As a parent, there are many things that we fear hearing from our children…things such as “I’m pregnant” or “I’m dropping out of school” or “Don’t be mad, I wrecked the car.” But what do you do when your child comes to you and says “I’m gay”?
I don’t know how common an occurrence this is, but I seem to hear it quite a bit more than I was expecting to hear while doing counseling. Given the number of folks I have spoken with about this issue, I thought it prudent to write about it. My thoughts are thus:
One of my old Professors from grad school was discussing a case he had where his patient was a father of a young man who was “living the homosexual lifestyle.” My professor’s patient apparently didn’t know what to do with himself, nor how to handle the situation. Things apparently had escalated to a degree where the father and son were estranged from one another. Many of us in class were curious, asking “what do you say to a parent in that situation?” His response was simple.
He reported that he told the patient something like this: “Look, it’s not as though your son left the house one day, a human, and returned later that day, no longer a human, but a dragon, and you don’t know how to speak to him.” Moral of the story? They’re still a human being.
My professional opinion is that it is just that simple. You have a choice. You can freak out and disown or do whatever extreme things you think are necessary, or you can decide to NOT judge, to keep your mouth shut and your ears open, and continue talking to your child.
Perhaps you have strong views against the issue. I can tell you that doesn’t matter. Your personal views and ideas on or against homosexuality are irrelevant. If the reality is that your child is gay, then you need to accept, deal, and find a way to move on. Even if your personal convictions tell you to try and “fix” them, you still have to keep the lines of communication open. Regardless of your intent, nothing will be accomplished by attacking, judging, or pressuring them. I can guarantee you this: if you consistently attack, judge, or pressure them, they will withdraw.
So what do you do? Again, listen…be open…be supportive. Once again, regardless of your viewpoint or personal feelings on the issue, your child is going through something that has some emotional weight to it. As a parent, you must be supportive…take the one down approach…make an effort to understand. I think you’ll find that once you do that, things will be much less scary for you the parent, and your child will have a much better time sorting everything out.
David P. Robbins