Op-Ed submitted by Asher Varley (they/them or he/him pronouns)*
While Valentine’s Day tends to be geared towards romantic endeavours, there are equally important types of love that are often overlooked on this day. For example, familial love is usually the first kind of love most of us experience and is quite possibly the most impactful to our health and development. Our experiences with families may determine our personalities, worldview, interests, and the ways in which we express our emotions. Family is influential in our lives as we grow up.
When we transition into college, we discover new things about ourselves–interests that we hadn’t considered before, core drives that power our goals, hidden paths that our lives might take, and new passions–and introduce them into our lives. Sometimes, these changes are fairly minor, like joining a botany club or changing a major. Other times, the change can come as a shock–you may find yourself the parent of a queer student.
When asked if they love their children, most parents will say that they love their kids unconditionally. For many queer students, unfortunately, this statement is false and the love they receive from their parents is far from unconditional–their parents will not accept them for who they are. Unconditional love means that you love your child regardless of who they are, not in spite of. It means that you care for all aspects of your child, and that you respect them as a person instead of view them as a family burden. You protect and defend them against those who would humiliate, degrade, or otherwise harm them. You cannot love someone unconditionally if their identity is a condition that makes them unacceptable for you to love.
If you’re wondering how to support your child and their newly revealed interests or identities, make a conscious effort to learn more about those identities that have been shared with you. Recognize that if your child is choosing to share any portion of themselves with you, this may take courage, and it’s a privilege for them to share such information. To thrive, personally and academically, your child needs unconditional love. Unconditional love means realizing that no one knows your child better than themself; it means respecting how they choose to identify and continuing to support them no matter what.
*Asher is a junior majoring in anthropology and the Intersectionality Peer Educator in the Gender Equity Center.