Gay and Lesbian Well-Being

Covering issues vital to the psychological health and happiness of gays, lesbians, and their families.

What to Do When Your Child Says: "I'm Gay!"

Your child has just come out to you as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or trangender...What should you do? Well, first, take a deep breath... (Good advice when first confronting any difficult situation, right?) Read More

Join the Ladies of OWWHH on

Join the Ladies of OWWHH on Friday May 20th, 2011 as we discuss
“My Child is Gay, Now What?”

TUNE INTO BKS1RADIO.COM ON FRIDAY NIGHTS AT 11PM AND LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!!

Have you ever wondered if your own child…wait for it…might be gay? If so, you're not the first parent who has. As the gay community comes out of the closet, parents by the hundreds of thousands are discovering that they are the parents of gay youth. But the real question may be: How would you handle it if he or she were?

Your world may seem to have turned upside down. You may feel absolutely devastated, bewildered, confused, angry and even guilty.

You may start to ask yourself:
What is happening to me? And to my child?
Why did my child have to tell me?
Is it my fault?
Who recruited my kid?
But the bible says this is a terrible sin!
Isn't homosexuality an unnatural perversion?
Can my child be cured of homosexuality?
Or you might even think It doesn't matter if my child is gay. It makes no difference to me!

Most parents are seeking comfort and reassurance that their child and their family will still be okay. And most are too embarrassed and scared to admit this secret to anyone; to reach out for that comfort.

Parents are struggling with the inner decision to try to find a way to change the child or to accept them.
Parents are feeling trapped between the love for the child and the teachings of their church.

But how do you start doing either one? How can you accept something about them that your church, your family, your friends and possibly even yourself finds unbearable, immoral or indecent?

New research suggests that gay, lesbian, and bisexual young adults from very rejecting families (as opposed to families who were neutral or mildly rejecting) are nearly six times more likely to have major depression and three to five times more likely to use illegal drugs or have unprotected sex.

The fact is that you have begun a new chapter in life; a new process has begun. As a parent, you’ll need to seek support for yourself and for your child. Finding a way to accept your child and loving them goes a long way toward keeping them safe later on. Helping your child with problems of loneliness, isolation, harassment and discrimination is vital. Many gay youth suffer in silence. Even those youth that are “out' to their parents, fail to inform parents of chronic harassment and discrimination problems at school.
We know you are searching for comfort, answers, and a way to make sense of this.
This can be a crisis or an opportunity, it's all up to you!

O.nly W.omen W.ear H.igh H.eels - Real Women…Real Topics…Real Talk! OWWHH!!
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What to do when your child says: "I'm straight!"

1. Please accept my sympathies, but be assured, this is nothing to be ashamed of. It's a lifesytyle choice. Just do your best not to show your disappointment.

2. Chase away those guilty feelings. It's not your fault. He or she probably inherited the 'straight' gene from that awful Uncle Henry or Aunt Bertha on the other side of the family.

3. Don't tell your best friends, or it will be all over the neighbourhood in no time.

4. Prepare family members carefully. Books on the causes of heterosexuality and how to live with it can be purchased openly now at almost any bookstore. No more brown paper wrappings.

5. Join PFOSCH a support group of for parents and friends of Straight Children. You can usually find PFOSCHers at their meetings, praying and singing, every Sunday morning in those big buildings with crosses on top.

6. It is reasonable to ask your child not to 'flaunt' this in front of family, friends or neighbours and do place boundaries on what takes place under 'your roof'. But you must tolerate what your child and his/her 'friend' do in the privacy of a sleazy motel room. That is their own business.

7. Prepare yourself for the worst: the multitude of grandchildren in dirty diapers, the divorce, and then again the next divorce, and of course the tacky decors.

What to do when your child says: "I'm gay!"

You might try saying, "That's wonderful. You really are special."

my child is a lesbain how do i deal with it

my child is gay what to do

What to do when your child says: "I'm gay!"

You might try saying. "That's wonderful. You really are special."

What to do when your child says: "I'm gay!"

You might try saying, "That's wonderful. You really are special."

