Although I am not yet a parent, I am a Christian only child lesbian of a loving Christian family that was shocked to its core when my parents found out I was not heterosexual. My parents discovered my sexual orientation at 15 years old when my mom read in my diary that I was madly in love with my female best friend. Their reaction was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through, and I am thankful I was able to live through it without completing suicide. Now, close to 20 years later, I have seen my parents go through a transformation of change to becoming more supportive and loving. I have also seen this happen in many other parents of my gay and lesbian friends. This is a process and many go through stages after they hear their son or daughter is gay, similarly to what we as gay and lesbians go through when we realize that we are who we are. Below are the stages I have witnessed parents going though after they found out their child was not straight. Note that these strongly mirror the stages of grief.
♥Remember that the initial reaction of a parent after hearing their child is gay or lesbian is NOT always their final reaction.♥
THE STAGES OF PARENTAL REACTION TO A HOMOSEXUAL SON OR DAUGHTER
1. Denial / Confusion
“It can’t be true.” “I didn’t raise you to be gay.” “You are just confused.” “You just haven’t met the right girl/guy.” “You are only experimenting.” “It’s just a phase.” Denial is usually the first stage. Some parents stay stuck their whole lives in this stage because they just don’t want to believe it is true. Many parents are also confused because they have misconceptions about sexual orientation and believe that their child doesn’t know what he/she truly wants. Within their confusion, parents can become stubborn and believe that they know more about their child’s true needs and desires than they do. This can occur with adult children where the parents feel that they “know best” because they are a parent, even when their son or daughter may be well past their child/teen years and fully solidified in their identity. If they feel it is morally wrong, this puts them into a major bind between choosing to be supportive of their child or rejecting them because they do not feel they can accept something that is seen as sinful.
When I had initially come out (or was found out, rather), my parents blatantly didn’t believe that their only child could be exclusively attracted to the same gender. They thought if anything, it was a “phase. ” My mother often told me that the feelings I felt towards my same-gender best friend were “counterfeit” and a false feeling “derived by Satan.” It wasn’t real love because romantic love between two females didn’t truly exist. On a personal note, my feelings towards my best friend were not reciprocated, as she was heterosexual. Therefore, we had never been engaged in any physical sexual activity. None the less, my mother tried to sexualize our relationship and water it down to only being some kind of evil fetish lust rather than love. Even before they had un-doubtable proof that I was a lesbian, there was much evidence around them that they subconsciously or consciously chose to ignore because they could not yet handle having a gay child.
2. Anger / Guilt
“Why would you do this to us?” “You aren’t trying hard enough with the opposite sex!” “You aren’t praying hard enough!” “After all that I taught you, how could you choose this?!” “If you don’t change you are going to hell!” Next came the guilt masked by anger. They were angry at me as if I had purposely chosen to be this way out of a teen rebellion. They would scream, “why would you do this to us?” During this stage my parents were very adamant about sharing the 6 verses in the Bible that appeared to condemn homosexuality. This is where parental stubbornness can go into overdrive. They were 100% right and I was 100% wrong. On a side note, many Christians are unaware that when the Bible is read in the original Hebrew and Greek language and in textual and cultural context, these verses do not condemn homosexuality as a whole. For more information, please visit my extensive research on the topic at http://gaychristians.2freedom.com
My mom looked at me with hatred and disgust and told me that I was damned to hell if I continued in my sin and that homosexuality was comparable to child molestation. Their reaction made me flee from God and my parents (at the time), rather than bring me closer. Remember that parents are often the model for how a child sees God. If the parent is rejecting, than the child may see God as rejecting. This can happen not only with teens, but even older gay and lesbian adults. One must take care not to damage their child’s relationship with God by their own unloving actions, lest they be accountable.
Not only were my parents angry at me, but also angry at themselves. They started looking for what went wrong in the way that they raised me which brought up a lot of unneeded guilt. As much as my childhood would be considered a perfect upbringing, they began to blame themselves as parents which brewed self-hatred and shame.
Because there are so many misconceptions about the ability for sexual orientation to be changed, my parents began bargaining with me thinking there just might be a way out of this. They told me that my homosexuality was a choice, and I could choose to be straight. They would accept me and not act like I was permanently grounded if I went to a Christian therapist for Reparative Therapy. (Note that Alan Chambers, the leader of Exodus International which is the biggest ex-gay organization in the world, just recently admitted that he’s not seen people actually change from gay to straight and he now condemns the use of Reparative Therapy.)
Not only that, but they set me up on a date with a guy and encouraged me to will myself to be straight. To gain their acceptance (or rather conform to their idea of acceptable), I complied and went on many dates with men against my own inner feelings. I must warn parents and gay/lesbians who are in this situation. This was equally as psychologically damaging to me as Reparative Therapy. If it can be avoided, avoid it. Forming a romantic bond with someone against your nature is putting you in a situation to feel raped (emotionally and physically.) If you are a parent, put yourself in your child’s shoes and imagine being forced to have a prolonged romantic bond with the same gender. It is not natural for you nor your child, and in some cases, leads to rape. Don’t encourage your child to feel raped and try to avoid the selfish heartbreak of the unwanted partners.
