Coming out is hard enough but imagine your parent is a celebrity and having that additional pressure and stigma pushed upon you when come out about your sexuality or gender identity. This is the situation for R. Kelly’s daughter, now son, who recently came out on social media about his intended transition from female to male. I can only imagine the intense weight of that “coming out” on R. Kelly and his new son, Jay.
R Kelly is an internationally known artist in the R&B genre which holds a predominantly African American artist presence and consumer base. We don’t see many African American performers being open about their sexuality or anything else “outside the box” in the mainstream media and when we do it is met with a blunt reaction. Case in point: the backlash against Frank Ocean post coming out, although now subsiding, it reached epic proportions last year. I would imagine R. Kelly is receiving similar backlash from his R&B peers and fans as it is commonly a masculine and high testosterone based group. I also imagine that behavior related to anything “homosexual” of any sense is not tolerated. Mr. Kelly certainly has a hard road to walk and hopefully he will be strong enough to do it with dignity and grace.
More so, my heart goes out to Jay for having the courage to be open about his transition regardless of what barriers he faces from his father, community, or the general public. I commend him for his bravery and hope he continues moving forward to accomplish his life’s goal and achieve fulfillment. Especially under these circumstances, I would imagine you would need to have a thick skin and a lot of positive support. I don’t think I would be able to bear the process of transitioning under all the prejudice and media breathing down my neck.
This brings me to the point of how I believe parents should approach a situation if your child decides to transition. Obviously, this is far beyond your kid getting a Tattoo or introducing their same sex boyfriend or girlfriend. Matters like these require the proper attention and positive approach. Of course there aren’t many educational workshops for parents when it comes to sexuality or gender identity. So hopefully my advice and opinion can help those who could use the guidance and next week I will advise on how one should approach their parents about transitioning.
When your child approaches you about their sexuality or gender identity you must set aside your confusion, remorse, and/or disappointment. Understand that this is your child regardless of what path, shape or form he chooses to live his life. Children will grow up and become adults. Just be proud that you have provided the essential life skills, knowledge, and tools that your child needs to sustain itself. Your child is still the same child that you cared for as an infant, the same child you took to school, and the same child you still care and love. Be proud that you have raised an amazing and resilient person that is capable, trusting, and respectful enough to share this life changing moment with you. Do not pity your child but empathize with his struggle and the path ahead. Provide your child the same support, love, and care as you did yesterday. It’s better to be positive or, at least, neutral rather than bring negativity to an already delicate moment. If you feel angry or disappointed, politely excuse yourself for time to process, which is understandable as it can be much to digest. Confide in family members or a friend if needed but use discretion as it is your child’s right and decision when and where he lets others know. If you are confused, process your thoughts and questions with your child and enlighten one another. Bonding and relating at this moment will open opportunities for future conversations and even deepen and renew your relationship. Communication is key at this moment so please refrain from negative feedback, when in doubt, make neutrality your companion. If you need to seek resources for your questions, take the time to search the internet. Otherwise be proud and positive. Do not be pressured as to whether or not you should accept this, just be open and listen. Just taking time to hear about what your child is going through is already being supportive. These new changes can take time. You are a great parent with a child who is comfortable enough to come to you for support and acceptance. This is only the beginning of a new life not just for your child but for you as a parent.