I have been blessed. I have amazing parents, amazing children, and now I have an amazing partner to share them with. When I told my mother I was gay, I was prepared for the worst. I told her over the phone because she lives more than a thousand miles away. I asked if she was sitting down, and if she was near anything sharp. When I told her that the new person in my life was a woman, my news was met with silence. After a moment, she asked, quite innocently, “Oh, is that why I needed to be sitting down?” She couldn’t wait to hear all about my new love and was thrilled that I was so happy.
Unfortunately, we hear a lot more about the parents and families who aren’t quite so accepting. Teens, especially, are often injured by parents who literally disown the, throwing them out of the house for simply being brave enough to admit who they are, and trusting enough that their parents will love them anyway.
The following is a list of 5 things you should never, ever do when your child tells you he or she is gay.
Do not fight, yell, or scream – at least, not in front of your teen
I am not perfect, and I am working on the reasonable assumption that you aren’t either. Learning that your child is gay, even if you’ve suspected as much and denied it for years, can be a shock. You have every right to be upset, worried or confused. There is no reason to be upset that your child is gay, but there is the loss of your belief system to deal with. Initially, you may jump to the conclusion that you will not have grandchildren (this is a misconception, as adoption and surrogacy are viable options), or you may immediately worry about HIV/AIDS or other STDs. You have the right to scream a little. Your whole world just changed, too. Just, don’t do it in front of your child. Right now, your child needs a hug. You can cry, if you really feel the need to, later. Then, educate yourself. You’ll be surprised what the truth can do to alleviate fear.
Do not belittle, judge, or censure
Your child, simply by trusting you, has exhibited great strength. He or she, even if they are upset or confused by their own sexuality, deserves praise for their courage. If you are adamantly against what you perceive as a lifestyle choice, offer them your support for coming to you with the truth of who they are. Here is another truth: “Pray the Gay Away” and other religious based so-called rehabilitation programs don’t work. The graduates of these programs struggle with the guilt they feel for their homosexuality (often referred to by these programs as “same sex attraction”) for the rest of their lives. They are still gay, but they have had their right to happiness stolen from them. This is belittling in the highest degree.
Do not blame yourself
Homosexuality is not a birth defect. Your child isn’t gay because you drank soda or smoked a little while you were pregnant. That celebratory glass of champagne you had on New Year’s Eve had nothing to do with it. Your child is gay because that’s who they are. You are no more responsible for it than your other child’s heterosexuality. Your child needs support and love. He doesn’t need to worry about you, although he probably will anyway. Try to keep the reasons he must worry about you to a minimum while he sorts through the very serious life lessons he’s about to learn.
Do not blame your child
Just as your child’s homosexuality is not your fault, neither is it their fault. As a lesbian woman, I can say that we are all born the way we are. We have a soul and a path through life that is unique to all of us. If your child’s journey includes being gay, so be it. There is no fault to be found. The best thing you can do for your child is to come to terms with that fact that he or she is gay, and, above all, remember they are still your child.
Do not disown them, kick them out or turn them out
According to a 2007 report released by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, up to 40% of homeless teens in this country identify as gay or lesbian. Gay and lesbian teens report being abused, belittled and threatened in shelters, by both staff and other residents. Many of the youth choose to avoid shelters and live on the street, controlling their own destinies, even if that means prostitution, drugs and alcohol abuse, and in some cases, suicide. But we’re not talking about anonymous numbers, here. We’re talking about your child. The baby you held in your arms when she was born; the one you promised you would always love and take care of. If you choose to turn your child out, keep in mind that there is no miraculous, loving home that will take her in. No, they will more than likely find their way into a dangerous subculture of violence and abuse.
I look forward to a time when a child coming out as gay is not an issue for families, friends, schools or anyone else. I look forward to a time when children aren’t banished not only for who they are, but because they had the courage not to deny it. I look forward to a time when acceptance is neither desired nor required, because the entire issue is a non-issue. That day is coming, but in the meantime, our very dangerous world requires bravery from her people, and courage starts with you.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
More from this contributor:
The Truth about Unwed Motherhood
Is my teen daughter pregnant?
The Morals of Gay Parenting, Part I