It’s not for parents to doubt. When a child comes out, many parents believe it’s a phase. How could a ‘tween or teen know at such a young age, especially if he is still a virgin?
In this regard, it is awfully hard for you to “walk in your child’s shoes.” This is one instance when your child knows more than you do. Only he knows whom he is attracted to. LGBs describe the feeling as an “otherness.” Some know by age five, others at puberty, and even much later. Freud demonstrated that sexual orientation is a continuum or as described today as “fluid.”
You may want your child to be heterosexual, but you can’t second guess what he’s feeling anyway. Certainly don’t try to convert him with gay-to-straight therapy (conversion therapy). It doesn’t work and results in depression, low self-esteem, shame, even suicide.
Apologies In Order
If your reaction to your child’s coming out was anger, which is typical, apologize. Never let your views escalate into violence. Thirty-four percent of LGBT youth report that they experienced physical violence from their parents because of their sexuality, and 26% of LGBT youth were forced to leave their home because of it.
If prior to your child’s coming out, you had voiced some biased or prejudiced concepts about gay people, now would be the time to explain that you are going to work on shifting your bias and attitudes.
Keep the door open for ongoing dialogues. The Human Rights Campaign’s Survey of more than 10,000 LGBTQ identified Youth ages 13-17, found that less than a third of LGBTQ youth (32%) chose their family among a list of places where they most often hear positive messages about being LGBTQ.
If you need help “getting your lines right,” you might want to consult PFLAG (Parents of Lesbians and Gays, now with transgender chapters) or a therapist. Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D., co-author of When Your Child Is Gay: What Parents Need To Know, in the Anger to Calm chapter, says “it is important that you are very mindful of the things you say to your child in the weeks and months following her coming out, as she will likely be exquisitely sensitive and looking for meaning in your word choice and tone. Remind your child of why you are proud of him. Being gay does not erase any of these things.”
A hug and the phrase “I Love You” go a long way as well.
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.