Like any parenting experience, parenting an LGBTQ+ child is a journey that brings with it the highest of highs, as well as stress and worry.
It is also a journey that comes with its own unique challenges, especially amid a sharp rise in anti-LGBTQ+ legislation across the country -- legislation that often targets young people.
Outside of the political landscape, parents of LGBTQ+ children told " Good Morning America" that their parenting experience can be described in one word -- joy -- as they see their children step into who they truly are.
"GMA" asked parents across the country to describe the joy they find in parenting LGBTQ+ children.
Here are 10 of their responses, in their own words.
The joy of watching your child show up for herself.
When my daughter was in Pre-K, she desperately wanted to have long, flowing hair like her favorite Disney princesses. Being early in my journey as a supportive parent, I had been giving her short haircuts without much thought.
One day, she came home from school with the smallest of ponytails placed right on top of the middle of her head. She shined just a little bit brighter when she got to wear her pony.
It even became a trend among all her classmates. When I picked her up from school, I was greeted by a whole playground of 3 to 5-year-olds with little ponies sticking out of their heads.
A little time later, she convinced a babysitter to cut up an old t-shirt into strands so that she could use a t-shirt braid. The collar of the old shirt served as the band that she could fit on her head, and the braided strands came down around her shoulder. She flaunted that braid day in and day out.
In a world that hasn't always given her a way, she's always found one, and always with the biggest smile on her face. -- Katherine Sasser, mom of an 11-year-old in Columbia, Missouri.
The joy of celebrating your kids' identities.
As a parent, seeing my kids thrive and be true to themselves brings me immense happiness and pride. I also love advocating for their rights and acceptance in society, knowing that helps not only my kids but children everywhere.
Parenting is the hardest job on the planet. We all have hopes and dreams for our children to have a better, easier and more successful life than we had.
Our goal is to protect them from the hardships we went through. More than just the mean kid on the playground, the ball not caught at the big game, the prom not asked to, those are the easy ones. When a child falls outside what society considers the "norm," you worry even more. Will they be accepted? Will they be loved? Will they be in danger?
Pride Month is an incredible way to support love in every form. As a mother to four amazing humans who are different genders, and different sexualities, I proudly celebrate everyone in the LGBTQIA + plus community. I also mourn for the people that are suffering without the support they need, and thank the people who came before us and paved the way for us to be able to get this far. Yet, we still have a long way to go.
It is essential that we continue to work towards creating a more inclusive and accepting world for all, where every child is celebrated and accepted for who they are.
I love a parade and a celebration as much as anyone, but I look forward to the day when we don't need Pride Month anymore, because that will signify that loving who you want and being who you are won't require a celebration to be considered the "norm." -- Heather Dubrow, creator of "The HD Network" on Fireside and mom of three children in the LGBTQ+ community in Orange County, California.
The joy of learning from your child.
We adopted Alex at birth from Guatemala. Soon we discovered a beautiful child with confidence, warmth, humor and persistence. He was the best kid and the three of us just "fit."
From an early age, John and I were aware of certain interests and mannerisms, things with which we were quite familiar from our own childhoods. We figured he was likely LGBTQ+ and were grateful that he'd be in a safe, supportive space having two gay dads. Occasionally we'd check in, and were met with something like, "I'll let you know," or the infamous shoulder shrug.
At 13, he came out to us. We were struck by how, even in our family, coming out was a very real journey which needed to happen when he was ready. Our role was to let it evolve, assuring him we were always there when/if he needed us.
Now at almost 18, he is self-assured and confident about who he is. He walks his own path and isn't fazed when facing ignorance -- such as being misgendered, which happens often. And when it does, we follow his requests to not react or correct people, and to let him make those decisions.
John and I learn from him every day about determination, fitting in, being true to oneself and much more. And of course, we worry about his safety, acceptance and inevitable roadblocks. That's parenthood.
