What's more important: being ‘right’ or being there?
With gay relationships becoming more common and accepting, parents are looking for helpful ways to identify with their children, friends, and family members who identify as homosexual or same-sex attracted.
When Charmaine’s* 12-year-old son Chris* initially ‘came out’ to her last month, she tells us she was shocked and deeply hurt.
Here’s her story…
My world fell apart when my handsome, smart, caring, sensitive son told his dad and me that he’s gay. I found myself in pieces and couldn’t come to terms with it. My husband is carrying on with his daily routine as per normal, without discussing it with anyone — but weeps in private.
Chris came to us one evening, expressing that he wanted some private time to chat with us. Thinking it was something regarding his upcoming birthday party (that’s what boys aged 12 talk about, right?), I was looking forward to it.
Little did I know what was about to happen was going to turn my world upside down.
“Mum and dad, what I am going to tell you may upset you, but I am still the same Chris ok? I am gay,” he blurted out, with tears in his eyes, fear in his voice.
I thought he was pulling a prank on us, so I started laughing. When I realised that he was serious, (he darted me a nervous look), I just lost it.
“What do you mean you’re gay? How do you know? You’re only 12!” I was clearly in a state of denial. My husband told me to keep my cool and he started questioning Chris in a proper way, regarding his revelation.
It had never occurred to me that he might be attracted to other boys. When those words came out of his mouth, I truly felt like I’d been gut punched.
Chris explained that he felt it 3 months earlier, but wasn’t sure. In recent days he felt that it was not just a phase, but was something more real which he couldn’t put words to. “I know it mum, and I don’t know how to explain it to you. But I am gay, and I have to accept it.”
How could someone so little be so brave and confident? I couldn’t even wrap my head around this. How could a small boy his age do it?
“Don’t look at me differently, mum. I am still the same boy. I am still Chris, your darling son.”
I dropped my gaze. He could feel it. I was judging, and how could I? I was his mother, and of all people, how dare I look at him differently. He was right. He was still my Chris, my baby, my love. Yes, this was not the ideal life I had imagined for his future. I always pictured him with a wife and kids… it is not something we can think about anymore.
I held him tightly in my arms, and we both cried till we were hoarse. I felt uncomfortable and slightly disgusted for a while, till it hit me that what was more important was that I stood by my son, and his life choices, no matter what. Yes, this was not an ideal life choice in my books. But he needed to know that we still love him.
I thought about how he must have been struggling with these feelings on his own, and was probably scared and confused.
Now to face society- something I could not run away from. I know that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to the question of what it looked like to be gay. But I knew there would be questions.
Chris told us that he wouldn’t tell anyone till we have accepted it. My husband and I have spent the past month reading up, speaking to counsellors and spending time with our son to fully understand and take in what he’s going through. And we have come to terms with it and will stand by him through thick and thin.
He knows now that his parents are here for him. We would never judge him and the choices he makes for himself. He is a well-mannered, respectful, intelligent and loving boy who has a bright future in front of him. I know that he will go through a topsy-turvy life with this ‘set-back’ (as some people may see it), but he will go through it with unlimited support and love from his family.
I admit that initially I was frightened of the prejudice and discrimination he may endure. But this is his life, and he is meant to live it this way. I felt ill every time I dared to imagine telling this to my parents and in-laws. There will be the right time for us to do it- Chris says he doesn’t want to rush and tell the whole world now. And we respect that. There are going to be adjustments we have to make, but we will do it for the sake of our son.
I am glad Chris trusted us enough to confide in us about his sexuality. Many parents are left clueless till their child is way older, and some never ever find out.
These days, I am spending a lot of my time doing research and educating myself on being a parent of a gay child. I want to be fully equipped with everything I can to be there for him.
“Mum, Dad, I am gay,” may be the 5 most painful and confusing words a parent could ever hear. These words are typically followed by a litany of emotions on both ends of the conversation. While the child has likely spent months or years coming to terms with this information on his own, the parents have the entire weight of this news placed on them in a single moment.
This can be overwhelming, but I urge parents in a similar situation to talk to your child with compassion, and have a thoughtful and respectful conversation about his/her sexuality. Anger and disgust will get us nowhere – remember this cannot be undone.
Chris’ coming out cracked my heart wide open and forced me to feel the pain of his struggle and my own lack of compassion and understanding. Our heart being broken – sometimes it’s the only way we learn how to love.
(Story as told to Pavin Chopra)
*All names in this story have been changed to protect the identity of those involved
Parents of gay children, how was your reaction when your child ‘came out’? Do share with us- we would love to hear from you!