One difficult realization for you may be the recognition that your child has probably been thinking this through for months, even years, and is only now telling you. It’s easy to misinterpret this as a lack of trust, lack of love, or a reflection on your parenting. And it’s painful to realize that you don’t know your child as well as you thought you did, and that you have been excluded from a part of his or her life.
To some extent, this is true in all parenting relationships whether the child is gay, bi or straight. There’s a necessary separation between parent and child as the child moves toward adulthood. Your child may reach conclusions you would not have reached, and will do it without consulting you.
But, in this case, it is particularly hard because the conclusion your child has reached is so important and, in many cases, so unexpected. You may have been shut out of your child’s thinking for a long period of time.
Queer people may hold back from their parents as long as possible because it has taken them a long time to figure out what they’re feeling themselves. In other words, gay, lesbian and bisexual youth often recognize at an early age that they feel “different,” but it may take years before they can put a name to these feelings.
Because we still live in a society that misunderstands or is fearful of queer people, it takes time for them to acknowledge their sexuality to themselves. Queer people have often internalized self-hate or insecurity about their sexual identity. It may take time for someone to think through and work up the courage to tell a parent. Even if you feel your child should have known they could tell you anything, remember that our culture’s treatment of homosexuality says “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
So, even as you may grieve for not having been able to help your child through that period or even if you believe that the outcome would have been different if you had been involved earlier understand that your child probably could not have told you any sooner. Most importantly, doing so now is an invitation to a more open and honest relationship.
Adapted from “Our Daughters and Sons: Questions and Answers for Parents of Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual People” written by PFLAG