Coming out: how parents talk to their child about being gay

Talking to your child about being gay and coming out is a challenge for every parent. It’s the parent that wants to be respectful and wait for their child to come to them, to talk about their sexuality. The question of a child’s sexuality can be difficult to talk about. Rejection is the biggest fear your kid will have, while the parent will be concerned about respecting their child’s privacy. Parents also worry about mis-interpreting things, getting it wrong, not knowing how to approach the situation, or by offending their child by bringing up the question when in fact their child may not know or have discovered his or her own sexuality.

Children wrestle with their sexual identity. When they figure out for themselves that they are gay it takes a while to become comfortable with the their own awareness. Once they’ve established that comfort of sexual orientation and identity, it then becomes easier to learn more and talk to others about it. It’s important for parents to know that a child is less likely to discuss his or her sexuality if there is any fear of rejection.

Parents need to create a safe and accepting environment. This can happen with gay issues are in the new, on TV, or in a movie. Parents can show acceptance of people who are different and discuss positively how being gay or bisexual is not an issue for the parent with friends, co-workers, or even other family members.

Talking about issues about how gay rights have evolved over the years, including marriage and adoption, are great ways to show acceptance, tolerance and understanding. Avoid using gay jokes and negative humour; gay men remember these jokes and comments for years and recall these negative expressions and concerns about how their parents would respond when they tell them they are gay.

In the book, All Out: A Father and Son Confront the Hard Truths That Made Them Better Men, written by leading Canadian broadcaster and anchor of Good Morning America, Kevin Newman and his son Alex Newman, address the challenges when Alex tells his family he is gay. In the book, Alex tells how he calls the family together to make an announcement. He was so anxious that he could hardly speak and could not tell his family he was gay. After a minute or two of seeing his son struggle to talk with his family, Kevin Newman asked Alex if he is gay. Kevin Newman writes about how difficult it was to ask Alex if he was gay and feeling that if he was wrong he will have damaged his relationship with his son.

This book is very helpful to understand the feelings Alex had, as well as providing insight into how his father experienced his feelings about his son being gay.

If the parent is not accepting of their child then it is important to talk with your about your struggle.   Learning more about gay culture is incredibly helpful and talking to other parents who have gay children is often very helpful.

Acceptance of a gay child can be a challenge for some parents. Most parents end up accepting and continuing to love their gay sons. Sometime this can take years. For everyone’s benefit the sooner the parent can find peace with his or her gay child the better everyone will be.