“The best thing you can do when your child tells you he or she is gay is to listen, listen, listen. No judgments… just stay open and listen.” He paused and continued: “Stay curious.”
I was about to crack a feeble joke — “you mean bi-curious?” — but held back. This was a serious conversation, and the person talking was quite invested in the subject; he even seemed like an expert on it.
In many ways, he was. Is. He’s my 14-year-old son Marco, who came out to us when he was 11. And here he was, giving advice to a friend whose daughter was gay. Although she had known years prior, it remained a fascinating and mystery-filled realisation for her. What if her daughter would someday decide to have a sex change? Did her daughter identify as a male or a female? She dressed up as a man but didn’t mind being called a “she”. How could she show more support? What was going on?
“Gender is what you go to bed as. Sexuality is whom you go to bed with,” Marco said sagely. “The conversation about hormone therapy should come from her. Let her bring it up.”
I’ve been asked countless times how I do it, bringing up a gay son so visibly confident and comfortable in his own skin…
The author with her three kids Marco, Mateo, and Simone and their stepdad Jose Enrique Soriano | Image courtesy: Regina Abuyuan
I’ve been asked countless times how I do it, bringing up a gay son so visibly confident and comfortable in his own skin, so courageous and unapologetic about his identity. My answer is always: “I just let him be who he wants to be.”
That’s a scary proposition, isn’t it? Especially when most of us are living according to the expectations of others, trying to hammer and mold our children into being what we want them to be, what we envision them to be. What our parents and family and circle of friends deem as acceptable, or proper. The “standard”.
Here’s something scarier: the possibility of your child afraid to pursue what makes him or her truly happy. Your child forever holding back because of that debilitating fear of disappointing you, or making you angry.
I was afraid myself, as any mother would be, when Marco told me he was gay. I held him close and told him it would not be the easiest of journeys
The author with sons, twins Marco and Mateo, and their stepdad Jose Enrique Soriano | Image courtesy: Regina Abuyuan
A child growing into an adult with “what if” forever etched in his mind, and never being able to slip into his true self, which is what will inevitably lead him to his utmost potential.
I was afraid myself, as any mother would be, when Marco told me he was gay. I held him close and told him it would not be the easiest of journeys. He was going to get ridiculed by some, bullied by others, and would meet people who would outright reject his queerness. All he answered in his little voice then was: “It’s okay, Mommy. I just want to continue doing things that make me happy. The things that make me, me.”
Marco knew he was gay when he was eight years old. But he wanted to make sure, he said. So he began researching. By the time he came out, he and his (straight) twin brother were familiar with the Kinsey Report (I don’t turn on the Internet security settings at home, but digital responsibility and navigation have been imbibed in our family culture ever since my eldest, 21, learned how to surf the Internet — but that’s another story.)
Then he came out, and everything changed. It was like the clouds parted and salvific light streamed down, making Marco stand taller and speak louder
The author’s twin sons Mateo and Marco | image courtesy: Regina Abuyuan
During those years of research, Marco was a bit of a problem child. He was extremely introverted; his teachers (Marco is partially homeschooled) and I noticed he had trouble letting his voice be heard. His handwriting was like feathery strokes; he didn’t speak up much in class, even if he was clearly a leader and commanded the respect of his classmates. When he grew angry, he was like a devil child, screaming and thrashing about. I dread to think about what the neighbors thought of us back then.
Then he came out, and everything changed. It was like the clouds parted and salvific light streamed down, making Marco stand taller and speak louder.
Since 2015, he’s played in three concerts (he plays the recorder), and has curated an art exhibit on the representation of LGBTQ identity in mass media (if you live in Metro Manila, check out “I” in The Hub in First United Building in Escolta Street, Manila).
Straight, gay, queer, bi, whatever they are — it doesn’t matter. If you just let your kids be who they are… then they will bloom
Jose Enrique Soriano and Regina Abuyuan with twin sons Mateo and Marco
Marco’s sassier, wittier, funnier. He’s comfortable hanging out with anyone—may it be the teachers, other teens, or toddlers. Or even artists and curators twice, thrice his age.
“But these are things that straight, or ‘normal’ kids could achieve as well!” You might say. That is true. And that’s the point. Straight, gay, queer, bi, whatever they are — it doesn’t matter. If you just let your kids be who they are, and support whatever interests them in the best way you can, then they will bloom.
Your children will have the freedom to question and explore. They will discover their passions, and with you by their side — operational word: side, not hovering over them like a hypercritical presence — know how to pursue them. They will know you are the safe place they can go back to when they feel uncertain and lost. You are home.
Let me paraphrase Marco’s quote: The best thing you can do for your child is to listen, listen, listen. No judgments… just stay open and listen. Stay curious.
Regina Abuyuan is an award-winning editor and writer. She runs Blended Learning Center-Manila, a center that provides support and programs for non-traditionally educated children; and is general manager of the dive bar Fred’s Revolucion, located in the bohemian enclaves of Cubao Expo and Escolta Street, Manila.
This article is republished from theAsianparent Philippines with permission.