BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Parents will always tell you parenting doesn't come with a handbook. When 14-year-old Rin Parrack came out to their mother Jennifer as transgender, Jennifer's first call was to GLYS Western New York, which helps foster the growth of LGBTQ youth.
"I said I'm going to need support. There has to be community out there," Jennifer said.
Community is exactly what Jennifer found. Sue Frawley is the parent outreach facilitator at GLYS. She says she gets dozens of calls from parents every month as they look for help processing new information.
"Mostly they need to talk about this is my child. And I had these hopes. These dreams. How does this fit? The second question is usually my religion is such, and how do I rectify that?" she explained.
GLYS helps parents navigate any issues they have, and offers support. Jennifer says it's a necessary resource, especially when you consider what some young people are up against.
"Let's be frank as a parent here. The statistics are horrifying for trans kids," Jennifer said. "Everybody talks about the rates of self-injurious behavior, psychiatric hospitalizations, suicide attempts, homelessness, drug use..."
GLYS helps young people find a safe space to learn about themselves, grow emotionally, and develop a sense of community. While the organization typically works with LGBTQ youth and their families, employees say they also appreciate the opportunity to speak with straight kids and their parents.
"I hear a lot from parents whose children are not LGBTQ. And their big question is why does my child have to know about this?" said Frawley. "Well your child has to know about this because the child sitting next to them in class may be LGBTQ, or might come from a family who is LGBTQ."
She says being supportive isn't hard when you embrace differences and realize how similar we really are.
"LGBTQ families are like everybody else. They fight to get on the school bus in the morning. They argue over what's for dinner, it's a hassle for homework, it's just like any other place," laughed Frawley. "Except for one thing. There's two moms. Or two dads. Or children who area LGBTQ who are in that home trying to figure out what to wear that day, and how to express themselves. And to be whole and feel safe. That's it."
Frawley suggested that the earlier parents start talking to their kids about the LGBTQ community, the better. She suggested a number of books that parents can read to their kids starting in preschool to help begin the conversation.
Frawley suggested "And Tango Makes Three" as well as "The Boy with the Rainbow Heart" as good books to read with young kids. Here is more information on those books, as well as other suggestions from FamilyEquality.org: https://www.familyequality.org/family-support/lgbtq-books/early-elementary/
The morning show crew spoke with the Buffalo-based author of "The Boy with the Rainbow Heart" live on-air Thursday morning. The conversation is below.