Parents, The Kids Are All Right. Are You?

ImageThe advent of parenthood brings with it hopes and dreams for children’s futures. Wanting your child to have the happiest, fullest life possible seems to be a paternal instinct for most.  Anyone or anything that dares to present a roadblock to this becomes a quick target for disdain and removal. Perhaps that’s why so many parents have a hard time when their children come out of the closet.

Even the most progressive of parents sometimes find themselves caught off guard and unsure how to react when they hear the news that their kid is gay. It’s natural to want to protect your offspring from the woes of the world, and everyone knows that gay and lesbians are frequent targets of scorn and ridicule. Because of this, often the sexual orientation of the child, not the child’s would-be agitators, winds up in the protective cross-fires.

Some parents dismiss their adolescent’s announcement by hoping their same-sex desires are merely a phase. Others shut down and prefer not to broach the subject, hoping that a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach will work better for their family than it has for the US military. Sometimes, parents get religious, citing Bible verses and hoping they can “pray away the gay”.  Sadly, it’s not uncommon for some mother or fathers to kick their children out of the house. These negative reactions, wherever they lie on the gamut, are inversions of the very instinct parents are trying to call upon. Sometimes to truly protect the one you love, you have to broaden your scope of understanding.

When I came out to my mom at the age of 16, she didn’t know a whole lot about sexual orientation, and she was rather surprised by my pronouncement. She did the one thing, though, that I tell every parent they need to do when they learn they have a gay kid—she educated herself. Whatever levels of uncomfortability she had with homosexuality, she never took her lack of understanding or knowledge out on me.  She dealt with it on her own by reading up on the topic. Because of this, I was able to be myself and always have someone in my corner as I ambled my way through the confusion of figuring out what it means to be gay. Her actions were the paternal protection I needed to save my life. Scared, depressed, and suicidal, I’m not sure I could have withstood a rejection from my mother.

If you ever have a kid tell you that they’re gay, you need to assume that your actions can have just as dire of consequences. No parent wants to see their child hurt themselves because of a rash rush to judgment. Don’t assume the “problem” will go away by ignoring it or trying to change it. If your kid has mustered up the courage to tell you this, they’ve already spent a great deal of time deliberating their feelings and desires. Love, acceptance, and support are what they need to get them through the barriers in life that lie ahead.

There’s no reason that a gay person can’t have a life full of happiness and fulfillment.  Hopes and dreams shouldn’t die just because your idea of who your kid was “supposed to be” doesn’t measure up with who they actually are. Ignorance is the only road block that stands in the way. And it’s a parent’s job to shoot it down!

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