EMBRACE • EDUCATE • EMPOWER • LOVE
Heather Hester, Founder of Chrysalis Mama and Creator/Host of Just Breathe: Parenting Your LGBTQ Teen
Unique solutions for all LGBTQIA2+ Individuals, Parents and Families, Organizations, and Global Outreach
Through Coaching, Speaking, Consulting, Education, and Connection
EPISODE 78:WHEN YOUR LGBTQIA+ LOVED ONE FACES NON-AFFIRMING FOLKS DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Transforming the Conversation
Hi, my name is Heather Hester. Welcome to Chrysalis Mama.
You have probably landed on this page because your child or a loved one (grandchild? niece? friend?) has recently come out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or another sexual orientation or gender identity and you are looking for resources and tools. I know the joys and challenges of parenting an LGBTQ child.
Don’t panic. Take a deep breath. You are in the right place. I’ve been where you are. I’ve felt the shock, the joy, the terror, the growth, the unconditional love, the fierce mama bear response. It’s A LOT! And, it can be challenging to find support, guidance, resources, and education. That’s why I’m here.
Chrysalis Mama is the product of our family’s journey with depression, anxiety, and embracing our son, who, among many wonderful traits, is gay. It is my desire to pass on valuable information and offer support to those who are on a similar journey of loving and raising an LGBTQ+ child.
My mission is to transform the conversation around embracing, education, empowering, and loving LGBTQIA+ adolescents, teenagers, and young adults.
You may be asking – how do we change this conversation? I believe it starts within each one of us, blossoms within our families, and then grows within our communities and beyond. My principles are simple yet effective – To embrace, educate, empower, and love.
I am grateful for this opportunity to connect with parents, allies, advocates, and all who are, among all of their many wonderful traits, LGBTQ!
Nestled in this site you will find:
Covering topics ranging from the LGBTQ+ coming out process to mental health to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion in corporate spaces - the Chrysalis Mama blog is a space to learn, grow, and become empowered.
“The combination of factors is endless, and it may feel a bit daunting to know how to respond as you encounter new experiences throughout your life. Think of the following as a little toolbox or cheat sheet for handling life as an out LGBTQIA+ person..” - Heather Hester
Congratulations, you are out of the closet! Whether you are out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or any other beautiful sexual orientation or gender identity.
You have likely done a lot of internal work to embrace your authentic self. As well as external work in coming out to others. That takes a ton of courage! Take a moment to just soak that in and appreciate how it feels to be unabashedly YOU!
Your growth as an individual, and as a friend, family member, and co-worker. And partners will all develop in their own ways over time.
The combination of factors is endless, and it may feel a bit daunting to know how to respond as you encounter new experiences throughout your life. Think of the following as a little toolbox or cheat sheet for handling life as an out LGBTQIA+ person.
Let’s get the potential negative effects out of the way first. It is always good to be prepared and aware. Knowing that you have done your homework and prepared yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically. For whatever may come will just help you move through your days feeling empowered and calm.
What?! Unfortunate, but true. When we talk about the coming out process. If you move geographically, move jobs, meet new people, or start new hobbies, depending on your comfort (and safety) level.
You will need to come out over and over again. The good news is, that it will probably never be as difficult or nerve-wracking as it was the first time. And, like many things, the more you say it, practice it, and become comfortable with it – the easier it will be.
This one goes hand-in-hand with coming out over and over again. As you move through your life, travel to different places, and meet many different human beings, you are likely to encounter disrespect. THAT can’t be changed.
What can be changed is how you respond to it. Become a “human reader” – in any new situation assess whether the energy. And/or environment is one that is open to education. And one where you need to either go into protection (of self) mode or empathy mode. because really, how sad is it that some humans on this planet can’t appreciate the beauty in other humans? Again, a practice…that takes practice.
Throughout your life, you will come across those who may not understand or may not agree with who you are based on cultural or religious beliefs. And simply have never met an LGBTQIA+ person.
This may present in seemingly benign ways such as microaggressions. (“…but you don’t look queer…”) or tokenization (being put on the spot in a group setting to speak on behalf of your community). It can also present in much more obvious ways in the form of cruel statements or actions.
What I want you to remember is that it is not your responsibility or the purpose of your identity to make people comfortable. And to help them understand – it is for you to be who you are.
Again, as you meet new people, move to a different state or country, or change jobs, bullying is still unfortunately a risk. I mentioned the idea of protecting yourself earlier. An important skill to hone is the ability to assess your safety at any given time.
Part of guarding your identity is learning to recognize the 4Ws of safety. Who is around you, What is happening, When should you share, Where are you – physically and emotionally. As well as where is your exit route? These are not meant to cause anxiety, on the contrary. They are a wonderful tool to empower you and allow you to be present.
One of the sad truths is that your social and family circle may become smaller. In many cases, this will happen immediately as you need to distance yourself from friends and family members who are not affirming.
Over time, some of those loved ones may work through their own prejudices or biases and become educated allies. In the event that that does not happen for you. You are not alone and it is important to acknowledge and work through the pain that realization causes you. Clinical social worker and therapist.
Alex Sobieraj says, “It can be traumatizing to know that in order to live authentically as who you are, you may be sacrificing certain relationships.” Yes – traumatizing, heartbreaking, and just deeply sad. And on the other side of that can be freedom and empowerment. Hold on to your truth and be gentle with yourself.