My apologies Dr LaSala. It

My apologies Dr LaSala. It was not my intention to send the above 3 times. Though it is maybe a point worth making.

Like I always say....

...if it can't be said thrice, it's not worth saying.

ML

Great New Resource

Dr. LaSala - Thank you for the great article about such an important and relevant topic. It is important to acknowledge that parents will struggle and to provide hope that they will do the right thing out of love for their child.

There is a great new resource for parents who have recently learned that their son or daughter is gay or lesbian - a 35 minute film called Lead with Love that is free to view online at http://www.leadwithlovefilm.com. Dr. David Huebner at the University of Utah created the film to address this important topic. The film's message is consistent with mainstream scientific information on sexual orientation, and offers parents support, comfort, and guidance on how to be a good parent to their child.

What to do when your child says: "I'm gay!"

I'm sorry Dr LaSala but I found your article negative and quite frankly, made me cranky.

Why should/would a parent have painful feelings and should share them with open-minded, progressive, people accepting of LGBT people?

I was saddened by your comments - For the families in my study, nothing helped soothe their guilt, sadness, and worry like talking with other parents, all of whom had been in their shoes and managed to get through the tough times."

Why should they be sad, and why would they need help through "the tough times"? Why are they tough times?, why can you not be happy for your child that they have shared their orientation with you?

Parents should stop feeling sorry for their own feelings/shame/pain", as you say, and concentrate on how lucky they are to have a happy wonderful child, alive, healthy and willing to share their life with them.
These people are no different than you or I, and parents of homosexual children should not be made to feel like these children are different in any way.

I look forward to the day...

...when, upon learning their child is gay, all or even most parents "concentrate on how lucky they are to have a happy wonderful child, alive, healthy and willing to share their life with them." Until then, those of us who are human service professionals must find a way to help these parents get to this point. I can tell you, as a seasoned family therapist, "why can't you just be happy for your child..." is an understandable reaction (one that I applaud) but in terms of convincing distressed parents, it is not going to work. (Like telling a depressed person: "Just get over it and cheer up!" In my experience, patience, validation and a more gentle questioning approach is far more effective.

Keep in mind, that heterocentrism and homophobia is built into our society. Parents didn't invite it, but "inherited" from a world that perceives LGBT people as sick, diseased, sinful and unworthy of the rights granted in our Constitution.

Nevertheless, I do like the way you think and if we lived in a world where more people (including politicians and clergy) thought like you, perhaps LGBT youth and their parents would have an easier time.

Best,

ML

Dear Doctor Salsa, Thinking

Dear Doctor Salsa,
Thinking you may be Gay is different than be confused or scared. That's a fact, my brother is gay, and yes, he was born that way, but I know in a child or young adult, it's different. It shouldn't be encouraged by the parents or anyone at such an impressionable age. Your advice to these parents is just wrong, rude and pushy. I would never come to you for advice, or therapy, many teens and young adults are in an experimental stage of their life trying to figure out who they are and your pushing the green button, just stop and think about what you are doing, that's not therapy, be neutral here, I've read what you have told parents and children, stop it. Many teens feel like they won't be accepted by the other sex for many reasons, reasons that are not ridiculous to them, but may be trivial to us. They need to find their own way, not be pushed. I pray, yes pray, I need no advice from someone that's gay and thinks that the way, quit hurting people and teens, and listen.

Not happy with this site,
Your no help at all

Hoping you all read what I've said
Sometimes it's a choice, sometimes it's a chemical makeup of the mind that can't be changed, in the later, you just love them and accept it the best you can, I will always love brother , for nothing will change that ever!

Sympathetic But Not

I too have had years of experience as a therapist dealing with coming out issues for GLBT folk and their families.

I believe you are suggesting far more patience and sympathy than may always be warranted. I believe this is a remnant of the internal heterosexism and homophobia that far too many of us confident GLBT 'liberated' folk still carry. We're supposed to 'understand' and 'respect' and 'have sympathy for' the struggle and shame that 'they' are going through about 'us' being gay. (Just the idea makes me cringe).

