Last June, I had a guest blog on “What Do You Say When Your Child Comes Out?”. Just as important to your child’s welfare is “What You Shouldn’t Say.”
• “You can’t be! You’re too young to know!” This smacks of denial. Who knows better than your child? Chances are that he/she has probably thought about this for a long time before outing to you. He most likely told a good friend first. Don’t negate his feelings.
• “How could you be? You had a girlfriend up until recently.” Teenage years are a time for trying on different identities. It could be your child was hiding his sexual orientation to “fit in” and please you. Maybe he was hoping he could be straight so he wouldn’t be harassed at school or in the workplace later.
• “How can you be attracted to both sexes?” It is possible. Psychologist Ritch Savin-Williams, Director of Cornell University’s Sex and Gender Lab, writes in The New Gay Teenager, that many teens today do not want to pigeonholed into one sexual category. Sexuality to youth is fluid so they don’t like to be labeled.
• “What do I tell people?” In this case, don’t tell anyone without your son’s permission. It’s his story and as such, he and your family are entitled to privacy. If you feel you are bursting with this news, speak to others in confidence: a trusted friend, particularly one with a LGBT child or a therapist or a member of PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians and Gays) that has nationwide chapters. (http://www.pflag.org/findachapter). Remember there is a greater acceptance for same-sex marriage. The latest Pew Poll shows that 52% of U.S. citizens approve of same-sex marriage with higher approval by youth under 30.
• “Don’t get AIDS!” It isn’t enough to warn him and panic yourself. Arm your child with knowledge! Presumably, you have given your children, more than once, the “sex talk” that includes a discussion about contraception and “safe sex” methods. If you haven’t already done so, give your child names of local health clinics that test for STDs, government clinics for mail-a-way results, at-home kits or nearby doctor’s offices that can test.
• “You mean I won’t have Grandchildren?” Although it’s not automatic as for heterosexuals, gays and lesbians can adopt children depending on where they live. They also can marry in certain states. If DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), the federal law that prohibits same-sex marriage, is struck down by the Supreme Court, marriage may be left to the states and you can expect that more LGBT couples will file to be legally wed.
• “But you’re on the football team!” Just because your son doesn’t appear “swishy,” doesn’t mean he isn’t gay. Nor does your daughter’s lesbian status mean she’s relegated to a life in the Armed Forces. Lesbians and Gays come in all sizes and shapes. Our preconceived notions of what constitutes male and female behavior can often prejudice our views about homosexuality and lead us to stereotyping a minority group.
What You Should Say & Do
• Give a hug.
• Say “I Love you.”
• Tell your child how proud you are that they would share such an important piece of their self with you. It shows maturity, confidence, and trust that you will love them unconditionally.
• For more tips, visit Family Acceptance Project of San Francisco State University, a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that studies the impact of family acceptance and rejection on the health, mental health, and well-being of LGBT youth (http://www.familyproject.sfsu.edu.)
Wesley Davidson offers advice on this topic to straight parents in her blog:http://straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com. She also blogs for the websites www.gayagenda.com and www.gaynewspulse.com.
A personal note from Wesley:
I am seeking to expand the blog into a book and would like to interview you by phone and find out what helped or hurt your relationship with your parents after you came out. I can change your name for your story.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and put in subject line: Request for interview.
Ms. Wesley Davidson