This post provides some useful information for both the parents and the person coming out. You may also be interested in reading our various publications.
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When people first “come out”, many parents experience…
- Shock and confusion:
How did this happen? To whom can I turn?
This can’t be happening in our family! Perhaps it’s only a phase.
How dare they do this to us!
What will happen to my son or daughter? How will people react towards them as parents if they tell?
How can I tell people about this? Some parents feel disgusted.
Parents feel no one will understand. They feel they are the only ones that have a LGBTI son or daughter.
Parents grieve about loss of the traditional lifestyle, eg marriage and children.
Many parents feel this happened because they were bad parents. May feel guilt if they become aware their son or daughter has struggled with the homosexual issue alone.
Many fear their son or daughter will not enter heaven at death. Others are concerned about how their church or religion interprets homosexuality.
Finally there is acceptance. Parents need to understand gay children need acceptance just like our straight children. We also need to understand that if we want to keep our children’s love and respect we also need to respect them and work to understand the issues our gay children are dealing with.
Love should not be conditional and our son or daughter should not be seen as the “dark family secret”.
As parents we need to realize our children did not choose this sexual orientation. It is not a fad or phase. We are born with our orientation just like eye colour, there is no choice. Homosexuality may not be the norm for us but we need to recognise that it is for our children.
Society in general needs to understand that when a person decides to “come out” it is not a decision made lightly. Many have struggled with their sexual orientation for a very long time before disclosing. They also have experienced the self loathing that many in the general community feel. Most know at best they are causing disappointment to parents and at worst know they will be abandoned by family. This is why suicide is so high amongst 15-29 year olds.
Before you decide to disclose your sexual orientation to family be sure that you are confident with your decision and be prepared for “Are you sure?” and the possible many other questions that parents will ask. Plus, be prepared for the tears and sometimes comments made that may require apologies later when the shock wears off.
- Don’t “come out” at family celebrations eg Christmas, birthdays etc.
- Wait until there are minimal stresses within the household before disclosing and be sure parents aren’t busy.
- You are financially independent if possible, just in case the process doesn’t go as you hoped.
- Have a network of friends for support that can help you deal with the possible stress.
- Have reading material and phone numbers that parents can access quickly to hasten understanding
- If you normally live at home, have somewhere to stay if the worst should happen.
- Decide whether you want to tell both parents together or one at a time.
- Try not to swear one parent to secrecy. This can be too difficult for some parents and just increases their stress levels.
- Be prepared for the emotional roller coaster which is very common for most parents.