Last week, I wrote about what not to say when your child comes out. Due to the many distractions of the holidays, I also suggested that this is the worst time for anyone to come out as he/she will not be heard. However, as some LGBT kids only see their families on major holidays, they may feel it’s an appropriate to divulge the news at this time.
Advice From the LGBT Child
What’s a parent to do in this case? Some clues came to me through a graduate student at Indiana University. He came out for the first time when he was 19 over Thanksgiving weekend (another hectic time). His brave news was met with anger, disbelief, denial, and the urge to reform him. Nasty e-mails, phone calls followed and threats of withholding funds for college, much to no avail.
Parental Response Not So Unusual
When he was home again, the same questions were posed: “Are you sure?” “How would you know?” “You never dated in high school?” “Your soul is endangered! You will go to Hell!” C. (don’t want to divulge his name as he is planning on coming out again, this time five years later). answered with short replies, followed by silence, then the questions would start all over again.
Tedious, yes! Unnerving, you bet. With time, many parents usually come around to accepting their child’s sexual orientation. However, in this case, the acceptance that C. craved, has not shone forth. Despite his initial plea “this is who I am” he saw that his parents wouldn’t change and last summer, he told them that he was “straight” just so they wouldn’t “bug” him anymore. “It was like they had amnesia. Suddenly, everything was “hunky-dory.”
Parents & Gay Son Hanging By A Thread
However, this charade has taken its toll on him. He doesn’t like to “split” holidays, but this year, he is going to his roommate boyfriend’s parents’ home, where they are accepted, in Las Vegas, and then will see his parents alone later during his holiday. This “dancing around” the issue will soon cease as he is preparing to come out again.
Second Coming Out
Wiser, he thinks the coming out will proceed better this time. What will he do differently?
• Not tell them over a holiday.
• Tell his parents that if they want to see him, they must accept him as a gay man and welcome his partner of over a year.
• Keep his parents’ attitudes in mind while divulging yet again.
What does C. wish from his parents?
• That although his parents may feel shame, guilt, fear, anger, so does he, their child. It’s a similar journey for both. “We have to see each other’s perspective and be in each other’s shoes, no matter how hard that is,” says C.
• While parents may be jealous of their friends with heterosexual children, they can still experience the joy of having a son/daughter-in-law and the celebration of events. The LGBT child, like C, who is not given unconditional love and support at home, will also be jealous of a family that accepts their child’s sexual orientation.
• Admiration for all that he has accomplished in life: top academic honors, positions in leadership clubs, jobs well done. He’s still the same person inside that his folks have always known. His gayness will not erase those good qualities.
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.