One day, I received e-mail from someone suggesting that I put up links for parents with les/bi/gay teens. I immediately thought that it was a great idea. As a lesbian teen, I know how difficult it is to come out to people, especially parents. However, I can also imagine that it is also hard on the parents. The parents of today were raised in a rather homophobic society. Parents don't know what to say when their son or daughter comes up to them and says, "I'm gay…" Sometimes they freak out. Sometimes they deny it. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they even kick their children out of the house.
Parents, before you start clicking on the links I have listed below, please listen to what I have to say. Read about my experience. Read about how my parents felt and how I felt with their reaction.
As I look back, I know that I have always been gay. In elementary school, I never really had crushes on guys. If I said I liked a guy, it was either because he seemed interested in me or because I liked his older sister. You know how boys chase girls on the playground and scare them with earthworms and stuff? Well, I used to do that. I loved to gross out the girls. I had few female friends, and I always wanted to feel closer with the few that I did have. I didn't know exactly what I was feeling at the time though.
As I got older and actually learned what lesbians and gay people were and what they did, it somewhat freaked me out. My mom would be watching a talk show and there would be this sleazy lesbian with seven other lovers. I suppose that I just assumed that all les/bi/gay people were like that. I thought homosexuality was gross and wrong. I though that same-sex couples showing affecting was disgusting, and I even said, "I could never be gay."
At thirteen, I began to question my sexuality. I was rather confused and did not know who to talk to. I did not speak a word of it until a female acquaintance of mine came out to me. Even after that, I was confused. I finally knew who I was and came to accept myself at age fifteen.
I didn't want to come out to my parents. I wanted to wait until I was older when I had a steady girlfriend and could just go up to my family and say, "This is my girlfriend. I'm gay." I felt like they would be forced to understand and accept it then. However, I could not keep it hidden inside me. I felt like I was living my life a total lie. I couldn't take it anymore.
I first decided to talk to my mom about it. I was fourteen at the time. It was so hard. Harder than words can even begin to explain. I guess that would be my first piece of advice to a parent. Remember that your child is going through a tough time and is confiding in you. That child is looking for love and support. Keep an open mind.
I think my mom was shocked, totally shocked. She told me that I was too young to know; that everyone my age is confused. She said that I could not know if I'm hetero or gay (or bi) until I have experimented with both sexes. On one occasion, she even told me to "act straight."
That hurt. That hurt a lot. I think that she reacted that way primarily out of fear. I think she feared (and still fears), that I will get hurt. She knows that there is a lot of discrimination against homosexuals. I believe that my mom said that for my safety. She doesn't want me to end up like Matthew Shepard.
The topic was not mentioned for another year. I even had a boyfriend in between. The topic came back up when my mom was looking through my stuff (which really enrages me). She found a note between the girl that came out to me when I was 14 and myself. In the note, I confessed that I had feelings for a mutual bi friend of ours. My mom cried. I don't know why, but she cried. Maybe that fear came back to her. I think that it finally hit her that I truly am gay.
We talked, and I felt completely awful. I felt like an utter failure to my parents, and I told her that. She asked if I thought I was a failure because I'm gay. I began to cry (which I do not do often) and nodded my head. She was much more comforting this time. She said that I am the total opposite of a failure. She said that she and my dad (and especially my brother) would love me whether I loved men or loved women. She hugged me and said that I was the greatest daughter in the world. I finally felt like she was accepting me.
I couldn't tell my dad myself. I didn't want him to know at all. He often makes nasty, homophobic comments. It hurts. I know that his hate, ignorance, or whatever you want to call it, is mostly towards gay males, but it still hurts.
When my dad found out, he just told me to "try men" before making any final decisions. I wish he would just understand that things don't work like that. It's just like when my mom said that I couldn't know my sexuality until I have experimented with both sexes. However, neither of my parents had to "experiment" with the same sex to know that they are hetero. Why is it different with me?
Parents, your child did not choose their sexuality, just like you didn't choose yours. "This is not my choice. This is not forced upon me. This just is." Those were the words written across a pink triangle on one of Bill Clayton's notebooks. Although his parents were totally supportive, his peers weren't. Unfortunately, he committed suicide. Les/bi/gay teens are two to six times more likely to commit suicide. I was VERY suicidal my freshman year. I am still suicidal, but it gets better as each day passes. I have some great people in my life (including my awesome girlfriend, Amber) who are there for me.
Your child has a long, hard road to face. Homophobia is everywhere. You may want to read more about Homophobia and Homophobia and Hate Crimes. Those two papers will give you an idea of what your child will face. If you aren't there to accept your child, it will make things a million times worse.
I have been a victim of hate crimes myself. I'm an openly Atheist lesbian in a small, closed-minded, hick Christian town. I have had people yell obscenities at me many times: "Dyke," "lesbo," "faggot bitch," etc. I have even had someone tell me that I deserve to be beaten, tortured, and left to die. Fortunately, I have never been assaulted.
My brother gets it too, and he is hetero. People are constantly going up to him and asking if he knows I'm a lesbian or if I am truly a lesbian. He is really cool about it though. I am very grateful to have such a great brother. (Check out his awesome site: Playstation and Dreamcast Cheat Central)
Homosexuality is not a choice. It cannot be "fixed." Hopefully the links below will be of at least some help. You may even want to check out my Support for Les/Bi/Gay Teens Page.
My Child Is GAY! Now What Do I Do? A site that answers parents' questions on their teens sexuality
Why Is My Child Gay? Another web site that answers parents' questions on their les/bi/gay teens
Gabi Clayton's Page Gabi Clayton's story of her son's suicide, info on P-FLAG, and more
One Out of Every Ten A good site for resources on les/bi/gay stuff
Suicide and Les/Bi/Gay Youth A site that gives the startling statistics on suicide and les/bi/gay youth
hkgayyouth A good Q and A
We Are Family Home Page A page with more good resources on les/bi/gay people and their families
Damiano's Coming Out Story One young man's coming out story