All parents try to bring up their children as well adjusted members of the society. A significant aspect of this identity is the child’s sexuality and when parents realize that it is not something they had expected, it is difficult for them to cope with the truth. So if you are in such a situation and agonizing over what to do, here is a brief guide on how to tell your parents that you are gay.
Accept it yourself
The very first step is to come to terms with the fact of your sexuality yourself. By this time you must have had some very definite indications that you are attracted to same-sex love and that it is not some passing fancy which you will “grow out of”. Be certain of who you really are before you come out with your status to those who are closest to you. And one of the best ways of doing this is to be as confident and comfortable about yourself as possible. Once your parents see plainly that you are happy about your own identity, it’ll be that much easier for them to accept the truth. Any evidence of ambivalence or confusion about your homosexuality is not only likely to make your parents cling to false hopes that you might become ‘straight’ later on but is in fact unfair to your same-sex partner, if you have one.
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One of the best ways of preparing yourself to tell your parents that you are gay is to talk to someone else first, preferably to someone who is of their generation. This could be another family member to whom you have been particularly close and who is sympathetic to gay issues or other families who have accepted their gay offspring. You could also speak to a school/college counselor, friends who have been in the same situation as you are now or members of Gay/lesbian youth groups on how best to approach your parents. Having a dry run of the coming-out discussion will help you to focus on those aspects which are likely to be of particular concern to your parents like your sexual health and be more circumspect on issues like homophobic politics which can be kept aside for now.
Anticipate your parent’s reactions
Once you reveal that you are gay, be prepared for some very strong reactions from your parents. These could range from shock and dismay to anger, anxiety, shame and even a feeling that you have betrayed them. Understand that you have had perhaps several years to gradually come to terms with the fact that you are gay. Your parents on the other hand will barely have enough time to let the truth sink in when you tell them about yourself. And even if they may have had some suspicions, being confronted with the plain truth by their offspring is a different matter altogether.
Be prepared to answer questions
Among the most common questions that parents ask their offspring when told that he is gay are, ‘how can you be so sure’, ‘are you doing it under somebody’s influence’, ‘is this something you have chosen to do’, ‘are you taking care of yourself’ and the like. It would be a good idea to prepare your responses to all these questions beforehand so that your parents can have concrete answers to at least some of the doubts which are plaguing their minds by now. If you are young, remember there is not only the matter of your feelings of love for same-sex partners but also the issue of your sexual experience. Most parents have difficulty even in accepting the fact that their offspring are sexually active beings and on top of it all if they are told that you are doing with same-partners, it is likely to be too much for them. Therefore weigh very carefully what absolutely needs to be told at this point since you don’t want to overwhelm them with too much information.
Reassure them about your health
A major cause of worry for parents when told that you are gay is likely to be the matter of you sexual health. If asked or hinted about this, reassure them that you know about safe sex and will most definitely practice it. The possibility of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and potentially fatal infections like HIV of course is present in all cases of unprotected sex, whether homosexual or heterosexual. The only foolproof way to avoid such infections is by using a condom during all kinds of sexual intercourse - vaginal, anal or oral.
Who to tell?
You may decide to reveal your sexual identity to both parents at once or perhaps to one of them at this point of time. This is will of course depend on the dynamics of relationship you share with either parent. Most young people feel comfortable talking about their homosexuality to one parent with whom they might be closer and wait for the other to hear it from him/her. Decide what is right in your particular family but be careful to avoid playing one parent against another or letting them compete against each other. Even if one of your parents appears to handle the information much better than the other, make sure both know that you love them equally and that you need support and trust from each of them.
When to tell?
Every family has moments when it seems the right time to have a discussion. Whether you decide to make use of such moments to tell your parents that you are gay or want to plan it ahead will again depend on the kind of relationship you share with them. However also recognize that sometimes your hand may be forced and events beyond your control may make it necessary to come out with the truth.
Help them help you
Your sexual orientation is not just a matter to be thrashed out between you and your parents. Remember your parents have to consider how to deal with neighbors, relatives, friends, co-workers and perhaps other members of their church or religious group who may or may not understand of your sexual orientation. Help your parents to ease the process by letting them know about gay/lesbian support groups, human rights societies and gay/lesbian Switchboards in your local telephone directory who may be able to guide them through this trying period.
Finally keep in mind that coming face to face with the truth of their offspring’s sexual identity is a huge point in your parents’ life and they are bound to take time to accept the fact. Even though their initial reaction may be disappointment, allow your parents a chance and enough time to evolve.