You may consider it a compliment that your gay child feels close enough to you to reveal his true self, especially if he thinks his revelation is going to disappoint you. Or you may feel proud that your child is so self-aware that he knows his sexual orientation at a tender age. Or you may be in awe that you daughter, knowing she might face rejection, has the self-confidence to come out to classmates. Or perhaps you’re relieved that the inkling that you had about your son’s sexual orientation has now been confirmed by his coming out.
Research Shows that Most Coming Outs Don’t Go Well
Despite the country’s growing acceptance of gay marriage and other issues, the researchers at The Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University found that most coming outs by kids to their straight parents do not go well. The news is always a jolt. Your child may have thought for a long time about how and when she was going to tell you, but you have only a split-second to respond.
Without preparation, it’s easy for a parent to utter the wrong messages to sensitive ears. Here’s a helpful list of what not to say.
1. You’re too young to know: Most GLBT kids sense they are “different” early on. Even if they are virgins, they know they are attracted to the same sex. You may be in denial and wishful thinking.
2. How could you be? You were just dating Bobby: Many gay teens wish they were heterosexual. As it’s the accepted majority, why not try to fit in? So, they try the norm first.
3. You’re so girly-girly. Are you sure you’re a lesbian? Your daughter doesn’t have to be dressed in black leather head-to-toe, have a buzz cut, and multiple piercings to look queer. There are “lipstick lesbians” such as singer Chely Wright and actress Jane Lynch who look feminine and not “butch.”
4. How could you do this to me? Children don’t like disappointing their parents. Sexual orientation is not a choice; as Lady Gaga sings, ‘You’re born this Way.’ You’re probably disappointed because of YOUR expectations for your child, which do not include homosexuality.
5. You haven’t had Sex yet: You don’t need to have sex to know whom you’re attracted to. If the opposite sex doesn’t turn you on, but your own does, then you may be gay.
6. Don’t tell the rest of the family. It’ll Kill them: Do not ‘out’ your child to others, without his permission, anyway. The decision about whom to tell, and when, belongs to your child. Privacy does not equal shame. Worst time to tell family members? Holidays.
7. Are you sure? Your life will be more difficult: Life for any gay or lesbian person can be more difficult due to society’s prejudice, but you can’t change your sexual orientation to make life easier.
8. No more sleepovers! That’s it: You didn’t encourage your kid’s sexuality by allowing sleepovers any more than an “R” rated movie will cause your child to have sex afterwards. But if you ban sleepovers, your child will find a way to get around your rules, and it may just be at another house that’s parentless.
9. You need to go to church more: You can not pray gay away and convert the person. You may suppress the desire initially, but it will result in depression, self-hatred. Even gay-to-straight conversion camps like Exodus International are apologizing for their former claims.
1. People Will Look At Us Differently:Families with GLBT children invite comments, some homophobic, some supporting. You will find out quickly whom your true friends are.
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.