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Support Group Provides Parents Tools, Terms and Safe Space


Mental Health Counselor Jessica Suphan makes notes for the next session of his Proud Parents Group.

Group open to all parents of LGBTQ youth

Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or questioning (LGBTQ) can be emotionally difficult for a teen or pre-teen, but the process can also be challenging for their parents, who are navigating their own feelings of hope, loss, worry or uncertainty.

To help meet this need, Citizen Advocates’ Behavioral Health team recently launched Proud Parents, a support group for parents of LGBTQ youth, covering topics such as resources for transitioning, how to advocate for one’s child, grieving the past and the future a parent envisioned for their child, unfamiliar terms, popular myths and working through religious/moral concerns. 

“These parents are really trying,” said Jessica Suphan, the Mental Health Counselor who leads the group.  “But there is often an overwhelming amount of information and emotion to manage despite a sincere desire to be there for their child.  What is gender dysphoria?  What is hormone replacement therapy?  We’re here to help parents learn how to communicate with their children.”

Each week, Mx. Suphan, who is gender fluid and uses she/her or he/him pronouns, brings in a discussion topic or central question, but the parents’ weekly issues are what often drive the conversation.

While the group is open to all parents of LGBTQ youth, it’s especially popular with the parents of transgender, gender fluid and nonbinary youth.

“In the group, parents can slip up and say the wrong thing and no one is going to blow up at them,” Mx. Suphan said.  “This is a safe space where parents can have their feelings and ask the questions that would make their kid say ‘Ew, I don’t want to talk to you about that.’”

“There is a crucial need for a group like this in the North Country and beyond,” said Emily Gokey, Citizen Advocates’ Associate Director of Behavioral Health.  “When a parent accepts their child’s sexuality or gender identity it has a profound impact on the child’s psychological wellbeing.”

According to The Trevor Project, the suicide attempt rate among LGBTQ youth is more than four times that of their straight peers, but the presence of an accepting adult in a LGBTQ young person’s life can reduce that risk by 40 percent.

But Mx. Suphan emphasizes that it’s important for parents to know that full understanding does not happen overnight.

“Trying, is what matters.  Parents sometimes worry that they’re not getting it 100 percent, but there’s a massive difference between a parent who is trying and a parent who is grudgingly going along with it,” Mx. Suphan said.

Individuals interested in joining the Proud Parents group can email or contact customer support at Citizen Advocates’ Malone Integrated Behavioral Health Clinic at 518-483-3261.