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Kids confused by the concept of 'coming out' in viral TikTok: ‘Why do they have to tell them?!’

See why this mom's two kids made her pull the car over.

Progress might not always be a straight line, but a mom’s viral TikTok about tolerance with two of her children is a reminder that each passing generation offers hope for a better future.

Emmaline Carrol Southwell is a mom of three based in Melbourne, Australia. The 41-year-old is a content creator and children’s book author who recently went viral on TikTok after sharing a video of two of her kids —Levi, 8, and Violet, 5— attempting to wrap their minds around the personal experience of “coming out” to family and community.

Southwell’s video captures the moment Levi and Violet learn that not all cultures or families are accepting of sexualities and genders.

“It’s confusing because, in some families and cultures and religions, you’re not allowed to be gay,” she explain at the top of the clip.

“Why?!” Violet retorts. 

At the same time, Levi audibly balks. “What?!”

The post has received 2.1 million views and thousands of comments.

“So there is the term ‘coming out’ (and it) applies to people that need to come out to their families to let them know ‘I’m gay,’” Southwell says in the clip.

“But why do they have to tell them?” asks Levi.

“It’s a really great question,” Southwell replies. “Hopefully, we will get to a point where people don’t have to do that, but sadly, a lot of people still have to do that, and it still causes a lot of people pain.”

In reaction, TikTokers shared their awe and relatable experiences in the comment section of the post.

“Totally, my boys. They recently overheard ‘fights like a girl’ and were so confused,” one user shared. “‘What does that even mean?’ they asked. They are revolutionary. I love them.””

“I teared up when your son responded with ‘What the heck?!’ There was something so healing about hearing them understand and immediately reject the homophobia I grew up dealing with,” another user added. “Good job, mom.”

Speaking to TODAY.com, Southwell shares that the conversation took place on a car ride to school. According to her, Levi and Violet were left with a few questions after Southwell and her partner told them about a documentary they had watched together. In it, LGTBQ+ subjects share the challenges of coming out.


Emmaline Southwell and family
Violet (left), Levi (Right)Courtesy Emmaline Southwell

“Then they started asking a million questions, as they do,” Southwell adds. “I pulled over, and we finished our conversation because they were genuinely confused. Their response was so passionate that took me aback a bit, but I was equally proud of that sort of response.”

Jessica Fish, Ph.D, is an associate professor in the Department of Family Science at the University of Maryland and co-director of the university's Prevention Research Center. The center focuses its research on mental health for the LGBTQ+ community and provides training for professionals in the health industry.

Speaking to TODAY.com, she notes the importance of parents fostering an environment of curiosity and open conversation with children. In doing so, families can facilitate strong parent-child relationships and help tackle potentially taboo subjects with ease.

“More and more young people are understanding themselves as LGBTQ at younger ages,” she explains. “Starting that conversation early in a developmentally appropriate way opens the door for youth, young people, children and adolescents to feel comfortable and bringing those conversations to their parents.”

"It's really important that parents really, particularly for young people who do come out as LGBTQ, to really affirm and support their love for them in the context of that conversation," she adds. "We're seeing a lot of conversations around that espouse hate towards (the LGBTQ+) community. And so I think if parents can reassure their love and support of their children in the context of those conversations, it's really important."

Southwell says what she wasn’t caught off guard by was how comfortable her children were with speaking to her about sexuality.

“We’ve had lots of conversation over their lives about sexuality and gender identity and what I consider age-appropriate conversations and language,” she says.

“I want my kids to always feel that they’re safe and free to be who they are and love whoever they eventually want to love,” Southwell continues.

Above all, Southwell says she hopes the conversations that she has with her children inspire them to be accepting of those around them.

“I also want them to make sure that they have that same sense of tolerance for other people and for it to just be a nonissue. There’s enough crappy things that go on in the world that they’re going to have to deal with,” she adds. “This is something they don’t have to deal with. If I can make their life easier in the sense that they can just be who they want to be loved when they want to love, then that’s that.”