For parents with children who may be gay.
How different is my gay child to my straight child? How do you deal with a gay teens.
Very different and very the same!
Almost all young people, especially coming to, and through adolescence, may stress about school, grades, college, sports, activities, social interaction, self image, social media, friends, and fitting in and this new sexual energy surging through their minds and body. This is a stressful time in a young persons life as they test their boundaries in finding their own identity.
It’s interesting as adults and parents how we choose to forget just how difficult and painful that period of our lives was for us. It’s even more interesting as parents, how we cannot empathise with our teenagers when they act out, despite the fact that we did the exact same when we were their age. In this really important 2nd phase of growing and developing, young people are establishing their identity and trying to figure out where they fit in. Or who they fit in with, or indeed, do they fit in at all. As a straight teen, this process is already very difficult, but gay teens only too often struggle with abandonment issues, approval issues, isolation, loneliness and the additional stress this brings.
The Uncertainty Of Being A Teenager
In a fog of new uncertainty gay teens struggle with these new questions and doubts.
Will I have to hide who I am. What will Dad think of me.
My Dad will he still love me.
Will I be thrown out of the house.
My Mum will she still love me.
Will Mum be disappointed.
How will my brother feel.
My Sister how will she react.
How will my best friend react.
On top of this, there is always a worry whether they will be harassed about being gay, or whether they will face stereotypes or judgments if they are honest about who they really are. Being ridiculed as we mature is painful. Being ridiculed when we are young and vulnerable is suicidal, and I am not using this word lightly.
Shame binds in secret. The longer the secret the greater the shame.
Gays feel different from their straight peers and friends when the conversation turns to love, dating, and sex. For them, it can feel like everyone is expected to be straight, and make no mistake, they are! gays are in the minority, why wouldn’t everyone expect them to be straight. This is understandable, as 80% of the population is straight, but in this isolation, the rational thoughts of “minority” disappears and the isolation feeling becomes amplified.
All young teens sometimes pretend to feel things that they don’t, in order to fit in. But with gays, they often feel they need to deny who they are, or hide an important part of themselves, to fit in. But this drives them deeper into isolation and loneliness. In the fog of isolation, loneliness and confusion, so many gay teens get tragically entangled in the worry about being accepted or rejected by their loved ones, or whether people will be upset, angry, or disappointed in them. This again propels them into shame and guilt.
The Isolation Of The Gay Teen
The fear of prejudice, discrimination, rejection, and violence, are very real and can lead some gay teens to keep their sexual orientation secret, even from friends and family who could have been a vital support. In the secret grows the shame and in the shame grows hopelessness. In hopelessness grows a lack of will to live.
Some gay teens can process their feelings and embrace them and “come out” and tell their parents and friends. Others struggle with the process of how they feel and how different they are and find it difficult to accept this aspect of their own identity. As by exposing their identity, they expose themselves in vulnerability.
Coming out takes courage. Make no mistake about this transition. Whether the person has a wonderful support system or not. Comming out puts them in a vulnerable place. Exposing their inner self. Opening their intimacy to potential abuse as some may risk facing harassment and bullying and ridicule.
But many gay teens who come out to their friends and families are fully accepted by them and their communities. This in turn makes them feel whole and loved, comfortable and secure about their core identity. In this acceptance brings them closer to those around them and more accepting of their own truth.
How do I Feel as a Parent.
Being a parent is not easy and as children grow into adolescence it is more difficult as adolescents is an interesting time for both parents and children. It’s a time of transition for both. A time when the child is finding their own identify separate to the parent. Finding out who they are and how far they can push boundaries. Some see this time as rebellious. Others see it as growth.
But for parents, this is the time when their sons and daughters are transitioning into young men and woman and in that transition, their sexuality is emerging, be that gay or straight. Parents experience confusion and worry around this transition as they may feel completely unprepared for this next stage of parenthood. It’s a time for parents to let go as well as hold on. It’s confusing.
Who Needs The Help
What is more confusing is, if their child is gay, because the parent has not experienced this for themselves. Therefore may bring a whole new set of questions and concerns. Some parents are surprised to learn the truth, that their child is gay as they always thought their child was straight. In truth they never really thought about it. They just assumed their child was the same as 80% of the rest of the world. Why would they not. But maybe they should have seen the signs.
Other parents wonder whether the news is really true and whether their child is sure. Struggling with accepting this news, the parent may head down the self blame route and wonder if they did something to cause their child to be gay. There is no evidence that suggests being gay is the result of childhood experience. However, childhood experiences may propel the child into a belief system. An example of these experiences are as follows:
Early childhood experiences, can lock the subscoincious into a frozen moment. In other words, if a child experiences a same sex pleasurable experience that is also associated with love, caring, and belonging, which they were lacking in the family unit, thus may promote the child to grow up with this as their understanding of belonging and love. In other words, gay intimacy = love! The same applies to parenting styles, if you have a son and you dress him as a girl and demonstrate a love and connectedness to him as a daughter rather than a son, it is possible for the son to grow believing he can only be loved if dressed in woman’s clothes.
Great parenting is not easy. It’s a tug o war of knowing, without judgement or invasion, holding on, letting go, trusting, guidance and most of all love. Great parents of gay teens are accepting of their children no matter the outcome. They know their children and wait for them to come out in their own time. The subject of gayness has been an open discussion in the home without judgement, with compassion and love. Therefore a loving caring support platform has already been established. Other parents struggle with the news initially, but when they allow time, they realise it really does not matter. They often feel glad that their child chose to confide in them, and are proud of their child for having the courage to tell them.
Feelings Of Anger
Other parents feel upset, disappointed, or unable to accept their child’s sexual orientation. The parents had plans for their daughter or son. They had plans of being grand parents. They may be concerned or worried what the family will say, or what the school or college will think. Or what the neighbours might feel. Other parents worry that their child will be bullied, mistreated, or marginalised, because their child is gay, they feel their child is weak. They may become over protective, worrying that others might judge or reject their child. In the overprotection or smothering. The child fights for freedom and the bond between parent and child fractures.
Some also struggle to reconcile their child’s sexual orientation with their religious beliefs, personal beliefs or social norms and sadly, some react with anger, hostility, or rejection, which I must point out is driven by fear guilt and shame. However, in most cases, but not all, parents find that they just need a little time and maybe a little counselling to adjust to the news. When love is the core component in any relationship, even parents who thought they could not accept their child’s sexual orientation are surprised to find that they can reach a place of understanding.