Well, those bullies better watch out.
Will I be able to support him effectively? What do I do next? When Lucas was finally tucked in, I headed back downstairs, flopped dramatically onto the sofa and let out the biggest exhale of my life.
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My husband, a go-with-the-flow, laid-back guy who never seems to get rattled, was just as low-key as his son. He was that typical little boy who gets excited by trains, thinks mud is an accessory and wrestles with anyone who is willing or half-asleep. And then he turned nine. But then one night before bed, as I was washing the dishes, he silently appeared beside me. I asked what was up, but he just stood there in his cute little monster truck pyjamas.
In a flood of words, he told me he wanted to tell his friends that he was gay—it felt like he was keeping a secret from them, and when he thought about it too much, it made him feel sick. My heart ached, and I wished I could rewind to the time when kisses and cuddles fixed absolutely everything.
Modern dos and don'ts for parents of gay kids coming out
The protective part of me was hesitant and wanted to discourage him from coming out. I worried about bullying, of course, and also that his friends might not react favourably. They were nine years old! Their conversations were about farting and video games! After some soul-searching and many late-night talks with my husband, we decided to first tell the parents of his closest friends so they could be ready to answer any questions. It seemed like a small way to protect him, the least we could do.
I expected drama. I expected tears. But it was almost a non-event. Not much was said after that.
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Playdates and sleepovers continued as usual—nothing changed except perhaps their language. They stopped assuming everyone in the world was straight. The biggest change, however, was in Lucas himself. This seems like a nice thing to say and it's something you will see a lot of in dramatizations on TV. But as Scott points out there is a subtext: "Saying 'I love you no matter what' suggests that your kid's gayness is something to be overlooked in the name of love.
It translates to 'I love you even though you are gay' as if gayness were an illness or aberration. I love you. Coming out is a big deal in a gay person's life. For some, it ends up being the most important moment in their lives. It's a big deal for parents too.
Often mothers and fathers need time to adjust, be re-educated and mourn the loss of expectation they had for their kid. But whatever you are going through, your son or daughter is likely going through something more intense and important.
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Scott gives a prime example telling me his parents were: " Scott's parents are probably feeling bad that they didn't foster a gay-positive environment and are feeling a little guilty about their son suffering in silence. While their reaction is far better than shipping your kid off to reparative therapy it still puts the focus on them and their issues.
Your issues as a parent do deserve attention, but shelving it for a while helps as you and your kids adjust to a new dynamic. This one is key. Getting comfortable with your kid's sexual identity demands conversation but there are some key tips to follow. It's important to note that sexuality can be a very private thing. Imagine talking in the context of who you would prefer having sex with with your parents. If your son or daughter doesn't feel comfortable talking to you right away, or if you don't feel comfortable talking about it right away, try consulting another gay person or organization ex PFLAG.
This is a situation Marie experienced telling me, "Because I was away at school after coming out to my mom, I didn't have the experience of 'living with it' daily so I wasn't aware that she was really struggling with it. But about a year ago she admitted to me that she did struggle with understanding it at first, but that changed when she spoke to other gay people and sought out resources for parents of gay people. Your gay son or daughter knows who they are attracted to the same way you do.
Yes, sexuality exists on a spectrum and yes it can be fluid, but if they are coming to you with this information, it's safe to say they are currently quite sure. Trying to change your child's sexuality is one of the most harmful things you can do. There is a reason conversion therapy has staggering rates of failure and a reason the federal government is moving to criminalize it. It's also important not to look for a reason. Marie says: "Don't assume or ask if your kids' sexuality was "caused" by something.
These tips are meant to smooth over some common speed bumps in the modern coming out process, however, not all Canadian kids are lucky enough to have a family open to having a gay kid or open to changing their minds on homosexuality. Luckily this country is replete with resources to help gay kids through a tough time that can sometimes leave them homeless or suicidal. One of the most common reactions from parents can be stepping into a closet of their own, feeling the need to hide the fact that their child has just come out.
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Asking your child not to tell other relatives or family friends about their sexuality, or to withhold the information yourself, translates to one indisputable and damaging sentiment: I am ashamed of you. What you can ask and should ask is if it's OK for you to share this news with others. While conveying acceptance is key, it's also imperative that the person coming out controls who knows and when for a process that can be highly individualistic and sometimes overwhelming.