Now, for the good stuff! I love this quote from author Rosemary Donahue: “Personally, I’m living a life I never dreamt possible for myself. Even when I’m crying on the train home from work. Confused as f*ck because I’ve gotten my heart broken, or sure that a relationship with a family member is forever changed. Because I’ve come out, I’m still happier than I ever was when I was denying my queerness.”
Coming out of the closet, When you’re not worrying about who knows what about you or who may be able to see through the facade. You are trying to create, you open yourself up to the next level of relationships. All of that energy will now be available to develop closer, more genuine connections with those you love. And, as you feel more comfortable in your skin, that ability to connect will reach others around you as well.
Feeling comfortable in your skin is really leaning into all of the different traits that make you YOU – the light and the dark. All of the nuances, every little discovery of likes and dislikes. When you step into who you are, THAT is authentic living!
This has been one of my favorite things to watch with Connor as those initial years of self-loathing turned to self-acceptance. And then self-love. Not only has our relationship become deeper and more real and connected. But he has been able to form friendships and relationships with others as his beautiful, authentic self.
When you have the opportunity to spend time with those who love you and affirm you. Your social interactions will be so much more fulfilling. Connecting with other LGBTQIA+ people and being part of a community can not only be a game changer, but it can also be life-saving.
Increased self-esteem is definitely one benefit that comes with time. The first few years after coming out of the closet can be filled with so much change, emotion, shifting, and growth.
Hitting the stage where you realize your self-esteem is higher than it ever has been is such a lovely milestone. And one that you have likely put in a lot of personal work to achieve. It’s extraordinary the chain reaction of events that are set off by being honest about who we truly are in this world!
Mental health awareness and care for LGBTQIA+ people of particular importance given the many internal, external factors that affect them. it includes (but is not limited to) shame, guilt, bullying, ostracization, self-loathing, and discrimination.
Coming out of the closet and embracing your sexual orientation and/or gender identity likely alleviated a ton of stress immediately. As years go by, the deeper stressors and anxieties will become less and less. The caveat is it does take active work on your part.
Advocacy work is a fabulous way to continue your growth as well as support others on their journey. You can volunteer for your favorite organizations, and share your story. And have real conversations with others debunking myths to name just a few ways you can help raise awareness.
If you are new here, first of welcome, and second of all, check out my podcast for education, helpful information. And stories from me and from my guests that will help you feel like it’s all going to be ok!
If you need some one-on-one support, I offer that too! Click here to set up a time to chat.
If you’re not quite ready for one on one time,my digital course, Learning to Just Breathe, will walk you through the four pillars – Embrace, Educate, Empower, and Love. You will be a pro at supporting your child through the coming out process in no time!
Heather was a passionate and informed speaker on the topic of LGBTQ2S parenting. Heather shares her personal and professional experience through family storytelling and is able to connect to the audience in this candid way. Heather provided thoughtful and supportive feedback to parents’ questions and employees shared positive feedback after her informative session.
~Kallie Jackson, CN PRIDE ERG Co-Chair
Canadian National Railways
I am very happy to know that Heather is available to serve as a resource for parents of LGBTQ+ kids, and really to any parents at all. Everyone talks about being "inclusive", but Heather lives it. Heather is able to accept whatever comes her way and use the power of unconditional love and kindness to turn challenges into gifts. We can all learn a lot from Heather.
~Adam Simon, Executive Director
Odyssey Teen Camp
Heather was the calming voice in a world that was otherwise in upheaval. Heather was there to pick me up (although she didn't know it) and she was the best friend in my head helping me process and get through some difficult stuff. I loved that she gave ME permission to process and mourn my story now that it was being rewritten...Heather gave me the time I needed to get to the next step. Heather didn't judge me. I would download a podcast every morning and listen to ther during my walk. Her voice fixed it for me. Her voice soothed my heartache. Her voice helped me get to the next step of processing and her voice helped me move on. Heather helped me have difficult conversations that were based in kindness. She helped me to breathe. And I love her for that.
~Anonymous and thankful
I was searching for resources to be the best supportive mom I could be to my pre-teen (now teen) and found this amazing podcast! It was just what I needed! I knew I needed some guidance from a parent who had experience through a similar journey and Heather was there with perfect content and even talked with me personally through email. The community Heather has built through this podcast and Facebook page has given me the confidence to not be fearful through this journey but rather to embrace it and encourage my teen to be their authentic self!
~ Lauren Bo21
Heather is real, relatable, thoughtful, educated, and inclusive of every teen parent scenario in her talks. I love being able to hear first hand from someone who has gone through the “Valley of Darkness” and come out the other side a better person, informed, and able to help others right where they are.
Your centered, calming voice and demeanor help me to feel more peaceful. I experience you as therapeutic & your journey gives me more hope that we can love [our son] well. Thank you for giving your life away to me through sharing your story and the guests you interview.
I love your raw, real vulnerability. I am brand new on this journey and stumbled accidentally across your podcast on a road trip. I listened for 8 hours of driving and didn’t want to get to my destination because I wanted more. Using your own journey to help and support other parents is so brave and I am grateful to you and your family. Connor is so fortunate to have you ❤️
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