As part of this month's Mentor Reflection series, we asked Priyanka Aiyer (Princeton, '23) to think back on her journey in discovering her LGBT+ identity, and share meaningful insights for parents navigating conversations on this topic with their children. Read her reflections below:
I began questioning my gender and sexuality at 13. At 17, I started working as an advocate for LGBT+ rights in my home of Singapore, a notoriously homophobic country where I found little queer representation growing up. By sharing my personal history through poetry and building artistic communities on principles of vulnerability, generosity, and honesty, I’m so grateful to have made the coming out process a little less lonely for students across the world.
Photo: Curious Cardinals Mentor, Priyanka Aiyer (Princeton, '23).
Conversations about queerness can be difficult to approach in a way that’s respectful and open. As someone who has worked with dozens of LGBT+ kids to express their identities and find communities to support their journeys, these are the most important things I believe parents should keep in mind when speaking with their children about LGBT+ identities:
- Talk to your child about gender roles and diverse family structures without pressure.
For example, share that there are many ways to be a family—some families have two moms, some have two dads, some live with just one parent. Emphasise that all of us deserve love, and that love comes in many forms.
- Everyone’s coming out story is different.
There’s often a narrative that queer people have one identity all their lives, but the labels I’ve used—bisexual, lesbian, nonbinary—have changed over the years. I’m still me, and I’d hope the people in my life would refrain from making assumptions and love me regardless of how much I’m still learning about my identity.
- Educate yourself on what it means to parent a queer child.
Resources like books, websites, and forums can help tremendously. They can also bring together communities of parents to answer questions and provide support. It’s okay to not know the right thing to say when your child asks questions. The most important things to affirm: you believe them, you love and accept them, and you will always do your best to support them.
- Exemplify acceptance.
Despite the work of LGBT+ advocates, we have a long way to go in the fight for acceptance. When someone makes an inappropriate comment about gender or sexuality, do you let it slide or call them out? By exemplifying acceptance, you make the world a safer place both for your kids and the queer community.
Photo: Curious Cardinals Mentor, Priyanka Aiyer (Princeton, '23), reciting her own poetry.
In my own identity journey and by working with queer kids at Curious Cardinals and beyond, I’ve learned that we’re all just hoping to be accepted by the people we love most. When you educate yourself and show up for kids who are learning day by day who they are, you become a safe space where they can drop labels and expectations, and bloom.