No, I’m Not “Your Mom Now”
How a well-intentioned meme might hurt vulnerable LGBTQ+ youth
Well-meaning moms, we need to talk.
During Pride month, I saw quite a few of you sharing memes that were variations of “Dear LGBTQ youth: If your family isn’t accepting of your identity, I’m your Mom now. Drink your water, get some sleep, I love you.” Even celebrity moms were doing it. Cute, right? So sweet!
I loved seeing so many women in my social media feeds sharing messages of support for LGBTQ+ youth, but something about this particular meme rubbed me the wrong way. It took me a while to figure out why I didn’t want to re-post it.
Here’s the thing. I know you mean well. I know you want to affirm these kids and let them know that you are an ally, a safe person for them to come to. This is awesome, and so needed. Kids absolutely need to be able to identify the allies in their lives, and you should be openly and loudly proclaiming your acceptance and welcoming stance.
In a world where LGBTQ+ youth are still kicked out of their homes or subjected to conversion therapy or told that they are deficient or wrong or broken because of their sexuality or gender identity, I’m wary of critiquing the mode of your support. No one wants to be told, “be an ally, but not like that.” Listen, I’m just glad you’re here, okay?
But think about how “I’m your mom now” might read to an actual LGBTQ+ kid who is right in the middle of realizing that their family of origin does not accept them as they are. It might feel flippant, or dismissive of the pain of their lived experience. If they don’t accept you, that’s okay, because this random woman does! Maybe they don’t need some random woman. They’re right in the thick of trying to negotiate a relationship with the parent(s) or other family members who have let them down.
“I’m your mom now” also ends up centering yourself in someone else’s suffering. Instead of affirming the pain and confusion of what they’re going through, it sounds like you’re jumping in and making this about you. And if you’re posting this on Facebook, who’s your audience here? Are you reaching the kids you mean to, or are you signaling to the other moms on your friends list that you’re not that kind of mother?
I’ve always appreciated the original messaging of The Trevor Project, an organization that has been supporting LGBTQ+ youth since 1998. “It gets better.” It’s positive, it encourages kids to hang in there. But at the same time, it acknowledges that now might suck. It makes space for the kids who are stuck in the closet, or straddling the line of out-at-school-but-not-at-home, or have come out but were met with ridicule or worse. And at the same time, reminds them that their lives won’t always be like this.
As National Coming Out Day (October 11, mark your calendars!) approaches, you might be looking for ways to support the LGBTQ+ young people in your lives. You might be mindful that the messaging of acceptance and inclusion you’re putting out there could be just what a kid needs at that moment. Or you might be thinking “I don’t know any LGBTQ+ kids so this doesn’t apply to me,” to which I would gently remind you that you absolutely do, even if you — or they — don’t know it yet. All the more reason to loudly proclaim your acceptance and remind the kids around you that your home is a safe space.
Queer kids need all the allies they can get. They need to be surrounded by a cacophony of love and acceptance. And if you’re one of the adults joining your voice to that choir, that truly is the most important thing.
But maybe think twice before sharing one of those “I’m your mom now” memes, and consider instead how you can show your support and love without risking coming off as glib.
And whether you’re changing your profile pic to a pride flag or sharing links to resources for LGBTQ+ youth, whatever you do, vote on November 3 like these kids’ lives depend on it. Because they do.
If you are a LGBTQ+ young person who is struggling, the Trevor Project’s hotline is available 24/7 by calling 1–866–488–7386, or you can text with them here.