Our family journey was like everyone's, in many ways. Homework, curfews, band practice, birthday parties, bedtimes, laundry. The one difference was being constantly "aware" -- when we traveled, at PTA meetings, with the neighborhood kids (and their parents), at the grocery store. Standing proud, yet very aware. I wonder if that will ever end, especially in such divisive, volatile times.
College is the next chapter.
Looking back on these 18 years, we remain filled with immense gratitude and joy. He was and is an incredible gift.
Being his father has been the most significant part of my life. -- Darren Paul-Vance, dad of an 18-year-old in Washington, D.C., and executive director of Rainbow Families DC, a nonprofit organization.
Joy in seeing your child feel loved and supported.
It didn't come as a surprise to any of us when, in March 2020, he decided that "boy words" fit him best, and that he wanted a new name. When he first told us the name he wanted to be called -- a name chosen in honor of my beloved grandma -- I was overcome with a profound sense of peace in my heart.
His new name fit him better than his old name ever did, and he began to thrive and grow in ways I never could have predicted.
The truth is, being trans is one of the least interesting things about my son. He plays soccer and takes chess classes. He is learning to play the ukulele and he's doing 3D software-modeling on his computer.
But what brings me the most joy as the parent of a trans kid is seeing my son's eyes full of light, brimming with the sort of self-confidence that can only come from being loved and supported. There is no one in our lives -- other than the Missouri government -- who tells my son that he should be ashamed or embarrassed of who he is.
I know we live in a bubble, but it is a joyous bubble of love that my son is growing up in, the sort of bubble that every child deserves to have.
I am so appreciative of the trans community and the amazing role models that have welcomed my son and my family with open arms.
And I feel blessed every single day that I get to see the world through my son's loving eyes and watch him grow up in a community that loves and accepts him as his most genuine self. -- Rabbi Karen Kriger Bogard, mom of a 9-year-old in St. Louis, Missouri.
Joy in being part of a bigger community.
I find joy knowing that I've instilled core values and morals within her that she can take and use in her everyday life as she matures into the person she wants to be.
The day my child shared her sexuality with me, my response was immediately to embrace her and hold her and let her know my love and support for her in this life experience will never change because of who her heart loves.
Hopefully, I made her feel secure in knowing if no one else supports me, my mother will.
What plays in my mind was the moment she came to me, eyes full of tears and hesitant with her words, and said, "Mommy I have something to tell you… I like girls the way you like men." The next thing she said was, "I waited a year to tell you."
Now I know you have to tell your story when you're ready, but I was so hurt that she held all those emotions alone for a year.
We cried together for a few moments but I saw the relief in her spirit, like a weight was finally lifted off.
As time passed, I watched my child grow mentally, spiritually and emotionally as she prospers in college and in life.
I am a proud supportive parent of a child who is a part of the LGBTQIA+ community ... God loves me and gives me the heart to be open and to learn from my child, while helping her be secure in who she is and what she has to offer this world. -- Sha'Quan Edwards, mom of a 20-year-old in Harlem, New York.
Watching your child light up a room.
She has just finished up her junior year of high school in St. Louis. She faced many challenges in Missouri as a transgender teen this school year. Despite this, we saw her bloom. We owe this to her gender affirming care and journey -- to becoming the Chelsea she always wanted to be.
She had confidence to take on leadership positions, and that was wonderful to see. This school year, she was the business team lead on her robotics team and started a group called Letters. She has made bonds within these clubs and is looking forward to graduation.
Where she had acquaintances before becoming Chelsea, she now has genuine friends that know the real her. When she smiles and laughs, she lights up the room. As she has gone further into her transition -- spending more time on estrogen therapy and legally changing her name -- she has become more and more confident.
Many parents get upset with their children when they spend too much time on their cell phone.
For me, it is such a nice sound when I hear Chelsea chatting away on her cell. It means that she has found a connection, most likely another trans youth, that understands her.
Watching her confidence grow and true bonds form with her classmates has been amazing for her dad and me. -- Kyle and Renee Freels, parents of a 17-year-old in St. Louis, Missouri.