A lot of that 'understanding' is based in our own lingering indoctrinated shame about who we are. We can understand 'their' shame because we haven't eliminated our own. We're expected to sympathize with their shame, because we still carry some of our own.

I too understand that "heterocentrism & homophobia" are "inherited" and that parents didn't invite "it". But let's be clear about what the "it" is.

"It" is ugly bigotry, prejudice, discrimination and hate, based on ignorance and fear --- just like any other form of ugly bigotry, prejudice and discrimination. If a white christian parent (or equivalent) arrived in my office feeling shame, anger etc because he/she has just discovered that his/her child was black or jewish (or the equivalent) [supposing the other parents had withheld information about their background] --- it is important to have some degree of sympathy for the shock the person is experiencing because of this unexpected news, and maybe a just little bit of sympathy and patience for their 'horror', or 'shame' or whatever their personal 'struggle' is all about. But only just a little --- enough to remain civil and minimally compassionate.

As a therapist, it is my job to lead them past their bigotry and prejudice and to help them understand that it is exactly that. It is my job to help them understand that this is no different than the ugliest forms of other kinds of bigotry such as racism or sexism.

There are gentle ways to try to do this of course which should or could be attempted depending on the clients / circumstances, but when necessary, strongly articulated challenge and confrontation may well be required rather than patience and understanding.

I have had experiences where parents have arrived whining about their distress about their child's sexual orientation, and I have asked, "Do you mean you haven't said to your child, "Wow. That's wonderful. We always knew you were really special."?

I pause for effect, and then I ask, "What's wrong with you?"

This invariably brings their bigotry and ignorance right out in the open and makes it the topic of conversation to be addressed rather than their so-called 'pain' or 'disappointment'.

I have had similar experiences in seminars with youth counsellors and therapists who also wonder what to do when a client tells them they are GLBT. I've encountered the same kinds of bigotry there and confronted it in the same or similar fashion. I find this gets to the core of the issues more rapidly and effectively thanm sympathizing and feeling sorry for their 'dilemma'.

Anti-GLBT bigotry merits no more (and no less) patience and understanding than the ugliest of racist or sexist or religious-based bigotry.

I have also dealt with many situations where there has been abuse. As with bigotry, it is often best, if not necessary, to call a spade a spade in order to deal with what the real problem or the real issue is.

I appreciated your comment....

Call me old fashioned, but I would never recommend saying to a client "What's wrong with you?"

Still, I think you maka an important case for a more confrontive approach. Tell me, does it always work? Or do some clients leave without returning? I would worry that such an approach might alienate clients, or lead them to retreat further into their positions. I am interested in hearing more their reactions to your confrontations and how you deal with these reactions--really. I am always open to learning something from a colleague.

Best,

ML

Confrontational Therapy

Thanks for asking.

I've been at this for several decades. Perhaps my age gives me more latitude than a young guy such as yourself. In a professional setting I can get away with being a cranky old curmudgeon sometimes and still be heard.

Generally speaking I'm not a confrontational therapist, and have more often been criticized for my more laid-back, let-things-develop-or-emerge type of approach by some colleagues of the peel-the-onion style.

However, that said, I have found that straight talk (pardon the term) is sometimes needed to cut through the crap to get to the key issues. A lot of the reaction of negative parents (after the initial shock) is quite frankly self-indulgent whiny whingy bigoted crap. Somehow the kid's life is all about 'them'.

Although usually of greater magnitude of nastiness, it's not that much different than the kind of self-indulgent whiny controlling negative stuff you hear from parent's who insist that their kids must do as they say, and become lawyers instead of musicians because of the family image or suchlike.

Of course the straight-on approach doesn't always work --- there is no approach that always works. Getting to know and 'read' the clients --- and establishing a rapport (if not a significant level of trust) is usually required before laying out the cards, so to speak. I try to establish the rapport quickly. And I'm pretty good at it.

With the issue of "Oh dear. What ever will we do? Poor us. Our son/daughter is gay/lesbian?", I try to get very quickly to the crux of the matter --- for whom exactly is this a problem? The kid or the parents? And exactly why and how is this a problem for them or him/her? There is frequently a lot of useless self-indulgent self-pity from the parent's side of things.

