Parents might feel confused, ashamed or anxious in the days after finding out their child is gay. Parents might not understand what it means to be gay and how it will affect their child’s life. They might feel guilty, thinking they did something wrong or worry about the social stigma. However, parents of gay youth should be proud if their child felt comfortable enough to come out to them. It shows a level of trust.
Chances are a youth knows he is gay long before the parents do. He has probably struggled with his own feelings of shame, guilt or confusion. Gay youth might feel isolated from their peers or suffer from the social stigma associated with his sexual orientation. He might have found sources of information and support. Parents should ask their child questions about his experience, listen when he talks and be a source of support. If he is in a loving relationship, parents should accept his partner and be proud their child is able to experience romantic love.
Parents of gay teens should educate themselves on sexual orientation. This can involve changing established ideas and going beyond stereotypes. According to Advocates for Youth, sexual orientation and gender identity are two terms that are often misunderstood. Sexual orientation refers to who a person is attracted to, whether it be male, female or both. Gender identity refers to one's personal identity as male or female. Parents sometimes find it informative and comforting to talk to others who have been in their shoes. They can connect with other parents of gay youth through organizations such as Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).
Life is not easy for gay youth. Parents can better his odds by finding support at school and in the community. Advocates for Youth advises parents to ask school district officials if they have a nondiscrimination policy in place. Other sources for community support are Gay/Straight alliances at school or at a community center. Bookstores that sell GLBT literature are places for groups to post their meetings.
Show Love and Respect
Above all, parents of gay youth should tell their children they love them. Being gay isn’t the whole of their being. It is one part. Although it may be different than what parents had imagined for their child, the child still needs the unconditional love and respect of his parents. Respect requires parents not to criticize their child for his choices, and to ask him before “outing” him to anyone else.
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