Seeing their optimism for the future.
Having grown up in the Assemblies of God churches, you can imagine that I was groomed to think very differently of the kids I have been very much blessed with!
Of course, initially, when the first two came out to us, we were a bit unequipped at knowing exactly what we needed to be for them.
But, it didn't take long to learn from them. What we really needed to do was just listen to their needs and questions, and sincerely do our best for them.
Our joy comes from watching them learn more about themselves and navigate life, with fears of society... and that they still have an optimistic hope for their future. All three are so well adjusted, have found genuine, healthy love with their partners, and that definitely brings me joy!
The one thing I would like other parents to know about is the amount of joy that comes from the conscious effort to be selfless -- the reward that comes from really being there for them, fueling their confidence and helping them to feel secure, mentally and emotionally.
Our LGBTQ kids are truly a gift! -- Kelli O'Connor, mom of a 19-year-old and 35-year-old in Lafayette, Indiana.
Watching your child love with intensity. My husband and I were married on the beach 19 years ago. I have dreamt of being a mother for as long as I can remember.
After trying for a baby for almost six years, and suffering a pregnancy loss, our rainbow child entered the world and inducted us into the best job in the universe: being their parents. They have been changing our lives for the better for 13 years now.
Parenting this wonder is the greatest joy. They are compassionate, creative and so brave. This kid loves with intensity.
Addie has been an artist for years. They enjoy teaching themselves new art forms. They can often be found crafting gifts and jewelry for their friends. We have recently been learning how to hand-build pottery in a class together at the local art museum.
Our favorite part about being their parents has to be watching them grow in their own, fear conquered by self confidence.
I am heartened by the reality that our daughter is a voice of tomorrow.
I know they will continue to change the world for the better with love. -- Josh and Star Plantenga, parents of a 13-year-old in Lafayette, Indiana.
Baking brownies and shopping for dresses.
In our reflection in the skylights above the pool in our D.C. hotel, I see our long hair, hers and mine, fanning out around us. She floats peacefully next to me.
This is such a stark contrast to that summer two years ago before she revealed herself.
During that trip to St. Thomas, she turtled inside a golden pool floatie, miserably bobbing in crystal clear Caribbean waters. She was trapped in her shell, hiding her true self, while floating in one of the most beautiful waters of the world.
When people ask me how I feel about parenting a trans child, I think about booking a Caribbean vacation just to get one smile from my deeply depressed child, not knowing the solution would arrive months later, during a long car ride home, when she'd whisper, "Mom, sometimes I feel like I'm supposed to be a girl."
Ten words to ease 10 months of nightmares.
Since then, we've found joy together again.
In the little things like baking brownies for sleepovers or shopping for dresses, but also in simply floating around, arms linked, in hotel pools during a whirlwind vacation to visit the White House for Pride Month 2023. -- Tiffany Tilison, mom of a 12-year-old in Little Elm, Texas.
Being challenged to be a better person. The best part of watching Razz grow to adulthood is seeing them stand up for themself and others.
Their compassion and empathy make them such a good friend to their peers. The passion in their eyes when they talk about LGBTQ issues and trans rights specifically makes all the difficulties of single parenthood worth it.
We had the opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., in March for the Human Rights Campaign's lobby day, during which we spoke directly with some of our representatives and their staff.
I felt privileged to watch and listen as Razz spoke in such a heartfelt way that showed maturity beyond their years.
The next day, we were able to attend a march at the Capitol for trans rights, and hearing their impassioned and tearful cries for "Trans Rights NOW" was such an emotional moment as a mother.
In many ways, Razz has pushed me to be a better parent and person.
They challenge me to look at things from a new perspective and analyze why I have specific priorities, standards, and views.
Being open to these honest and sometimes difficult conversations has helped us both grow and flourish. -- Alisha Referda, mom of an 18-year-old in Lafayette, Indiana.