Intro to the Davidsons 101
The Davidsons are a motley crew: The parents come from different backgrounds. The husband is a Southerner who learned to fish with a cane pole, but later found his niche on Wall St. He was brought up with a reverence for and encyclopaedic knowledge of nature, love of family, and learned self-reliance at a young age. His wife, on the other hand, is a “Nawtherner,” and comes from the Northeast where the emphasis is on where you went to school and manners, manners, manners.
We have two kids, both adopted. One is straight, the other gay, and they both have their own agendas. Despite our dissimilar backgrounds, we all get along fairly well. But as this is an advice blog for straight parents of gay kids, I will share just a portion of what I’ve learned from parenting a gay child, now adult.
“I Should’ve, I Could’ve”
Despite the compatibility of our family, I frequently, usually supine, takestock of myself. While some do this self-assessment in church where I frequently daydream, I do this in the bathtub or in bed in the wee hours of the morning.
Then I get the nagging thoughts “if only I had done this.”So, here are a few tips on what I would have done differently parenting a gay child.
• I wish I had taken my child to a gay-friendly therapist and not a traditional one who doubted my gut instinct that my son was gay and couldn’t read between the lines that my son was in denial. Had I known that that there was an affiliated organization of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), I could have found him the proper psychiatrist. I would have tried http://www.aglp.org. While not every gay child will want to go a therapist, I feel it’s important as society is not always accepting of gays and lesbians and the child will have to deal with certain issues unlike heterosexuals.
• I would have attended PFLAG (http://www.pflag.org), a nationwide support organization, with geographical chapters for parents of lesbians and gays, sooner.
• When my son was bullied in high school, I should have done more than call the bully’s father who in turn gave the bully a beating. I won’t mention any names because the father, “a little rough-around-the-edges,” might harass me!
I should have taken the matter up with the school as the bullying happened on their property and did not provide a safe environment for learning. My son’s case is not unusual. Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, May 6, 2015, Mark Schuster, the lead author of a research letter. states that LGB students were about 91% more likely to be bullied and 46% more likely to be victimized. Schuster reports that differences in bullying and victimization occurs as early as fifth grade.
Yet, GLSEN (http://www.GLSEN.org.), the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, found that most school professionals (teachers, principals) do not come to the defense of bullied students. However, GLSEN does provide safe space kits to schools to teach students and personnel how to respect each other. If the teaching tools from GLSEN are not effective, the student can contact the Superintendant of Schools and/or the American Civil Liberties Union if he/she feels his rights were violated. So many options I didn’t know about then, but the climate for acceptance seems better now.
While I could have done more, at least I took some action to ensure his happiness. We all want the best for our kids. Sometimes it’s hard to know what’s best, especially on a trajectory that has few role models. That’s why it’s so important for straight parents to learn from others “who’ve been there.”
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.