So your child comes to you and tells you he is gay or she is lesbian. You feel that the earth has dropped out from under your feet. You look at them and try to read their faces. A million questions go through your mind. You look at them and wait, are they joking? Your mind screams, “Please just laugh and say I’m only joking”. It does not come. You realise this is real. You feel for a moment you’re in a Mexican standoff. These few seconds feel like forever. You look, they look and your mind is talking to you. You want it to keep quiet. The punch line may still come.

Your child is looking at you, reading your face, seeing that you are shocked, horrified, and they quietly say “I’m sorry, but it’s real”. You think that you have heard incorrectly so you ask them to repeat what they said. They tell you again.  You ask your child how they know they are gay or lesbian. The answer is normally, “I just know”.

For you, this information is all very new. For your child, it is something that they have been questioning for some time. Your son might have brought home their girlfriends for you to meet, gone out on dates and had long late-night conversations that you overheard in part. Now, this bomb has gone off.

As a parent, you feel torn. You have so many questions that you do not want to know the answers to, but you want to know. Your child suddenly becomes a stranger to you. You do not know how to treat them. Like a boy or like a girl? Even worse, what will other people say? Your family and friends? The family scandal is living in your house. The mind is racing again. All the questions.

Parents, your child does not need therapy to help them become ungay or unlesbian. You need therapy, support or both to help you gain insight or understanding into your child and what it means to be gay, lesbian and all the other letters of the alphabet as people jokingly put it. These letters are LGBTQI+. LGBTQI+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer or Questioning, and Intersex. The “+” is for all the rest of the categories that are defined and still to be defined.

You look at your child, and then all of a sudden you hear yourself saying, God does not make mistakes? Remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Its hits you, your son is going to hell. No Christian parent wants that. Your child looks at you, telling you that just because he is gay, it doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love God and he is Gods Child. Hearing the word God come out of your gay son’s mouth sounds vile. You do not want God to hear. The child must stop talking. Only you, the self-righteous mother can give the God Lecture.

Panic sets in again. Your husband!! He does not know. You want to be sick at the thought of having to tell him. So you don’t. You tell your child to wait before he tells his father. Moms got to make a plan. The timing has to be right. In hindsight, I laugh at myself and my thoughts. I was uninformed.

I think of the fear that my son must have been in to come and tell me he was gay. I think back at how easily his father accepted what he was hearing, but at the same time was deeply hurt and felt a great sense of loss at never having the privilege of being called Grandpa. The family surname not being continued, amongst other thoughts.

It took time to fully accept that my son is gay. He told the family members and because he fully accepts who he is, the family members had to accept it as well. If they did not, he was not going to stay out their way just to keep them comfortable.  I am grateful my son has a strong personality. I cannot say all family members accept him, but he is strong enough to stand his ground. He told me his self-worth is not defined by what others think of him.

My son never changed from the person he was when he told me he was gay. He was the same before and the same after. It was me, my mindset had changed. I was the one wanting to define him according to what girls and boys should be doing. Boys have girlfriends and marry girls. After all, that is what all the generations before me have done, it is what I did and it is the way the world should be, right?

A young person who has decided to come out often does not know how their world is going to change. Will it be for the better or worse? They wonder whether they will still be loved, whether they will still be able to live at home, whether they will still be able to rely on their friends and family.

Some children experience violence at the hands of their families. These reactions cause a great deal of damage to everyone involved. Coming out is difficult for both parents and children. It is always very important to remember that your child did not change in the few minutes they took to tell you. They are no different to who they were and to who they have always been.  They have the same fears and dreams, likes and dislikes the only new thing that you have discovered is that they are attracted to the same sex.

Parents may have questions and concerns about their child being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but you should not let those questions stop you supporting your child through a difficult time. If you are finding it hard to accept your child being gay, or have questions about what it means for you, your child or your family don’t bottle it up. Get some support and talk to people in the same situation. Many parents have had the same thoughts and feelings you may be having now. With support and time to discuss s feeling and concerns, you will be able to continue to support your child through this time.

My son showed little indication of being gay and even to this day as an adult if, he did not tell you, you would not know. In hindsight, most of his friends were girls but that did not mean he would be gay. He also had girlfriends so when the bomb dropped I was shocked.

My son is a talented Ballroom and Latin dancer. He achieved many accolades with his dancing, including KZN Colours and making the South African Championships. Did this make him gay? Because I allowed him to dance? No, not at all. He is just a talented dancer. That is his gift. He has ADD, did this make him gay? No again. He was always in the company of his Granny and Aunty, did this turn him gay? No and No. Can he be trusted with small children, especially boys? Absolutely. Just because he is gay, does not mean he will abuse your boy child or infect him with his “gayness”. It is this stereotypical thinking and ignorance that creates hate and sexist comments.

Your support can make a very significant difference to a young person questioning their sexual orientation or a young person who has decided to come out. Do not assume that just because your child is gay or lesbian or any other letters of the alphabet, he or she will be discriminated against or have a lower quality of life than their heterosexual peers. They have the same rights as all citizens of this country and violation of these rights can end up in court.

The conflicting emotions of crying and anger are normal and understandable. Most parents would feel the same way. Grief may able be added to the list of emotions you as a parent may be feeling. Grief is a natural reaction to loss. Loss of the image you had of your child, loss of hopes and dreams you had for them. Loss of hopes for grandchildren. It will be important to acknowledge and work through the losses.

When you are calm, it will be important to sit down with your child and have an open discussion about everything. You may have reacted out of pain, fear, shock or anger and may feel a pang of deep guilt and a need to repair the relationship. We know our children and the fact that they came to tell you means they may have already expected your reaction and even have discussed it with friends, seeking advice even before telling you.  Relationships are repairable. This kind of conversation will be an ongoing one, so be gentle with yourself.

As parents, you need to be on the same page. Sometimes this is easier said, than done. Marriages can suffer if you are not united. This rift also allows for discrimination and non-acceptance from family and friends. Do not let those cruelties in. Life is tough enough. Should this happen and you and your partner can get it together please seek out a counsellor. This is not a problem it’s a mind-set that needs more information. As parents when invited somewhere where children were not welcome, you did not go. Why now should it be any different? You can come but your gay son or daughter cant.

This may be difficult to comprehend but it is not about you. If your child (normally teen) or adult has decided and accepted that they are gay and are happy with giving themselves this definition then they are old enough of independent thinking and at times, with your support, be able to negotiate the stereotypes in the world.

However, do not make the mistake of assuming ownership or blaming yourself for what is happening. It will not do you or anyone else any good to bear responsibility for your child’s sexual choices or to take on that challenge.  Do not view your child’s sexual orientation as a threat to you, your image or your reputation. It’s a trap!. You have no idea how many parents are living in silence because of this thinking. This is not healthy for your relationship with your child.

Food for thought:

Love and accept your child unconditionally

Normalise it

Listen and ask lots of open questions

Get support for yourself and your child

Take it seriously & Don’t deny it

Don’t blow it out of proportion

Don’t speculate causes

Its about them not you

If you or your family is being affected by your child’s coming out please contact a counsellor at Vita Nova Counselling. We offer family counselling services and can help you through this period. It is not something to feel or be ashamed of. Remember your child has not changed. They just have a different sexual preference to you.