What to do if your kid says, ‘I’m gay’

Parents who believe homosexuality is biologically determined tend to cope better

What to do if your kid says, 'I'm gay'

Betsie Van der Meer/Getty Images

“For some girls, it might begin with a crush on an older sister’s best friend or a strange physical sensation that occurs while watching Xena: Warrior Princess on television. For a boy, it might be a fantasy to take a bath with a buddy or a strong urge to run his hand across his gym teacher’s bearded cheek,” writes professor Michael LaSala in Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child.

LaSala, who interviewed 65 gay and lesbian youths and their parents for the book, advises parents not to confront children with their suspicions until the kids have come to terms with their own homosexuality. Otherwise, he writes, “They will simply deny it. Trying to push this issue is like trying to take a cake out of the oven before it’s fully baked.”

Today, the average age for kids to come out is 17, says LaSala, director of the master’s of social work program at Rutgers University in New Jersey. In “a sea change from previous generations,” frequently their parents are among the first to be told the news. The trouble is, most parents don’t want to hear it. LaSala writes, “A mom might watch Ellen DeGeneres but that doesn’t mean she’ll be happy if her daughter is a lesbian.”

Therefore, he advises kids to “get their support network in order” before telling their parents. “Kids should find people they can talk to, whether it’s teachers or friends at school, to get the reassurance they need while the dust is settling with the parents.” If both parents are horrified, LaSala urges them to hide it from the kids, and vent to someone outside the family, such as a therapist or trusted confidant. Sometimes, couples aren’t on the same page. “It’s common for parents to adjust at different rates,” he observes. In time, what helps the non-accepting parent is seeing that the child is happy and well-adjusted.

The parents who struggle the most are those who “worry they’ve done something wrong,” LaSala says. “For the longest time, psychiatry blamed parents, and in particular mothers, for their children’s homosexuality.” Parents who recover quickest are the ones who believe homosexuality is inborn, he says. They conclude that “their child was simply born gay and this could not be changed.”

When LaSala speaks to parents, he tells them, “ ‘I’m a happy gay man. Being gay has enriched my life in so many ways. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.’ Parents are surprised to hear this, and also comforted.”

Informing the gay child’s siblings should be handled carefully. If the sibling is young, a parent might say, “ ‘Mary would rather marry a woman than a man,’ ” suggests LaSala. “This is a good way to describe things without getting into the details of the sexual attractions and behaviours.”

Siblings’ reactions matter. LaSala notes that when one boy called his gay brother a “faggot,” he took an overdose of pills. If siblings are perturbed, it’s often because they feel stigmatized at school: “Sometimes peers think the sibling is gay as well.” LaSala advises parents to ask their gay child for advice on how to handle the stigma and bullying, and to pass this information on to siblings.

When parents tell others their child is gay, “it should never be done in a way that overshadows another important family event,” he says. “It could add resentment if people recall, ‘Remember the time that Janice told us her son was gay at Grandpa’s funeral? As if we didn’t have enough to worry about.’ ”

Some parents worry their gay children are “potentially taking a path that will put them in harm’s way,” and try to push the child to be “straight”—but this leads only to conflict, LaSala warns. He encourages parents to attend at least one meeting with a support group such as PFLAG—Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.

One mother who went to such a meeting was surprised to encounter “all these other middle- and upper-class people. This is going to sound horrible,” she told LaSala, but she’d assumed that “parents of gay children would be crazy. Instead, I met all these educated people who are lovely, who have become my friends, and who have lovely kids who are gay.”

What to do if your kid says, ‘I’m gay’

  1. What an insulting piece of garbage.

    • Bill, your comment makes me shake my head and ask "why did you read the article and why did you bother to comment?" Surely you know their are gay and lesbians in the world. You do not have to like it but it does not change the fact that they exist. The great thing is that they likely are as disinterested in you as you are in them.

    • Um, care to elaborate? This reflects precisely my family situation in several ways, and those of friends.

      • noob

        • Noob?

  2. I like the take on the article regarding reactions of parents. When my best friend's daughter came out, her father hugged her and just reminded here she still has the same rules when it comes to relationships (doors open, curfew, etc). The rest of us kind of went "okay" not because we were uncomfortable or uninterested but because it didn't matter whom she dated, we just loved her anyways.

