Dear Dr. G.,
Two nights ago my 16 year old son and I got into a terrible screaming fight about where we are going to spend Christmas vacation. I am not sure why but the fight got louder and more emotional with every passing moment. My husband got involved which I was upset about because my husband has a bad temper. My husband told my son that there is no negotiating and that "we are going wherever your mom says."
Well, what happened next was just crazy. In the midst of this three-way screaming my son blurted out "mom and dad you should know that I'm gay." I couldn't believe my ears. I had suspected that my son might be gay but I'm wondering if he might have said that since he was angry. My husband left the room. I said very little. We all left the room at that point. There has been no discussion in my house about what my son said and life seems to be going on as usual.
My question to you is whether or not you think my son meant what he said or whether or not he was just mad and trying to startle all of us out of fighting. Your answer will determine how my husband and I talk to our son about this.
A Startled Mother
It is actually not uncommon for teens who are gay to let their parents know during the heat of a fight. I have heard similar scenarios repeatedly. The teens are so anxious about how you are going to react to their coming out so it makes sense that they do it during the heat of a fight. During a fight feelings are already being bruised and hurt and the teens feel that they have nothing left to lose.
My clinical experience leads me to believe that your son took a risk and spoke the truth. I suggest that you and your husband begin talking to your son and assure him that you love him no matter what. If this is difficult for you then seek support and help. Keep in mind that gay teens are at risk for all kinds of psychological distress and you want to do whatever you can to provide a safe haven and a buffer for your son.
Ask your son if he would like to attend a support group and no matter what love your son like it is nobody's business. Being gay is only one aspect of his identity and he is the same person today that he was before he told you that he is gay.
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