Guest Post by Welsey Davidson
Your 12-year-old daughter usually comes to you for help on English homework, maybe asks advice on her haircut. You banter about movie stars, sports. But today she has you tongue-tied. Surprise!
She announces she’s lesbian.
Your 14-year-old son, quite the athlete and ‘ladies man’ blurts out at the dinner table, I’m gay. Shocked, you reply, You can’t be!
You’re not the only who has reacted in one of these ways. Kids are coming out younger than 12 while living under their parents’ roof. But, no matter what the age, the news is quite a jolt. Your kid may have thought for a long time about how and when he/she was going to tell you, but YOU have only a split-second to respond.
To help you know what not to say, here’s a helpful list of What Not to Say When Your Kid Says They are Gay:
- You’re too young to know: Most GLBT kids sense they are ‘different’ early on. Even if they’re virgins, they know they’re attracted to the same sex. You may be in denial and wishful thinking.
- How could you be? You were just dating Bobby: Many gay teens wish they were heterosexual. As it’s the accepted majority, why not try to fit in? So, they try the norm first.
- You’re so girly-girly. Are you sure you’re a lesbian: Your daughter doesn’t have to be dressed in black leather head-to-toe, have a buzz cut, and multiple piercings to look queer. There are “lipstick lesbians” such as singer Chely Wright and actress Jane Lynch who look feminine and not butch.
- You haven’t had sex yet: You don’t need to have sex to know whom you’re attracted to. If the opposite sex doesn’t turn you on, but your own does, then you may be gay.
- How could you do this to me: Children don’t like disappointing their parents. Sexual orientation is not a choice; as Lady Gaga sings, ‘Your’e born this way.’ You’re probably disappointed because of YOUR expectations for your child, which do not include homosexuality.
- Don’t tell the rest of the family. It’ll kill them: Do not ‘out’ your child to others, without his permission, anyway. The decision about who to tell, and when, belongs to your child. Privacy does not always equal shame. Worst time to tell family members? Holidays.
- Are you sure? Your life will be more difficult: Life for any gay or lesbian person is more difficult due to society’s prejudice, but you can’t change your sexual orientation to make life easier.
- No more sleepovers! That’s it: You didn’t encourage your kid’s sexuality by allowing sleepovers any more than an “R” rated movie will cause your child to have sex afterwards. But if you ban sleepovers, your child will find a way to get around your rules, and it may just be at another’s house that’s parentlless.
- You need to go to church more: You can not pray gay away and convert the person. You may suppress the desire, but it will result in depression, self-hatred. If homosexuality doesn’t align with your religion, you can always “love the sinner, but not the sin.”
- People will Look At Us Differently: Families with GLBT children invite comments, some homophobic, some supporting. You will find out quickly who your true friends are.
Things to Say When You’re Already Blown It:
- You know you really threw me off when you told me….: I’m sorry I got angry…
- It took a lot of courage for you to come out: I’m flattered that you choose to tell me about this important part of who you are.
What Your Kid Wants You to Say:
- I love you no matter what, and always will: Panacea to your kid. If you are accepting, your kid will be in much better shape, and less prone to depression, drugs, and other acting out behaviors.
- We are There For You: But don’t be overeager to help, or act the part of the fixer. Let your son/daughter take the lead.
Wesley Davidson is the straight parent of an adult gay son. She shares her thoughts about parenting a gay child on her blog, Straight Parent Gay Kid, and is currently writing an issue-oriented advice book, co-authored by a Manhattan psychiatrist. Her book is filled with voices of straight parents, including her own, gay and lesbian teens and adults and will be a resource to help straight parents raise happy, healthy GL adults.