“Mum and Dad, I’m gay.”
If you’re like most parents, you likely haven’t prepared for that moment when your teen son one day decides to come out as gay.
If you had no idea you had a gay son, the statement may make you think that you don’t know your son at all. It’s as if a huge part of him—your version of his personality and identity—is suddenly put into question. That’s why many parents go through a process similar to mourning when they make the discovery, either by accident or through an outright revelation.
Handling a coming out statement from your teenage son is a huge challenge for many parents. Even if you consider yourself to have progressive views and have respect for the sexual orientation of other people, the possibility of having a gay son can still make you feel anxious, perhaps primarily because you know how a gay man in today’s current society can be more prone to bullying and discrimination than his straight peers.
Your gay son needs to know you still love him
If your son suspects that he may be gay, how can you show your support and love for him as you struggle with your own emotions as well? Here are some steps to consider:
Acknowledge it. Accept what your son says, even if you disagree with what he’s saying. This is not the time to try to “talk him out” of his belief or suspicion that he might be gay. After all, no amount of prodding, begging or influencing from you can make him change his mind or his feelings about it. If you’re not too confident with how you would react, delegate the task of being the primary communicator (if he or she can better handle the situation) to your partner.
Focus on your son first. If the most pressing question for you now is “Is he really gay?,” set it aside for the meantime. As a parent and the more emotionally mature one (hopefully), your most important task now is to help your teen have a better understanding and management of his feelings. Ask about his concerns, fears and worries. If there is a safety issue to address, remember that a caring and supportive approach will protect him more from danger than being panicky and authoritarian. Set limits and rules if necessary, but make sure it’s clear that it’s for his safety, not for the convenience of your own biases and fears. If your son lives in NSW, a great resource in Sydney for young LGBTI people is the organisation Twenty10.
Get help. It is important to establish an environment of acceptance, love, support and trust now more than ever. But it’s understandable if that may be extremely difficult to do during such a challenging time. It can be hard to maintain your composure if you’re going through an emotional process as well. Get help from a therapist or family counsellor who can give you information, resources, tools and platforms that will help you help your son live the life he deserves.
If need help with dealing with your child’s coming out, contact Sydney Gay Counselling on 0412 241 410 or book an appointment online today.