I consider myself to be a fairly compassionate and fair-minded person, who doesn't enjoy hurting people or their feelings, so given that, I can usually trust my gut feelings on this kind of approach. I can count on one hand the number of times it has failed and the individual has walked out. I have lost count of the number of times that it was effective.

Also in these situations, often my role has been to advocate for the 'child' in the situation, as that usually has been my primary involvement --- as the kid's therapist ---, and the parents have been drawn into the process by my client. When I act as advocate, my role as therapist shifts significantly. It is up to me to demonstrate a fair amount of challenge and 'fierceness and protectiveness' for my client and the parents --- so that he/she/they can see how a truly loving protective parent responds. It's my job to teach them how to do that.

My message, "If this were my kid, and someone said the things about him/her that you are saying, I'd rip them to shreds." I wouldn't stand for anyone hurting my child the way you're hurting yours. If you don't care that you are hurting your child, there is something seriously wrong with you, or what you are doing.

This is exactly the approach I would use with abusive parents.

I almost always recommend two movies for the parents of gay/lesbian kids (and the child) --- 'Doing Time on Maple Street' (American made for TV - 1992) and 'A beautiful Thing' (British - more recent). Both films demonstrate this fierce parental protectiveness at the end --- in different and indirect ways.

My question to the clients' parents is ---"Where is that fierce parental protectivenss in you? Why aren't you in there protecting your kids from the s**t he/she is going to have to deal with from otehr people? Why are you adding to it? Why are you adding to the problem??

And my challenge to the kid/child ---- is to find / develop that fierce self-protective internal parent for themselves.

I see nothing at all 'wrong' about identifying very strongly what is wrong in the parents' behaviour or attitude, whether it is this kind of bigotry (or any other), or abuse, or any other mistreatment.

I have of course truncated the dialogue that would take place, but I would have no hesitation in laying out the contradictions --- "You have said here that you love Johnny/Jane, and yet what you're saying about who s/he is, is really ugly and hateful".

It came as a real surprise to me one day many years --- I was really really tired. I had a fairly long-term gay client who went on and on and on and on about how depressed, scared and anxious he was about this or that about being gay. I finally lost patience, and without even thinking, blurted out, "Oh for Chrissake. Get over it". (And then to myself, said "Whoops".

The client stopped --- looked at me absolutely shocked. And started laughing. It was the break-through that was needed. It was the best thing I could have done or said. ---- Totally against every counselling / therapy rulebook I've ever read.

As therapists we take ourselves far far too seriously.

My son just told us yesterday

My son just told us yesterday he is gay and he is 16. I love him dearly but my heart breaks for the health issues he is facing, the negative reactions from many people he will face his entire life, and the idea of no natural grandchildren is sad. I am overwhelmed with emotions and worries.

Be Proud

Anonymous wrote:
My son just told us yesterday he is gay and he is 16. I love him dearly but my heart breaks for the health issues he is facing, the negative reactions from many people he will face his entire life, and the idea of no natural grandchildren is sad. I am overwhelmed with emotions and worries.

I hope you will read the comments here from another contributor, Will Roberts. The movies he's suggested are excellent. I also hope you'll take our columnist's advice to connect with PFLAG.

If you had absolutely no idea that your son was gay up to this point, then indeed it must be a bit of a surprise or even a shock. But take a step or two back, take a big breath and get a grip. You sound like a very caring, loving parent, but it will be up to you to get that love properly directed, and your own misunderstandings and feelings about your son and the situation corrected.

1. Your son did not tell you that he was dying of cancer. He does not face health issues because he is gay. That is nonsense.

If you are referring to AIDS. AIDS is not a gay disease. Your son, just like everyone else, whether presbyterian, baptist, gay, democrat, republican, straight, French, Spanish, black, white, asian, bisexual or trisexual etc, will be taking terrible risks with his health if he engages in unsafe sex.

Other than that, everyone faces health issues eventually. That's life.

