be?

The support group can help parents realize that grieving is a process; it is not linear and it takes time to adjust. Talking with other parents who may have had similar initial reactions can be comforting. Sharing feelings can provide an opportunity for self-exploration of one’s own biases and fears. Sometimes a parent’s grief stems from the fear that their child may not get to experience certain aspects of life as a result of their gender identification and/or sexual orientation. For example, many parents who initially mourned their LGBTQIA+ child’s coming out as meaning their child would not have children of their own, now find themselves being proud grandparents! Often parents will say that hearing another parent in the group describe how they moved from grief to acceptance to fully embracing their LGBTQIA+ child is a source of solace and hope.

Sometimes In Our Group Discussions, A Parent Will Share That They Feel That They Have Done Something Wrong That Caused Their Child To Identify As LGBTQIA+. How Does Our Group Support Parents Who Feel This Way?

Our group is an opportunity to talk about how identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not a choice or a reaction to anything, but a recognition of who one is in regard to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. (Note the word orientation is used rather than preference to demonstrate that this is how one naturally is and not somehow choosing to be.) The choice that’s involved is whether or not to authentically express this orientation and identity to others.

Our group is a safe space where parents can share their worries and provides an opportunity to ask questions and to get clarity on LGBTQIA+ concepts that may be misunderstood. We talk openly in the group that it is a heteronormative bias that something has “gone wrong” when someone is LGBTQIA+. Every human being has a sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact that some orientations and identities are different from others does not make them wrong – it just makes them different. And that’s perfectly okay.

Our Group Is For Parents Of Neurotypical And Neurodivergent LGBTQIA+ Children. Have You Found That Parenting A LGBTQIA+ Child Is Similar For Both Cohorts?

Although each child with autism has a unique experience, LGBTQIA+ young people that are also on the autism spectrum may face more complex challenges than their neurotypical peers. It’s important to listen to these young people and consider the potential influence of certain factors, such as theory of mind deficits, social challenges, sensory sensitivity, and more, while also recognizing that youth with autism have as much of a right to identify and express who they are as neurotypical young people.

What Would You Say To A Parent That Wants To Attend Our Support Group But Feels A Bit Nervous About It. What Can They Expect?

I would tell them: You are not alone. Not in your experience of having a LGBTQIA+ child, not in your concern for wanting to support them, and not in your experience of feeling anxious about engaging with other parents. Culturally, many of us were raised to keep such “family issues” to ourselves, which only perpetuates stigma. The purpose of the group is to support you in your experience. You will not be shamed or judged for your feelings. You will be welcomed.

Thank you Bryan for your insight and guidance. If you are interested in joining our Kaleidoscope Parent Group or have questions about the group, please email.