    That is something parents forget that I don't understand. Parents are suppose to love and support their children no matter what, so why does this one thing make them "monsters" or "immoral" or whatever name you want to put on it. Why does it become so "wrong" when homosexuality is a common occurrence throughout the natural world?

    • She should have kept it quiet so she could stay out later with "friends"! :)

    • "when homosexuality is a common occurrence throughout the natural world",
      lol, What 3%, with 80% of media attention, typical "me" people. Everything done too give comfort to a homosexual. I bet! An entity that could only extinguish itself. Unless I missing something.

  3. I think the argument that homosexuality is biological misses the point to some extent, even if it appears that it is convincing to some. Sexual orientation is biological, but it is also non-binary. Many people (according to Kinsey's famous experiments, at least) exist somewhere between 100% heterosexuality and homosexuality. In different environments, people may indeed make different choices about their sexuality. However, that shouldn't matter to a parent nor should it matter to us as a society. Parents have a duty to love their children unconditionally, no matter what happens. As for society, I generally fail to see the benefits of restricting or proscribing people's choices, if those choices cause no harm.

  4. What if its not biologically determined, but hormonally? What if gayness is just a function of testosterone levels which fluctuate according to status and rank.

    • testosterone is biological.

    • Status and rank, WTF?

    • What if you took a science class?

  5. Parents who believe that homosexuality is biologically determined tend to cope better? Why stop there, you could "cope better" with pretty much anything if you believe its biologically determined. It may be true but it hardly seems relevant.

  6. What a wonderful article. For those who feel negative…I invite you to attend a PFLAG meeting in your community. You will gain a much better understanding. Through EDUCATION comes understanding and through UNDERSTANDING hopefully comes ACCEPTANCE!
    Marilyn

    • Through brainwashing comes disaster. Play it again, sam.

  7. Homosexuality occurs in every type of family, family dynamic, religion, culture, ethnicity, city, country, continent and socioeconomic group in the world. It always has, and it always will.

    This is 2010. We have to move past ignorance and bigotry. We have to learn, understand and love one another. My family and community has utterly embraced me with love and understanding. That is what family is. Love and Understanding.

    PFLAG can help those who struggle. Homosexuality does not tear families apart. Bigotry does. Cure it with understanding.

    • Brainwashing guarantees disaster, so does the spin job. peeupyourflag alright.

    • fu—c lol. But they convinced each other, wow!

  8. They conclude that “their child was simply born gay and this could not be changed.”

    Maybe we could migrate to They conclude that “their child was simply born gay and this NEED not be changed.”

  9. The purpose of evolution is to spread our genes, as Richard Dawkins keeps telling the world. Gay people are genetically defective. They were born that way, and should not be judged. Some day, pre-natal tests will determine if your kid will be gay. Then, the mother can just abort the gay child, before it gets born. End of debate.

    • What is wrong with you sir? If your life is only about reproduction, I feel sorry for you. Or are you one of those tough men that spread their seeds across the globe without caring what happens to their children? With a name like 'timmyboy' though? I would think twice. I wonder what would Richard Dawkins say about your comment. He'd be ashamed that someone with such limited views gets to even mention his name. I wonder why didn't your mother abort you. Saying things like that…you should be ashamed of yourself. If only your friends and family knew what kind of things cross your mind…you'd have none left. That's if you have any, of course. I do feel sorry for you.

    • I have a masters degree in biochemistry, and everything you said there is patently false. Reproduction is to spread our genes, evolution has nothing to do with it. Gay people are not genetically defective in any way, the very fact that they exist now as they have always done throughout history indicates that their genetic fitness is high. Also, if you feel the only purpose to human life is to reproduce, then you should go to a sperm bank, deposit fifty samples, then go home, sit in your basement and wait for death. Mission accomplished, you reproduced more times than the vast majority of the population. What really needs to happen is people need to recognize that sexual orientation is completely irrelevant to a person's value. I invite you to explain to historians how Alexander the Great was defective and might as well not have existed because he slept with men.

  10. But, what if its from birth, is the disruption of the mental growth? Who watches over your kid at Scouts? Who watches over your kid, from birth??
    If their is a homosexual X chromosome that is suspect, where is the evidence after 20 years? What does somebody know but are staying quiet? And Why?