2. What on earth is this 'sadness' about the lack of "natural" grandchildren? What on earth are 'unnatural' grandchildren? --- are they green? or multi-headed? or do you mean adopted ?

By 'natural', I'm assuming that you are referring to children who would be his biological children. The fact that your son is gay will not prevent him from fathering children if he chooses to look for ways to do that.

Or perhaps he will adopt. Perhaps he will choose to have a child one way or another on his own. Perhaps he will do that with a partner. Whatever he chooses to do in that department, I hope you'll look past your hangups about the biology and love your grandchild 1000%

I have an adopted son who I raised as a single gay father. He got married this past week, and my mother (who is now 100 and helped me raise him) attended the wedding and participated in the ceremony. She absolutely adores him and vice versa. If your son ever chooses to have or raise a child. I hope you embrace and experience the same kind of love.

Now your son --- I hope that you realize that he is amazing and he is special. He has shared the most important thing about himself with you. He is strong and has great courage. Good for him. You are lucky. He's a son to be enormously proud of.

What he needs from you now is unconditional support and love --- and he needs you to be fierce for him and with him. You are right that he may well face some nasty ugliness. That too can be used to help him (and you) be even stronger.

I hope you'll get past your various negative feelings (after all your sadness and worries are pretty much about you, and not about him), and I hope you'll get right in there and wave the rainbow flag with him and for him as he moves forward with his life.

You are a very lucky parent to have a child like your son.

With comments coming from a

With comments coming from a single gay father, I will have to say that you have no view from the other side. You are a champion of your own cause. Do you really believe all the stuff that spews from your mouth? Lucky to have a gay son? Who are you kidding? You are completely biased and therefore should not be offering advise at all. My son told me he was gay the day after Christmas.....and I am crushed. I have a right to be crushed, and disappointed, and ashamed, and everything else I am feeling right now. There are no directions to follow, nor is there advise that is helpful. His life from this point on will never be the same. You were no help at all.

Seriously? HIS life has been

Seriously? HIS life has been changed forever? Not really, he is just the same person he was the day before Christmas, when he last had the flu, at his last birthday, and at at the last Christmas. You are the one who is changing. Your perception of him has changed because of something he cannot control. If you think he is choosing bigotry and hatred, you sir, are a fool.

You should love your son enough that his sexual orientation is the last thing on your mind. What should matter to you is what kind of a person he is; making sure he doesn't make poor choices in life, guiding him AND protecting him.

Let 2013 be a chance for you to open your mind and don't be crushed, disappointed or embarrassed for for him OR yourself. He is not embarrassed about who he is, and YOU as his father, shouldn't be either.

Remember, straight people make gay babies. And I am the mother of a teenager who is a lesbian, so I DO understand and am NOT biased. I didn't love her any less or any differently than I did when she told me.

Please try to find a PFLAG chapter near you.

What you are going through is difficult and painful, I know, but not unusual or abnormal as an initial reaction.

Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is a national support group that has local chapters throughout the country. (pflag.org)
Please visit their website to find meeting information as wall as a lot of really good resources for parents just like you. There is also my book (www.comingoutcominghome.com).

I hope that helps. Hang in there...it does get better. Feel free to contact me directly (mlasala@ssw.rutgers.edu) if I can be of further assistance.

Dr. LaSala

Ugly Comments

I came to this site 2 days after discovering that my 15 year old son is gay. He does not know that I know. I'm extremely disappointed in the ugly comments by the gay troll on this thread that is a therapist ... a therapist!!! I was considering going to a local meeting here in Florida but can tell be my first 15 minutes in this community that it is not your mission to help. Your mission is to convert. You want to convert people who believe in God that there is no God and therefore no right and wrong. I just lost my son. He's gone, and some punks here think it's a joke. You've turned my concern into anger, and I'm not the type of guy who should be angered. Someone will pay for this.

I feel exactly the same as

I feel exactly the same as you. It is a crushing disappointment.

Ugly Comments.

Your former? son doesn't deserve you. He tossed you a line,and in the end it was you who let go.

