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Parenting a gay or lesbian child

Initial reaction(s) after your child says: "I'm gay."

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Initial reactions:

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 Heaven.
  • 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 taught.
  • 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 the U.S.

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 gay.
  • In an extended family involving second cousins, it is an almost certainty.

Reference used:

The following information source was used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlink is not necessarily still active today.

  1. "BeeDee," commenting on an article "Black America To Gay America: Jena Six, This Is How It's Done!" Queer Sighted, 2007-SEP-24, at: http://www.queersighted.com

Site navigation:

Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > Parenting a gay/lesbian child > here

Copyright © 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2008-AUG-06
Last update: 2008-AUG-06
Author: B.A. Robinson

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