5 Things You Shouldn’t Say To Your Gay Child

Despite this country’s acceptance of gay marriage, many parents are thrown off-kilter when they find out their child is gay.  Without preparation for this often-surprising news, it’s easy for even the most loving parents to blurt out the wrong message.  Not intended, the retort ends up sounding insensitive, particularly to a child who is looking for unconditional love.

Here are some common zingers that shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary.

Are you sure you’re gay?  You’re too young to Know.
With kids coming out younger and younger (even in middle school), your child could know he’s gay even before he started first grade.  Or even before he/she lost their virginity.  Still others may be just experimenting and in time will know what their sexual orientation is.  In any case, it’s important to take your child seriously.  Questioning his sexual orientation smacks of denial and accepting his word as the truth.

You just don’t seem that gay to me!

Gays come in all sizes and shapes.  Just look at television or the news and you will see a variety of gays, from gridiron football defensive Michael Sam, to Grammy-award-winning Sam Smith, to CEO of Apple Tim Cook, to Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin.  
These achievers do not fit the stereotypical image of a buff fashion-conscious, less masculine/feminine image with a lisp and a swagger.  There’s no one way to “seem” gay.

You’re too Feminine to be Gay!

Just because you’re a lesbian doesn’t mean you’re going to be in the military, teach gym or become a cop.  Not all lesbians are “butch,” with crew cuts, baggy pants, leather jackets and riding on motorcycles.  Some are “femme.”  Think Chely Wright or Ellen Page.  Both wear makeup, have long hair, and look as if they could pass as heterosexual, but they aren’t. Because your daughter may look girly, don’t expect her to be cisgender (heterosexual).

How can you Do This to me?

This isn’t about you.  Your child is not doing this to you.  He/she does not want to disappoint you and knows his coming out is probably destroying your dreams of his future.  Many studies point to the fact that homosexuality is inherited and cannot be changed through reparative or conversion therapy.
Don’t heap guilt on your child; he/she didn’t cause their sexual orientation nor did you!

Don’t Tell Uncle John!

Until your immediate family has come to terms with having a gay child, there is no need to tell anyone!  While there is no shame, there may be relatives who disapprove of your child’s orientation.  Until you can enlighten them and speak of his/her differences in a positive light, it is better to wait!  PFLAG (Parents for Lesbians & Gays) http://www.community.pflag.org/getsupport as well as the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State familyproject.sfsu.edu has materials for parental support. And remember, you can always readdress your remarks and apologize for “flying off the handle.”

Of course, you should always get permission to tell anyone; after all, it’s your child’s story, not yours.  So, find out whom your child wants you to tell.  He/she may want to divulge themselves as they are better equipped to answer the questions that may arise!

When Your Child is Gay

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.

Wesley Cullen Davidson

Wesley Cullen Davidson is an award-winning freelance writer and journalist specializing in parenting as well as gay and lesbian content. For the past two years, Wesley has concentrated almost exclusively on the lesbian and gay community, specifically on advising straight parents of gay children on how to be better parents and raise happy, well-adjusted adults

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