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Being Gay
Being Gay

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The thought of it strikes a deathly fear into the hearts of most parents. Those two unthinkable words — “I’m gay” — are the two that, above all else, you probably hope never to hear from your child. However, that moment of truth eventually comes for some parents, and it is critical for not only your own sake, but also your child’s, that you handle your feelings and emotions in a proper way. In this essay, I will help you to navigate the stormy waters of your child’s coming-out process and bring your family’s journey back into tranquil seas.

Your initial reaction is likely to be one of surprise. You may very well have had no clue at all that your son is gay, or that your daughter is a lesbian. It’s not something that’s obvious, and your child, perhaps fearing your condemnation and scorn (or worse), has likely been doing an excellent job of attempting to keep it hidden from you up until this point. You need to bear in mind that your child is taking an enormous leap of faith by coming out to you, and it is your foremost duty as a parent to avoid doing or saying anything that would violate that trust.

There are many things that, for your child’s well-being, you must avoid doing in the moments after your child has come out to you. Do not suggest that he/she is “going through a phase,” or that he/she doesn’t know him/herself. Trust me: Your child has been fighting the same battle within him/herself for months or even years, and he/she has to be pretty well convinced to be at the point of letting you know about it. Why would he/she risk your rejection and abandonment, if he/she wasn’t 100% sure? He/she has likely hoped it was a phase, too, but has found that those feelings and attractions have lasted too long, and been too strong, to be just a phase.

There is only one person capable of reaching the inner depths of your child’s being — and contrary to what you might think, that person is not you, but rather your child. He/she alone can realize the things that are fundamentally true about him/her, and all the contrary outside assertions in the world can’t change those things — instead, they will only damage your child’s psyche. Note that I am not saying that your child is always right and you are always wrong; rather, what I am saying is that, given the fact that one’s sexual orientation is only experienced within oneself, you cannot possibly know what your child is experiencing within his/her own being. Therefore, condemning or threatening your child in any way (e.g., “God ‘hates’ that, and we’re sending you away from us to get that ‘problem’ ‘treated’”) not only will certainly fail to “change” him/her, but will have terribly destructive effects on his/her self-esteem and ability to trust you. I think any parent would agree that that’s the last thing he/she would want to do to his/her child.

Even if you take the news reasonably well at first, you are likely to experience sadness or guilt at some point in the near future. Like any good parent, you want the very best for your child, and you may have hoped that he/she would marry a member of the opposite sex one day and eventually make you a grandparent. There does come a point, though, where you must realize that your child possesses an independent mind and spirit, and true parental love at this point means allowing and encouraging your child to pursue his/her own happiness within healthy, reasonable boundaries (i.e., don’t go more than 5 mph over the speed limit, avoid addictive drugs, don’t smoke, drink only in moderation if over 21, use protection if having sex, etc.).

Any effort to impose your own goals and conditions for happiness (e.g., that your child be straight) upon your child, frankly, is smothering at best and downright abusive at worst. Baby birds don’t learn how to fly until they fall out of the nest a few times; your child will have to learn how to seek his/her own happiness, and fail in such endeavors more than once, in order to become a healthy, productive adult. For his/her well-being, you must allow him/her to do this, though it is reasonable to set appropriate standards that will at a minimum keep him/her healthy and safe.

You may also feel like your child’s homosexuality means that you have failed as a parent; feelings of “What if I had (insert different past course of action here) ?” are common. However, I can assure you of this much: So long as you have always treated your child with the greatest possible love, compassion, and empathy, regardless of what he/she may have said or done, you have been a resounding success as a parent. This does not mean that you must capitulate to your child’s every demand, nor that you must never punish him/her at all; what it means is that you must always keep love and concern for his/her feelings, health, and well-being at the forefront of everything you do. On the other hand, if you have consistently used threats and intimidation to make your child kowtow to you, used emotional mind-games to bolster your own self-esteem at the expense of your child’s, or generally viewed the raising of your child as “Battle Royale — