Dave & Dujanovic: Talking to your LGBTQ+ child

Jun 17, 2021, 5:14 PM | Updated: Jun 18, 2021, 10:58 am
LGBTQ child...
A hand holds a heart painted like a LGBT flag, silhouetted against sun. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY — A growing number of Americans are starting to publically identify as LGBTQ+. A recent Gallup poll found a 5.6% increase in those who subscribe as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. That is percentage is up 4.5% from when the last poll was conducted in 2017. 

The Gallup poll also discovered younger generations primarily make up the LGBTQ+ spike. About 15.9% of people born between 1997-2002 (also referred to as Generation Z) identify as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. 

Despite the increase in LGBTQ+ folks, mental health issues remain prevalent, especially among young populations. 

Dr. CJ Powers, the director of Psychology Training at Huntsman Mental Health Institute, joined Debbie Dujanovic and guest host Ethan Millard, also a host of the KSL Nightside Project, to discuss mental health, suicide and LGBTQ+ youth in Utah.

Sexual identity

As more young adults begin to realize their sexual orientation, parents are a vital part of ensuring their kids feel accepted and seen. 

“I want to talk about the mental health component,” Debbie said. “When it comes to our kids and those who are gay, and still keeping it a secret, give us a picture of what is it doing to them. If they don’t feel like they can tell Mom and Dad? If they don’t feel feel like they can tell a friend?”

And the problem is more common than expected. 

“It’s really tough,” Dr. Powers said. “Our sexual identity is a core part of our identity. And so, when kids are struggling to come out or live congruently with what they’re feeling inside, it creates a tremendous amount of stress. And then if they haven’t come out to their friends, there’s no place for that, for them to get support.”


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among LGBTQ+ youth ages 10-24, according to the Trevor Project. In Utah, LGBTQ+ youth are 8.5 times more likely to attempt suicide if their parents reject their identity. 

“We know that suicide is a big problem among youth in this state. Do we have any data, or are you able to kind of detect how many of those suicides are directly related to this dynamic of being young, in Utah being gay and feeling like you have no real future,” explained Dr. Powers. 

“Youth who are with a minority sexual identity and feel rejected in that identity have about an eight to 10 times higher rate of attempted suicides — similar in terms of rates of depression and substance abuse. Just risky behaviors, generally.” 

Talking to your LGBTQ+ child

Navigating the conversations with LGBTQ+ can be difficult. But having those crucial conversations can be critical to their mental health and stability. 

“What advice would you give a parent — and let’s say it’s a parent who’s always viewed the gay community with hostility and suspicion, generally anti- in their overviews. They discover that they have a child who’s gay. What do they need to think about right now?” Ethan asked.

“When I work with families who are struggling to come to terms with their child coming out,” Dr. Powers said, “it is not the parents — it’s not that they don’t love their son or their daughter, they love them very much.

“Often it’s kind of fear or grief: ‘We thought they’re gonna have children and all these other things or it conflicts with our religious beliefs and what we’ve been told is right. So it’s often not a lacking in love, it’s lacking in early understanding.

“I think helping those families through that, making sure that they are communicating to their child — ‘Hey, we’re struggling with this, and we love you’  — so they don’t have to just embrace it if it’s not genuine, but then do the work to learn to truly educate yourself,” Dr. Powers said.

‘Are you gay?’

“Dr. Powers, I’m gonna ask you something,” Debbie said. “Occasionally, I’m known for being blunt. Is it OK as a parent to sit your child down and just point-blank ask them, ‘Are you gay?’ Is that the way to go about it?”

“I would generally discourage that,” Dr. Powers said. “Well, it depends on the parents’ intention, but I think often the child is going to feel very put on the spot if they’re not ready to share that. It would feel very threatening.”

“How do we ask the question so we can make sure our kids know we love them?” Debbie asked.

“I think that the best thing to do if you’re suspecting is demonstrate that you are either affirmative toward your own beliefs about homosexuality or you’re willing to look into it and get yourself educated about it,” Dr. Powers said. “You’re showing them, hey, if you are gay, I’m going to love you and accept you anyway . . . creating a safe space where they can come out.

“When they’re ready to, they will  or maybe they’re still figuring it out themselves. Some people kind of know pretty early on, they’re gay; other people, it takes a while,” he said.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

Today’s Top Stories

Dave & Dujanovic

u of u student arrested...
Waverly Golden

Other paths to consider when thinking about attending college

Following the student loan forgiveness announcement, college is on everyone's mind. Dave Noriega takes an in-depth look at the alternatives.
2 days ago
Utah Democrats Gene Davis...
Simone Seikaly

Attorney for Sen. Gene Davis says Davis won’t resign from the Utah Senate

The Salt Lake County Democratic Party asked for Davis to resign immediately because of allegations of sexual harassment made against him.
5 days ago
ovarian cancer...
Simone Seikaly

A new chance for a fighting chance against ovarian cancer

What may be most alarming about ovarian cancer is that the symptoms are there, but they are quiet and can be mistaken for something else.
6 days ago
Curt Gresseth

Former U.S. Attorney for Utah talks about what FBI can take off your cellphone

A legal expert joined Dave and Dujanovic to discuss how the FBI can obtain evidence of a crime from a cellphone.
10 days ago
centerville arson fire...
Curt Gresseth

What’s behind random acts of violence in Utah?

What's behind a recent spate of random violence in Uta?. A sleeping couple at home in West Valley City is stabbed by an intruder. A stranger enters a home with three elderly people in Centerville and burns it down. Greg Skordas, KSL legal analyst breaks down what he thinks is motivating young people to commit random acts of violence.
11 days ago
Government contractors erect a section of Pentagon-funded border wall along the Colorado River. (AP...
Curt Gresseth

Yuma mayor talks about migrants illegally crossing into city: US has the laws to fix problem

An Arizona mayor talks with Dave & Dujanovic about migrants coming into the country illegally. He says the U.S. has the laws to fix the problems.
12 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Young woman receiving laser treatment...
Form Derm Spa

How facial plastic surgery and skincare are joining forces

Facial plastic surgery is not only about looking good but about feeling good too. The medical team at Form Spa are trained to help you reach your aesthetic outcomes through surgery and through skincare and dermatology, too.
large group of friends tohether in a park having fun...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

What differentiates BYU’s MBA program from other MBA programs

Commitment to service is at the heart of BYU’s MBA program, which makes it stand out among other MBA programs across the country.
a worker with a drill in an orange helmet installs a door in the house...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

Home improvement tip: Increase the value of your home by weatherproofing doors

Make sure your home is comfortable before the winter! Seasonal maintenance keeps your home up to date. Read our tips on weatherproofing doors.
Curb Appeal...
Price's Guaranteed Doors

How to have the best of both worlds for your house | Home security and curb appeal

Protect your home and improve its curb appeal with the latest security solutions like beautiful garage doors and increased security systems.
A paper reading IRS, internal revenue service is pictured...
Jordan Wilcox

The best strategies for dealing with IRS tax harassment | You have options!

Learn how to deal with IRS tax harassment. This guide will teach you how to stop IRS phone calls and letters, and how to handle an IRS audit.
spend a day at Bear Lake...
Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

You’ll love spending the day at Bear Lake | How to spend a day at Bear Lake

Bear Lake is a place that needs to be experienced. Spend a day at Bear Lake.
Dave & Dujanovic: Talking to your LGBTQ+ child