  11. Love your kids wether they are gays or not ,my son is gay ,he knows that I love him a lot,I'm less worried 'cause he's a tough guy ,he can throw a punch

  12. Yessir, Interesting.

  13. Well thats a great help. lol Considering the homosexuals are always the instigators! That stat can't be denied.

  14. I also get a strange physical sensation that occurs while watching Xena: Warrior Princess on television.

    Probably because I'm a Male.

  15. Growing up, my brother and I were both always told by my mom that she'd love us if we were gay. Neither of us are, but it's a damn good way to raise children. I knew that no matter what, she would love me. That's my plan with my kids.

  16. I agree that children need to be loved no matter what. There are too many families who do not love and nurture their children as they should. On the other hand, someone who says they are "gay" has made that choice. It has nothing to do with genetics. Marriage is ment for one man and one woman for life. Our culture has gone down this road and has ignored what God has plainly laid out in the Bible. God will not continue to bless a country that so blatantly rejects his commands condones this sin.

    • If gay is a choice, why would someone choose that? Why would someone put themselves through hell on earth trying to put up with small minded, SOB's? Why? Give me one plausible reason. Children and adults have killed themselves because of the humiliation, torture and persecution they felt. So why would they choose this?

    • "our culture"? Just which culture do you mean? Must be the one belonging to slack-jaw, one brain-celled idiots who believe in religion.

      Stuff your bible up your arse.

    • I really hope you don't have kids and bring them into your sick delusional world.

  17. Bigotry is born of ignorance. Maybe if we sterilized all the idiots in the world…nah, wouldn't be enough left over to perpetuate the human race.

    Here's a better idea, bigots – have opinions about your own sexuality instead of someone else's. What occurs in the bedrooms of consenting adults isn't anyone else's business or concern. The traditional argument is that LGBT marriage threatens conventional marriage…which is utterly backwards and nonsensical. What exactly is the logic there? Heterosexual couples are going to suddenly reconsider and decide to marry homosexuals instead? Is homosexual marriage going to somehow become more popular, so fewer people will be interested in traditional marriage?

    If you're a Bible enthusiast, God said love thy neighbor – not persecute him. If you're one of those who believe it's a choice, stop reading neo-conservative blogs and do some actual research. Above all, educate yourselves instead of spouting evangelical Judeo-Christian catch phrases.

  18. "Parents are suppose to love and support their children no matter what, so why does this one thing make them "monsters" or "immoral" or whatever name you want to put on it. Why does it become so "wrong" when homosexuality is a common occurrence throughout the natural world?"

    simple: religions everywhere (which were written by angry, bigoted racist, sexist men that loved slavery and wars) claim that god hates homosexuality and htat it's a sin. but everyone with an IQ above room temperature knows that religion is garbage, and that homosexuality is completely normal. if it weren't, please explain why do we see gay animals in the wild?

    • When you stand before the Creator of the Universe He may explain what abomination means

  19. Homosexuality is a aberration. It is like being born with Down's Syndrome .. mild .. moderate .. severe. The deformity causes mild .. moderate .. severe .. mental illness. Mental illness BEING diagnosed at about five times the 'norm'. THAT is using criteria that do not include the severest forms .. imho .. such as coprophagia. The criteria for mental illness has been 'watered down' so far that the ONLY thing that ISN'T mental is if they ACT on their disjointed thought processes. The criteria FOR mental illness MUST be reinstated which will result in the better part of the homosexual population AGAIN being considered .. mental. Imho.

    • Idiot.

    • If that were the case then your 'severe' mental condition would be ignorance.

  20. The point on homosexuality being more accepted based on whether or not parents believe it to be 'biological' is fascinating; however, regardless of whether or not this is true, it should be irrelevant. While, heterosexuals may not ever fully 'understand' homosexuality, this should not influence their acceptance, or lack thereof.
    I personally believe that 'homosexuality' is biological; but my best friend is gay, and if he told me it were his decision, or a magic spell I would love him just the same. To look to science qua biology, or for a 'gay gene' in hopes of ridding homosexuals of 'blame' or to justify our acceptance is to miss the point.
    So long as one can comprehend the basic experiences of (and inherent need for) physical attraction, companionship, and love, etc., one ought to be able to openly accept homosexuality. We are all human.

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