Hang in there, it will get better...

This is all very new to you and you need time to take it all in. In the meantime, find someone to talk to, an open minded confidant, a counselor--someone non-judgmental whom you can trust....

I am a happy, healthy, gay man--there are many of us out there. Get to know some, including some who have children.

In addition find a local PFLAG chapter(Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) Go to the website and find the group near you www.pflag.org You might also check out the books I recommend in this blog post.

As for your son, make sure he is ok and has the support he needs, from you and from others in his life.

You are beginning an important journey and you have a lot to learn. Keep moving forward.

Best,

Dr. L.

My mum simply said she was

My mum simply said she was proud of me. I love her so much for that.

As a 21-year-old lesbian who

As a 21-year-old lesbian who recently came out to my mom, I found this post kind of offensive. My mom's reaction to my coming out was simply "that's nice. I love you. Thanks for telling me." Then she went on with her life. You seem to be making huge assumptions about parents in general. You assume that all parents will at first think it "preposterous" (to use your word) that they could ever be "proud" of their child's sexual orientation or "grateful" of having a gay child because it made them more open-minded. Believe it or not, some parents are open-minded to begin with. For some parents, it's just not that big of a deal. While I acknowledge I am lucky to have such an open-minded mom and that some parents are most definitely NOT okay with having a gay child, the way you wrote your post simply ASSUMES that all parents will be deeply troubled by having a gay child. This is simply not the case. The way you frame homosexuality makes it sound like a terminal illness. Is that really what you intended?

I can only imagine that your

I can only imagine that your mom said what she did because she wanted to spare herself. My 20 year old daughter just told us and I'm not o.k. with it. I stupidly told her so and it was like talking to a wall. There is NO talking reason into her head...like other 20 year old girls, she thinks she knows better. I spent many years around many gay people (I worked for a gay man for ten years) and I can honestly say that if the hundreds of gay people I met, not ONE wasn't a tortured miserable person once you got to know them. Granted, they weren't in their 20s. Once the 'honeymoon' was over and reality set in, it was too late, they had made their pact with the devil! I only wish I hadn't opened my mouth and just started praying for my daughter's soul!

I can only imagine that your

I can only imagine that your mom said what she did because she wanted to spare herself. My 20 year old daughter just told us and I'm not o.k. with it. I stupidly told her so and it was like talking to a wall. There is NO talking reason into her head...like other 20 year old girls, she thinks she knows better. I spent many years around many gay people (I worked for a gay man for ten years) and I can honestly say that if the hundreds of gay people I met, not ONE wasn't a tortured miserable person once you got to know them. Granted, they weren't in their 20s. Once the 'honeymoon' was over and reality set in, it was too late, they had made their pact with the devil! I only wish I hadn't opened my mouth and just started praying for my daughter's soul!

I can only imagine that your

I can only imagine that your mom said what she did because she wanted to spare herself. My 20 year old daughter just told us and I'm not o.k. with it. I stupidly told her so and it was like talking to a wall. There is NO talking reason into her head...like other 20 year old girls, she thinks she knows better. I spent many years around many gay people (I worked for a gay man for ten years) and I can honestly say that if the hundreds of gay people I met, not ONE wasn't a tortured miserable person once you got to know them. Granted, they weren't in their 20s. Once the 'honeymoon' was over and reality set in, it was too late, they had made their pact with the devil! I only wish I hadn't opened my mouth and just started praying for my daughter's soul!

Are you kidding ,me

I don't think people should have children if they aren't willing to accept their child. Your daughter relies/relied on you to support her and appreciate her decisions because you're her mom and that's what moms do. If you truly cared about your child, you'd let her discover her own identity as she grows up into an adult. And the reason why LGBT+ people are 'tortured and miserable'? People like you who give them hard times over their identities. Grow up. Love your daughter no matter what. (Also if you want to talk about sins in the bible - Leviticus 19:19, 'Do not wear clothing woven of two types of material'.)

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Michael C. LaSala, Ph.D., is Director of the MSW program and associate professor at Rutgers University and author of Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child. more...

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