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Parenting a gay or lesbian child

Options to pursue after your child says: "I'm gay."

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There are three obvious paths that you can take. Both are horrendously painful and immensely difficult:

  1. Rejection: This is a surprisingly common resolution to the news that a parent has a gay child. Hateful words may be exchanged that all involved will remember for the rest of their lives. Parents often throw their gay children out of the house, sever all connection with them, terminate their financial support, and withdraw to mourn what is in effect the death of their child.

    According to Rev. Scott Summerville of the Asbury United Methodist Church in Yonkers, New York:
    "Some studies suggest that when gay youth come out to their parents, approximately half of the parents are supportive, and half are hostile. Of those who are hostile, half kick their child out of the house. So if these studies are correct, something like a quarter of gay youth who disclose their sexual orientation may end up homeless. These young people are at greater risk for violence, sexual exploitation, mental illness, and physical illness. Homeless gay youth are some of the most vulnerable and abused people in our entire society." 1

    According to a 2005 article in the New York Blade:

    "More than a dozen public and private studies have shown that gay teens constitute 20 to 42 percent of young homeless nationwide. Nearly 7,000 homeless gay youth currently live in New York City, by some estimates. But only 26 beds serve them."
  2. Accept your child and work to change them: Many parents, particularly those who are religiously conservative, feel torn between a desire to help their child, and a very strong rejection -- even hatred -- of homosexuality. Some react by continuing to support their child, while pressuring them to seek help to change from homosexuality to heterosexuality. They may seek support for themselves from their pastor, priest, or family therapist. They may urge their children to connect with therapists or groups promoting change for homosexuals. These include:
    • Therapists and other mental health professionals: A very small percentage of therapists who work with gays and lesbians provide reparative therapy. The goal is often to convert the client from a homosexual to a heterosexual. Unfortunately, no studies of the effectiveness of this form of therapy have been published in peer-reviewed journals. The failure rate appears to be extremely high. Many of the major mental health professional associations have expressed concerns about the efficacy and safety of this therapy.
    • Transformational ministries: These are typically conservative Christian para-church groups who counsel homosexuals using a spiritual approach. The largest of these is Exodus International. 2 They claim that "freedom is possible," that people can "leave homosexuality" and that God wants to "heal homosexuals through his church." 2 They teach the client to stop viewing themselves as homosexual and seek holiness through an intimate spiritual relationship with Jesus. They believe that the client's same-sex attraction will fade over time and be replaced by heterosexual attraction. Transformational ministries have some success convincing homosexuals to live a life of celibacy and not act on their sexual attraction to members of the same sex. They have considerable success in persuading bisexuals -- adults who are attracted to both men and women -- to choose to confine their relationships to members of the opposite sex. They generally do not publish "success" rates at converting homosexuals to heterosexuals. It is believed to be very low. Exodus International has a resource page for parents and friends of gays. 3
  3. Accept your child, including their homosexuality: If a parent accepts the findings of the vast majority of human sexuality researchers that homosexuality is a normal, natural, and generally fixed sexual orientation -- or if they are open to considering this alternative -- there are a number of paths forward:
    • Many secular and other therapists provide Gay Affirmative Therapy (GAT) which is designed to help the individual accept their sexual orientation and to overcome:

       "... the psychological effects on lesbians and gays from the heterosexism, homophobia and homo-ignorance from society, family religion, and one's culture..." 4

      This form of therapy is promoted by many persons with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, religious liberals, secularists, and the large mental health professional associations in North America.

    • Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) promotes the equality of treatment and opportunity of persons of all sexual orientations. They:
      "celebrate diversity and envision a society that embraces everyone, including those of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities." 5
      A major function of PFLAG is to counsel and support parents, relatives and friends of gays and lesbians -- particularly parents who have just learned that a child is gay. 6

Related essays on this website, for additional information:

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Rev. Scott Summerville, "Falling Sparrows and Throw-Away Kids," Asbury United Methodist Church, 2008-JUN-27, at:
  2. Exodus International's home page is at:
  3. "Library: Family & Friends," Exodus International, at:
  4. Joe Kort, "So you'd like to learn about Gay Affirmative Therapy (GAT)" at: Kort has provided a list of 43 books on the topic.
  5. PFLAG's home page is at:
  6. "Coming out help for families and friends," PFLAG, at:

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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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