4. Depression / Disappointment
Parents often go through a period of depression when it sinks in that their child is gay or lesbian and all bargaining attempts have failed. This is due to a number of reasons. Many parents have hopes and dreams of their child getting married and producing grandchildren. This can be even more disappointing when it is their only child. Although some states have now legalized same-sex marriage and same-sex adoption, this is not the same for many parents. When the parents come from a strong religious background, there is also the depression and overwhelming disappointment that comes with falsely believing that their child cannot go to Heaven, even if they remain a Christian. As a reminder, please go to http://gaychristians.2freedom.com for more information on the verses that appear to condemn homosexuality.
My mother especially dealt with depression over my sexual orientation and sought counseling and took anti-depressants to get her through the initial few years after finding out. She even felt suicidal for a time because her grief of shattered expectations for her daughter was so strong.
♥Remember that your child has not changed, only your perception of your child has changed.♥
5. Acceptance vs. Rejection / Ignoring
Some parents readily accept their gay or lesbian child the moment that they come out, but for many, it takes from weeks to months to years. When you accept your child, this does not mean waving a rainbow flag in a parade or holding up signs at a rally in support of your gay son or lesbian daughter. This can be part of it, but it certainly isn’t necessary for most to feel accepted. All acceptance means is being fully open to showing love and an open ear to your son or daughter in all matters, including their sexual orientation. You can be closer to your child if you are willing to accept them for who they are without trying to change them, judge them or blame them. If they have a romantic same-gender partner, get to know them just as you would if they were an opposite-gender partner. Treat them as you would want to be treated, and the feeling of acceptance will grow.
In some sad cases, acceptance never happens. Some gay and lesbian children are so rejected by their parents that they are thrown out of the family and never spoken to again. This can leave massive scars that affect their whole lifetime. The complete rejection of the family can often lead to dangerous outcomes such as major depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol addiction, homelessness, prostitution, promiscuity, higher risk of contracting STD’s, etc. In the worst cases, which is sadly very common, gay and lesbians commit suicide because they feel so damaged by their parents nonacceptance.
Other parents choose to accept their child in every area of life, except for that one thing (which if you look at it honestly, is one of the most important things in their life to share who they love with you.) Ignoring that they are gay or lesbian can take the pressure off you as a parent from looking at them for who they truly are, but it still leaves a major hole in communication and greatly limits your personal connection. If you are a married parent, imagine if your own marriage was an off-limits topic. Not only that, but everything having to do with romantic love and dating. You can only talk about your career and the weather for so long until it becomes monotonous, restrictive and down right boring. Your child came out to you for a reason. They want to share that part of their life with you, so you should feel honored to be so close. Instead of looking at their coming out as a cry for help, start looking at it as a chance to form a closer bond with your child in every area of life. Remember that their sexual orientation is more than just who they may potentially have sex with. It about sharing love and affection just like in your own marriage. If your child can’t come to you, than your role as a parent in the matters of relationships will be taken over by someone else.
♥Your child came out to you because they trust you. Do not break that trust by rejecting them.♥
So after the years of denial, confusion, anger, guilt, bargaining, depression and disappointment, my parents have each come a long way in their own time. I would have to say that my dad has been fully accepting of me for many years, although my mom is more in the ignoring stage. She is open to spending time with my partner and is very sweet to her, but she still remains my “friend” in her eyes. For me, this is fine, for now. From where she once came, I never thought she would ever get this far. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t hope for her acceptance one day. Her refusal to talk about it has made our relationship distant in comparison to my dad. My dad is very open and accepting and for this I am able to ask love advice and share in my joy with him.
Dear Parents, I encourage you as parents to open your heart to acceptance. If you are a Christian, fully research the passages that seemingly condemn homosexuality with new lenses. Get multiple perspectives and talk to many different people who have had different experiences. Also remember that heterosexual parents often confuse their “gross-out factor” of homosexuality with Spiritual conviction. It feels unnatural to them and they would never do it, so therefore, it’s wrong. The same could be said for the gay and lesbian about heterosexuality if we based it all on our feelings. Therefore as a parent, pray for discernment between what may be physically repulsive to you and what is truly unacceptable to God. Remember to act in a loving way and tread carefully as not to damage your relationship with your child. Remember, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”(Acts 10:15) “Love does no harm to your neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of God’s law.” (Romans 13:10).
Dear gay or lesbian (teen/adult) child, please remember to be patient with your parents. They are going through a grief process of losing their expected perception of their son or daughter. This can take weeks to months to years. If they never do come to acceptance, remember that God accepts you and this is the most important thing in life. If you have run from God because of your parents negative reaction, come back to His loving arms and show your parents that Jesus shines within your soul. This may just confuse them enough to really question everything that they have been traditionally taught on the topic of homosexuality in the Bible. If you are still a Christian, keep your faith strong and do not be confused by the enemy that wishes to destroy you by self-condemnation. Remember, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1) “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.”(Acts 10:15) “Love does no harm to your neighbor. Therefore, love is the fulfillment of God’s law.” (Romans 13:10).
♥To show love and interest for your gay or lesbian child, click below to learn the original meaning behind the verses in the Bible that appear to condemn homosexuality♥