20 May 2002

What To Do When You Learn Your Child is Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual ?

What To Do When You Learn Your Child is Gay, Lesbian, or Bisexual ?

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If you’re like many parents, your first reaction is “How will I ever handle this?” Most parents aren’t prepared for the words, “Mom, Dad. I’m gay.” Groups like the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) can help parents understand their child’s sexuality and its meaning to to them and their continued relationship with their son or daughter.

The first thing to know is that with absolute certainty that you’re not alone. According to some statistics, one in every ten people in this country and around the world is gay. Therefore, approximately one in four families has an immediate family member who is gay, lesbian or bisexual, and most families have at least one gay, lesbian or bisexual member in their extended family circle. That means that there are plenty of people out there you can talk to. Talking about it really helps. There are books to read, telephone helplines to call and people to meet who, by sharing their own experiences, can help you move forward.

The second thing  is that  if you wish you will emerge from this period with a stronger, closer relationship with your child than you have ever had before. That’s been the case for all of us. But the path to that point is often not easy.

Some parents are able to take the news in stride. But many go through something similar to a grieving process with all the accompanying shock, denial, anger, guilt and sense of loss. So if those are the feelings with which you’re dealing, they’re understandable given our society’s attitudes towards gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Don’t condemn yourself for the emotions you feel. But, since you love your child, you owe it to him or her and to yourself to move toward acceptance, understanding and support.

While it may feel as if you have lost your child, you haven’t. Your child is the same person he or she was yesterday. The only thing you have lost is your own image of that child and the understanding you thought you had. That loss can be very difficult, but that image can, happily, be replaced with a new and clearer understanding of your child.

If your child is young, coming to an understanding with him or her may be crucial. Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth who are shut out by their parents have a comparatively high incidence of suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. Some teens protect themselves by putting as much distance between themselves and their parents as possible.

If your son or daughter “came out” to you voluntarily, you’re probably more than halfway there already. Your child’s decision to be open and honest with you about something many in our society discourage took a tremendous amount of courage. And it shows an equally tremendous amount of love, trust and commitment to their relationship with you. Now it’s up to you to match your child’s courage, commitment, trust and love with your own.


Adapted from “Our Daughters and Sons: Questions and Answers for Parents of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual People” written by PFLAG