Father’s Day is this week and millions of people will be feeling the pressure of picking up last minute cards and gifts to share on Sunday. For LGBTQ+ people like me facing rejection from their families though, there will be a less mundane reality to face up to: the choice our parents have made to prioritise intolerance over their own children.

While we can look to recent stories of accepting celebrity parents like Charlize Theron for hope, many face an experience more akin to that of Etta Ng. The daughter of action superstar Jackie Chan, Ng and wife Andi Autumn spoke in a 2018 video of the rejection they faced from homophobic parents and friends which lead to homelessness upon Ng’s coming out.

When faced with coming out to my own family, every bigoted thing they’d said about LGBTQ+ people over the years resurfaced in my head. I tried telling myself that my older brother wouldn’t really stab a family member if he found out they’re gay, he must have been joking. Every time he intentionally misgendered people he knew to be transgender must have been an honest mistake, surely?

In 2014, upon finding myself unemployed after university and terrified of returning home knowing I couldn’t tell my already violently abusive family who I really was, I found myself alone. With nowhere else to go, I turned to charity Akt who were able to get me temporary accommodation with a generous couple that welcomed me into their home.

Akt work in the North West, North East and London to provide LGBTQ+ youth with homes, mentoring, training and support. These resources are essential at a time when 24 per cent of homeless young people identify as LGBT. For these young people, these are truly life or death situations.

Driven to a suicide attempt from just the fear of coming out to my family, I finally worked up the strength to text my family from the relative safety of a psychiatric ward. I laid on the grass, watched closely by whichever member of staff had drawn the short straw of watching over me their entire shift. I typed the words I’d wanted to say for years.

‘I am a trans woman, I’m bisexual and I’m not going to change. This is me, take it or leave it.’ I hit send and realised I was about to get my answer to whether or not my brother was joking.

Thus began a cycle of living in supported housing, group homes and leaving hospitals after yet another breakdown or severe self-harm incident, unsure where I’d be sleeping that night. This uncertainty is just the tip of of the iceberg for the issues faced by young homeless people of whom 77 per cent believe that their sexuality or gender identity was a causal factor in their rejection from home.

My family’s fairly predictable but still utterly heartbreaking choice was to cast me out over four years ago with no chance for reconciliation.

With the media giving LGBTQ+ people light to such a barrage of hatred against them, it’s imperative we counter that at the earliest possible moment. That’s why learning diversity in practice, acceptance of all people and pride in our differences can make such a huge difference at an early age. LGBTQ+ kids learn there’s nothing wrong with who they are and everybody around them learns allyship and the importance of passing it on.

In order to give the question of ‘should I accept my lesbian/gay/bisexual/trans/queer child?’ the weight it deserves, the question itself needs to be boiled down to its essential meaning and it’s many iterations. ‘Would I rather have a happy daughter/sister or a son/brother I never see again?’ and ‘do I prefer a gay family member or losing a family member?’ are the basic proposals here and I feel the answer should be obvious.

My family’s fairly predictable but still utterly heartbreaking choice was to cast me out over four years ago with no chance for reconciliation.

I’ve never had an answer to whether or not my brother was joking about the violence he’d inflict on me. The silver lining of the question is that it’s taught me to stay vigilant but never invisible. Now I live in a small flat back in my hometown with my wife of two years and our silly little cat.

It’s important to remember that even when faced with losing our family and friends, our identities should never mean we have to hide.

For more information on akt and to donate, visit akt.org.uk

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