Embracing Familia: Nurturing Love and Support for LGBTQ+ Youth

By: Armando X. Orduña, Ed.D., Executive Director, Houston

Familia. For many Latinos this is a highly charged word. If you were raised in a traditional home, like me, the word represents the foundation on which you build many life choices like your career, friends, and life partners. 

The elders in my life taught me that in the unpredictable sea of life, familia is the only certainty that one can rely on. And like with any living thing, they taught me familia must be cultivated and cared for in order for it to thrive. It was with this in mind that my wife and I listened to our oldest daughter as she came out to us. 

“She is only nine years-old,” we told ourselves. “It could be a phase. Let’s not make a big deal because she might simply be looking for that.” 

After an initial round of questions, posed with mild curiosity, such as “Oh, how long have you known?”, “Are you dating anyone?”, and  “What does lesbian mean to you?”, we let things go. 

Nearly a year later, our daughter shared a story about a rough day at school. A note she had written to a crush had been intercepted by a group of boys. A fuss was made, a teacher became involved, and our daughter was counseled to keep her feelings private. Instinctively, I flipped my turn signal preparing the U-turn to return directly to the school. 

My daughter stopped me and asked me to listen to the rest of her story. She explained how she responded to the boys and to the teacher. She told me how none of them would attempt to shame her, loudly or quietly, again. She explained how she did not feel alone in those moments because she felt her parents standing at her side. 

That  night, inspired by our daughter’s courage, my wife and I talked. We discussed how we had spent the last year benignly ignoring this new development in our daughter while she had spent it in deep reflection. We realized we needed help as two heterosexual, cis-gendered parents in learning how to support the positive development of our daughter’s whole identity. We are both bilingual educators steeped in our own cultural history, but with zero idea on how to support our daughter’s emerging sexual identity. That week we reached out for help.

We found PFLAG—a support group for family and friends who want to become more supportive of queer youth in their familia. There we shared and heard from other families on how they were showing up with love and support for their kids.  It provided a group for youth to meet to form community and share their experiences. 

The work has been transformational. My wife and I have started an in-person Spanish-language group in hopes that our gente can find these messages of hope and love within their own neighborhoods and I have joined the local PFLAG board to support its mission while offering a Latino perspective to the larger decision-making process.

Three years have passed since our daughter came out. She lives her full identity with her friends and teachers at school. She takes a hand in planning family outings to public events celebrating Queer culture. The bookshelves in her room hold Queer-oriented Young Adult fiction alongside Japanese manga, American comics, and biographies featuring young, female protagonists. This fact reminds me of how she is a multifaceted human being developing new intersectionalities of identity. She is thriving.

I share this story, with the blessing of my daughter and family, because we all have a role to play as adults in helping Latino LGBTQ+ youth feel supported, cared for, and loved. Whether you’re a parent, a teacher or a school leader, there is room for growth and learning; especially now at a time when so many LGBTQ+ youth are under attack and under a microscope. In my own journey, I’ve come to learn that there is no playbook, but there are plenty of resources and organizations that can help you be a loving adult and parent, and I’d like to share just a few as a way of paying it forward for those who helped my wife and I grow as allies:

  • PFLAG was the organization that my wife and I relied on. They have many chapters across the country, along with virtual communities for parents, that you can find here 
  • PFLAG also offer resources for parents and grandparents of LGBTQ+ youth at this link 
  • The Trevor Project is a national organization that offers counseling and information to LGBTQ+ youth, helps them connect with other queer youth, and has a wealth of resources on how to be an effective ally 
  • Parents Magazine put a great quick-read for parents on how they can respond if their kid comes out, along with great resources they can turn to.

Familia. It may be the most powerful word across all languages. It certainly is in mine, and for me, it means loving the people that are part of your life. 


Armando Orduña, Ed.D. is Latinos for Education’s Executive Director for Greater Houston.  He has over 23 years of experience in education, with a particular expertise in the intersectionality of STEAM access for immigrant youth and families, and the role practical STEAM learning plays in foreign language acquisition. Before joining Latinos for Education, Orduña served as the Director of Outreach Programs for Children’s Museum Houston.