“I Just Found Out That My Son is Gay”
Families can struggle when a young gay adult comes out to them. Parents can struggle with how to be understanding, supportive and accepting. Most parents love their child after coming out, so that is not the issue. The problems usually come from fear and misunderstanding. Other parents aren’t clear on what being gay actually means. Some may think that their child is going through a phase, can change this part of their lives, or that their son is making a choice.
The best thing that parents can do in this situation is become informed and more educated, so that they’re better able to help the family move through this potentially stressful time.
Another struggle that families often face is when parents avoid the topic altogether. Avoidance of talking about a child’s coming out may allow the household to feel comfortable and unproblematic. It also can leave the one who came out feeling unaccepted and unsure about their parents’ perceptions. When someone comes out, he needs to know that you accept him. It’s hard to know if you accept him when everyone is silent about him being gay. Many times, people rely on verbal cues that they’re going to be accepted in a given situation. Therefore, healthy, open communication is vital.
Parents often fear their child’s future after he has come out. These fears are often related to misunderstandings and a lack of current information about sexual orientation. Common concerns that I have heard from parents can range from health-related concerns of the parent (thinking that all gay men end up living with HIV) to more social concerns (worrying that the community will never except this).
There are also several unknowns for families when someone comes out. They do not know if they’re going to have grandchildren, if his partner will be considered to be part of the family, or if other family members will even accept this.
The best thing that families can do in this situation is to be honest with themselves about acceptance and understanding. Asking themselves if they feel self-conscious, uncomfortable, and/or saddened by their son’s sexual orientation is important. When this is acknowledged, the parent can work on gaining a better understanding and seeking out their own help.
It’s important that parents own their own feelings.
It’s much easier for a young gay adult to hear from their parent that “I am trying to understand, but this is my issue, and I am working through it”, then hearing that they “made” the parent sad or hurt.
Although it’s beneficial to hear a parent’s perspective, it can still be hurtful to hear that their parent is struggling. So I recommend considering talking with a professional about this. This can help open up the lines of communication, encourage both sides to cope with these changes, and facilitate future healthy family roles. The parents may benefit from participating in support groups such as PFLAG. If there are no local support groups for you, there are also online forums that you can participate in as well. PFLAG is likely to direct you to these options when they’re needed. These are excellent forums for people to learn that they’re not alone and get suggestions on how others have handled similar situations.
Having a son who has come out can be a difficult time for families and the one who has come out. Although most parents want to be supportive, they often just don’t know how. Some deny that they’re struggling with this, while others avoid the topic altogether. With proper support and counseling, however, families can gain education, learn to communicate without hurting each others’ feelings, and build solid connections.