My child is gay.
My child is gay – what do I do?
It can be a pretty terrifying thing for a person with same-sex attraction to share that part of their lives with others. Even as our culture gets more and more permissive, many people who have these feelings are so confused and have no idea what to do or where to begin. And often, their families are not a safe place for them to turn.
STEP ONE: LOVE
If your son or daughter comes to you and shares that this is an issue for them – whether they’re choosing it as a lifestyle, want help to change, or have no idea what to do – make sure that your first response is to assure them of your love. And then remind them of that love. Daily. We all need to know that people love us; we all need to hear it and hear it often.
Thank your child for being honest with you – because honesty is an important part of every relationship, and your desire is to keep having a relationship with your child. Reassure him/her that you do not want any barriers in your relationship and you really appreciate them opening up to you. Let your child know that this doesn’t affect the important place he/she has in your life. Your child will always be your child.
STEP TWO: PRAY
Next, pray. Pray for a spirit of wisdom and love, pray for your child, and pray for your family. If you are rooted in prayer, then the Holy Spirit will help you to know how to act and what to say. It’s difficult to give solid advice that applies to everyone on this subject: every child is unique, every situation is unique, and so you must be a person of prayer and open to the Holy Spirit’s wisdom when it comes to talking to your child on this or any other issue. Without that spirit of openness, the conversation will end, and the last thing you want as a parent is to close the door on your child.
You know your child better than anyone else, and whether your child is 15, 25, or 50, he or she will always be your child. With sensitivity to your child’s unique personality and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit, you will have an advantage in knowing how to best respond to your son or daughter’s unique circumstances and needs.
STEP THREE: TALK
Don’t underestimate the power of forgiveness, too. Forgiveness is an essential part of every relationship. So often, we don’t know what to do or say, and so we either say the wrong thing or are so afraid of saying the wrong thing that we say nothing (which is also the wrong thing). If you make a mistake, ask for forgiveness. No parent is perfect, and every child needs to know that his parents love him, are proud of him, and are sorry for any mistakes they’ve made along the way.
It’s also totally natural and appropriate for you to ask questions. For your child, this may be something he or she has been working through for a long time, but for you, it’s brand new information. So ask your questions – not to accuse, but to understand. Why do you think this is true about you? How long have you felt this way? What have you done with these feelings since they’ve come up? Have you prayed about it? Have you talked with anyone else about this?
STEP FOUR: CHOOSE CHASTITY
You, as a parent, have certain hopes and expectations for your child. Let all of your children know that you believe in chastity and that’s what you hope they would choose for themselves. Let them know that your greatest desire for your child is his/her health and happiness, and you believe that chastity is the way to have that. Make parallels, if it seems appropriate, to other behaviors you see as unhealthy – clearly emphasizing the difference between attractions and behaviors. You wouldn’t want your child to get involved with drugs, binge drinking, or heterosexual promiscuity, so let them know that those same expectations are in place regardless of their attractions.
Surround your child with other people who love them and will support them. Let them know that you hope they will choose the virtue of chastity – and make sure you are living it as well. If they want to speak with a priest, or youth minister, or counselor, help them find someone trustworthy to talk to. Plug them into solid Catholic resources and help them discern their next steps.
And, as you let them know how much you love them, also let them know that respect goes both ways. Articulate your needs as a parent: this is not a one-time conversation, but something we will probably need to talk about many times over the course of our relationship. We have to keep talking to one another – because without communication, we don’t have a relationship.
The USCCB wrote a great document for parents of children with same-sex attraction called ‘Always Our Children.' I think the title says it all – your child will always be your child, no matter how old he or she gets. It’s an excellent resource for parents on this topic, so definitely read it. There’s another document that came out a few years later called ‘Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination’ that is excellent, too.
Too many families have been broken over this issue, like so many other issues in our world. There’s enough at work in this world when it comes to pulling families apart – this shouldn’t be another thing on that list. Walk with your child on this journey and always remember that your son or daughter will always need Mom and Dad.