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How to Support Your Gay Child

Straight-from-the-heart advice for parents and grandparents who want to do the right thing.

"My fear for her safety keeps me up at night." So no one is likely to harass Neil Patrick Harris or Cynthia Nixon and their partners and new babies. But don't think for one solitary moment that your child or grandchild won't be a target tomorrow or a year from now. Yes, gay people are more visible than ever before. But it is equally true that homophobia runs rampant and deep in this country. Help them think through and prepare for this. Traveling is a big area of concern. Remember: Your job as a parent or grandparent is to advocate for your kid every step of the way. Gay kids need lots of it.

"I just want him to be happy." This is the best comment of all. Isn't this what we all want for our kids? I remember coming out like it was yesterday (it so wasn't). My father's first words were powerful and instinctual: "I always thought this was a tough row to hoe and I will not make it any tougher. I want you to be happy." Now, later that day, he expressed concern that St. Peter's pearly gates would be closed unto me. But at least he was honest. And yes, it got better. Because time (and love) were on our side.

There is one common theme in all the advice I offer. We want our kids to talk to us, to be honest, to live with integrity. Coming out and living openly is all of that. Congratulations. You raised a great kid. Now it's your turn. Great kids need great parents. Be honest, supportive and open. Be a fierce advocate. And stop worrying that they won't be happy. Start assuming they will be.

Joan Garry is a nationally recognized gay rights leader and the former president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). She is a professor at the Annenberg School for Communications at the University of Pennsylvania and a nonprofit consultant. Garry was recently appointed to the N.J. State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

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