Few parents react to the news that their child is gay with complete acceptance and joy. Even parents who consider themselves open-minded may find themselves upset by the news. And parents who disapprove of homosexuality will likely find it even more difficult to accept their child’s sexual orientation.
It’s normal for you to be upset when you learn that your child is gay. You may find yourself worrying about his or her future or wondering what you’ve done “wrong.” You may grieve for the possible loss of grandchildren or end to your family line. (It may help you to remember that homosexuality does not equal childlessness; recent years have seen a drastic increase in the number of children born to or adopted by gay people).
You’re entitled to your feelings, of course. You’re also entitled to share some of your concerns with your child. Just remember that your teen needs you now more than ever before. Gay teenagers account for about thirty per cent of teenage suicides - a figure that would probably be much lower if they received the support they so urgently need. Even if you have to struggle to do it, the best thing you can do for your gay teenager is to offer your love and support.
You may wonder what caused your child’s homosexuality. Researchers used to believe that homosexuality stemmed from improper parenting, but this theory is now known to be false. As best we know, what “causes” homosexuality is the same as what causes heterosexuality: the roll of the genetic dice combined with prenatal hormonal influences. Today, the great majority of sex researchers and doctors view homosexuality not as a sexual problem but as a normal sexual variant, much as sea-green is a normal (if fairly unusual) eye colour.
What all this means is that your teenager is no more responsible for his or her homosexuality than heterosexual people are responsible for their heterosexuality. Homosexuality is not a “lifestyle” that teens choose to pursue, but rather a condition they discover in themselves. Studies have made it clear that, try as they might, the vast majority of gay teens are unable to change their sexual orientation. Even if they refrain from engaging in homosexual behaviours, the underlying feelings don’t go away.
Trying to “cure” your child of homosexuality will likely produce nothing but frustration and misery on both sides. In the long run, you stand more to gain by accepting your child’s sexual orientation as just one aspect of his or her unique makeup.
Support groups such as Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians & Gays can help you to adjust to the new reality in your family. Such groups also give you the opportunity to advocate on behalf of homosexual teens, should you choose to take this step