How to React and What to Say when your Son Tells you he is Gay
I write this specifically for homosexual sons coming out of the closet to their parents or guardians. That being said, some of the points I make can act as a crossover on the matter of lesbian or bisexual daughters and children with gender identity issues, but there is nothing in this article that specifically addresses the needs of these two groups the way it addresses the needs of male homosexual children, teenagers, and young adults.
The information in this article is not meant to replace psychological counseling. This is intended as a basic practical guide for parents to ease the transition coming out of the closet entails for all parties involved. My intended audience are parents or guardians who are accepting and tolerant of homosexuality and do not suffer excessive distress as a result of their son’s or ward’s homosexuality.
What the open-minded parent or guardian can expect from this article is a better understanding of his or her son or ward, the impact of homosexuality in his life, and how the matter can be dealt with sensitively and appropriately. This advice is ideal for parents who suspect his or her son will come out of the closet at some point and can prepare themselves in advance. For the sake of technical linguistic simplicity, the terms guardian and ward will be subsumed in the terms parent and son.
1. Maintain Normalcy
I mark this as the most important tip because it is both crucial to keep in mind in the beginning as well as throughout the rest of the coming out process and beyond.
The most important thing for you to understand is that your son is no different before or after he has come out of the closet, and it is important for you to make it clear to him that you understand that. Depending on how long it has taken him to confide in you, he could have been aware (or at least suspicious) of his sexual orientation for years leading up to now. He has most likely already done research and maybe even come out to his friends before coming out to you. Do not take it personally if that is the case. Young homosexuals have less to lose coming out to their friends than they do coming out to their parents if the reaction is negative.
One of the biggest fears your gay son will have is that opening up about his sexual orientation will cause major changes. Quash this fear from the very beginning and assure him that he is still the son you always knew him to be and that nothing is going to change. Try to avoid joking about your lack of future grandchildren or the reaction of more conservative extended family members. Coming out is typically so serious and frightening that your son may take this much more seriously than you mean it to be.
2. Educate Yourself
If your son has already come out of the closet, or you suspect he may, then it is crucial that you do your homework on the matter. The traditional birds and bees talk is, of course, something quite different when you are dealing with homosexuality. Like I said, it is likely that he has done his own research, but it can be very reassuring to hear it from you as well. This will prove your support and acceptance and help you avoid making uneducated comments that could offend your son. Ignorance on the topic can result in confusion about whether or not this is something your son chose, which it isn’t, whether or not this was a result of bad parenting, which it wasn’t, and so forth.
You will need to have a frank discussion with your son about safe sex and sexually transmitted infections, especially HIV and AIDS. It is no secret that men are stereotypically more sexually promiscuous than women, and that is where the promiscuous gay community stereotype comes from. Of course, this is a broad generalization that may or may not directly apply to your son, but be sure to make him aware of this and remind him of the value of his body and that physical intimacy should not be treated as casual recreation. In short, make yourself and your son aware of the unique dangers and traps faced by young male homosexuals.
3. Be Prepared to Defend Him
As you are no doubt aware, not everyone is as ready as you are to accept homosexuality as normal and functional. Do not back down when confronted by other parents who are outraged by the support and acceptance you extend to your homosexual son. Try to also be aware of bullying he is very likely to face at school and do not hesitate to speak with teachers and school officials if you suspect it may be particularly severe. You will have less to worry about if he has a strong and supportive circle of friends.
4. Give Him Space
Now that you have assured your son that this changes nothing and you are both informed and educated on the gay-specific issues young homosexuals have to be aware of, let him as much free room to further discover himself as you would a heterosexual child. This is an extension of the maintenance of normalcy I discussed at length in the beginning.
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