Parenting a gay or lesbian child
Initial reaction(s) after your child says: "I'm gay."
Parents exhibit a broad range of responses to the news that their child is a gay or lesbian.
They might react according to one or more of the following
scenarios -- or probably some we haven't thought of. Most likely it will be more than one:
- Denial: A parent may believe that the
child is really heterosexual, but is just going through a
temporary phase until they eventually come to their senses.
- Acceptance: A parent may readily accept
a child's homosexuality because they have seen signs in the
past and have long suspected that their child is gay.
- Concern for their child: They may have
concerns over the homophobic reactions that others may have
towards their child now and in the future. This might
include: hatred, physical abuse, economic uncertainty, lack
of protection for the child's family, etc. Surveys have
shown that on the order of 40% of gays and lesbians have
been physically assaulted because of their sexual
orientation. A posting on a gay information board said:
"I am out and proud to be gay even though it is not
'safe' to do so. I know LGBT oppression well. I have
been assaulted, cursed, ridiculed, and gay bashed on
multiple occasions. I have had the word FAG spray
painted on my house. My parents were thrown out of their
church because of the 'unrepentant' way I 'chose' to
live my life, even though they don't support my
'behavior.' My car has been vandalized, my house has
been broken into, and I have to look over my shoulder
when I walk down the street." 1
- Confusion: A parent's natural impulse is to
support their child. Yet they may also have strong feelings that they cannot support or allow any behavior that your church
teaches is always sinful.
- Embarrassment: Parents are often worried about the
reaction of the extended family, friends, fellow members of
their congregation, etc. when the latter find out that one of their children is
gay. At the same time, if they express negative beliefs about homosexuality to
coworkers, friends and others who have more liberal religious views, they worry
about being considered homophobic and unloving.
- Prayer: Many parents pray to God for the strength
to handle the situation, for the wisdom to know what to do, and/or to
have God convert their gay child to heterosexuality.
- Disappointment: Many parents experience a collapse
of their joyful expectations of their child's marriage and
future grandchildren. However, with same-sex marriage available in two states
and Canada, and adoption and artificial insemination, marriage and grandchildren
are now a definite possibility.
- Guilt: Parents sometimes wonder whether they caused their child's homosexuality. They may have
heard that it is caused by poor parenting or sexual
molestation during childhood.
- Devastation: Being aware of their
church's teaching that their child can never attain their eternal reward in
- Desperate: Feeling alone, having to
handle a very difficult problem with no support system for
themselves and their spouse.
- Anger: Feeling the ultimate betrayal of
a parent: to believe that their a son or daughter has chosen to be involved in
the "homosexual lifestyle" in spite of all they have been
- Rage: Throwing the child out of the
house and severing all contact with them. Some Jewish
parents have even sat shiva for their gay child as if the latter had died.
Resolving these feelings can take a lot of time. It takes
some parents weeks to adjust, some take months; some change over
years; some become stuck and never complete the process.
You are not alone:
Surveys quoted by religious conservatives typically show that about 1 or 2%
of people are gay or lesbian. Surveys quoted by many gay-positive sources quote
10%. The actual number, based on unbiased sources, appears to be about 5% or one
in 20 adults. Homosexuality is probably more common than naturally red hair in
This means that:
- In a family with two children, there is an almost 10% chance that one
will be gay.
- In a family with a mother, father, and two children, in which the
parents each have two siblings who in turn have two children each, there are
two children and 8 first cousins. There is a 33% chance that one will be
- In an extended family involving second cousins, it is an almost
The following information source was used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.
- "BeeDee," commenting on an article "Black America To Gay
America: Jena Six, This Is How It's Done!" Queer Sighted,
Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG-06
Last update: 2008-AUG-06
Author: B.A. Robinson