Lesson 101 – Parents and Their Feelings

Welcome to “What if Your Child is Gay?” Thank you for joining us to explore this topic.  Videos and audio presentations can be started by clicking on the triangle start button. A glossary of terms from can be found at the bottom of the menu.

We use the word “gay” to simplify the conversation but we are speaking about all gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer persons. Many young persons use the term “queer” as a generic way of saying they are different. This course will cover sexual and gender minorities.

If you have a gay child, know that you are not alone.

  • In the United States there are approximately nine million gay people.
  • Three out of every one hundred people are gay.
  • Eighteen million parents have gay children.

So, what happens when a child comes out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender?

WHY DO WE HAVE THESE FEELINGS?

Why do we feel the way we do when we find out we have a gay child or family member? The reality is that hardly a day goes by without hearing a joke or negative comment about sexual or gender minorities.

Some families treat the topic as taboo and insist there are no gay or transgender people in their family.

Even when families are accepting, we may hear teachers or religious leaders condemn gays. Some say gays need to change or that they must live their lives without an intimate relationship. They may even accuse gays of perverting others; that is, seducing young, heterosexual people.

These judgments reflect the rejection of sexual and gender minorities sometimes present in society and they express the belief that LGBTQ+ people  do not have the basic right to experience their sexuality in the same way that their heterosexual peers do.  Moreover,  when the media presents homophobic people as authority figures, they help  create and spread an atmosphere of fear.   These negative messages find a way into our lives and we end up internalizing them and believing they are true without much questioning.  They make us feel uncomfortable with the members of the LGBTQ+ community.  It is part of human nature to want to belong.  Negative messages about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people make us feel vulnerable if ever we should be associated with them. We fear losing community, being criticized, rejected or becoming the topic of gossip.

In other words, when you find out you have a gay or transgender child, it is a natural reaction to initially feel upset and worried about your child.

Aside from the messages that we have internalized, we have dreams, hopes, and desires for success for our children that are brought into question. Marriage, career and family life are no longer what parents had expected or hoped for.

In addition, the news of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender child may bring out fears that family members have not considered before.

Having a gay child brings changes to the interactions that we have with family, friends and others, it can even change the relationship with our church family.

Parents may wonder how friends, family and/or loved ones will perceive them.

These fears make parents hesitant to face the intimate revelation shared by their son or daughter.

Fortunately, there is good news.  Understanding your feelings and realizing that other people initially feel the same way will help you make sense of what is happening.

It is true!

All parents experience a moment when the future they imagined for their child is in question. They learn that their child’s life, dreams and wishes are different from theirs.

As a parent, learning that your child is gay or transgender, you may think that your world has changed, that your dreams and hopes for your child are gone.

Your world has changed.   It is time to explore and learn a new landscape.

The bottomline: These initial feelings do not mean that a parent does not love their child or that parents will not be able to accept their child.

Family attitudes, culture and the society that people are raised in, will impact the degree of difficulty a parent will have with the news of a gay child. They will also influence gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people when they are coming to terms with their identity.

Many parents never suspected that their child might be gay; often because their child did not want them to know.

The painful/overwhelming feelings parents may experience when they find out a child is gay are very similar to the feelings their child may have experienced when they realized he or she is gay. The fear of rejection the child may have felt before coming out to his or her parents is similar to the fear parents may feel when they are thinking of coming out to family and friends.
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