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What to Do If Your Child Comes Out

Here are the essential Dos and Don'ts of helping your child if he or she comes out to you. Read More

My Experience

After coming out to my mom, she thought that I thought it was the trendy thing to do to be gay. She thought my friends told me that I should be gay and that I just lapped it up like a sucker. Even though we're in a good place now, I know that she still has her doubts, in large part stemming from her thought (she hasn't told me this herself, but I'm pretty sure I've read her correctly) that I don't understand the differences of thinking someone is attractive and being attracted to someone, and we have a fundamental disagreement as to whether or not having a crush on someone is choice (my position is that initially it's not a choice, but if you linger on it extensively, then it becomes a choice, while she just fundamentally believes having a crush on someone is a choice). As long as she believes that I don't understand these differences, then she'll always believe that I'm confused or chose to be gay.

I touched on this earlier that my mom and I are on good terms overall regarding my sexuality. It's just those things I mentioned that have occasionally caused some degree of tension.

The case of the exception

I tried to post before, and I got swallowed up. Let me try again. What about that rare but possible situation where as a parent you doubt that the situation is a matter of genetics? At that point is the child's sexual preference fair to discuss the way that way that other sexual behaviors by minors should be discussed? Or is sexuality-identification always off limits, but everything else is okay to talk about?

I Would Say

This is just my idea, but if you as a parent think that's the case, I would say to not voice that to your child, but just tell them that you love them and go about life as you normally would. If it's a case of the child just going through a phase (which I can guarantee you that that is not the case the overwhelming majority of the time), then they'll come around without any pressure or goading from their parent(s); some might argue that in such a scenario that would only make them rebel more. So just let your child figure out who they are on their own terms and treat them as you normally would.

I see the basic topic of your scenario (thinking that a person who identifies as anything other than straight is possibly doing it as a result of socialization, if I'm correctly assuming that's the main non-genetic factor that you're implying) as similar to when people doubt that people are bisexual, a more specific case of your scenario. As a gay man, I know that many gays and lesbians write off anyone who says they're bisexual because for many of us, we thought we were bisexual before realizing that we were gay. It can be difficult to accept someone else's claim of their truth if we have a different experience that bears some resemblance to their situation. I hope I didn't sound too soapboxy because I did want to try to answer your question with as little essence of blame, shame, or finger-pointing as possible.

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Clifford N. Lazarus, Ph.D., is Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute.

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