Editor’s Note: This isn’t a blog for parents, obviously, but since so many of our readers may be on the brink of coming out, we thought it would be a good place to share a young gay teen’s advice on how a parent should react to hearing that their kid is gay.
Coming out as gay can be hard. Some people have been raised in a home where they have always been taught that it’s wrong to be gay or bisexual. Sometimes the topic has never come up and they don’t know where their parents stand on the subject. Other times they may know their parents are okay with other people being gay, but still aren’t sure what their parents will think about them being gay.
You might think your kid is straight, the thought may have never crossed your mind, or you may know your child is gay, lesbian, or bisexual. No matter what the situation is, it’s always best to be prepared if a coming out ever happens. Here are the steps your should take if your kid comes out to you.
1. Acknowledge that they trust you. Having your kid come out may or may not seem like a punch in the gut. Before you even open your mouth, understand that if they didn’t trust you, they wouldn’t have told you. Yes, they might be scared. Yes, they might cry. Yes, they may worry about your response, but the fact that they took the courage to say something shows that they trust you.
2. Say “I love you no matter what.” Those should be the first words out of your mouth, or even the second at the latest. Don’t say “I don’t understand” or “Maybe you’re just confused.” Instead, tell them you love them and remind them that they can trust you (look back at #1) no matter what.
3. Open the door for conversation. This may be easier depending on whether you’re a mother or a father, or maybe it’s both of you being told at once. Feel free to ask questions, because your child may be expecting that, but none that are demeaning in any way. “How long have you felt like this? Do any of your friends know?” and things like that are the best route to go. Do NOT ask them if they are just confused, because while it may not seem rude, to your kid it may seem like you don’t believe them or want them to change.
4. Give it time. After the initial coming out, wait at least a few days before bringing it up again to show them that nothing has changed. Don’t make it your focus of attention because that may worry them. Don’t pull out the Bible or any other religious book because this will make your child regret making the decision to come out. Spend these days doing your typical routine and even doing something alone with that child will show them that you still love them and that they are still the same person no matter what gender they love.
5. Be a parent. This one, as easy as it may sound, could be the hardest one of all. As a parent, you have a right to know what your child is up to, and a lot of parents want to know if their children are in relationships. Ask questions about crushes, relationships, or even possible past relationships. For example, if your son has come out as gay, you can ask, “Is there any guy you have your eye one?” This is tricky because it’s better if you mention the gender they are attracted to in the question without letting it sound rude. If you do this, your child (while they might get defensive or embarrassed) will realize you are acknowledging what they told you and will make things all around more comfortable for them. Be a parent, but don’t be mean.
I know this isn’t easy for anyone, but if you taking the time to show your child you love them is the best thing you can do. This could prevent any depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts that may come if you react negatively. Whether you agree with it or not, the one last thing to remember is that this is their journey, not yours, and all you are required to do is love them and there with them through it.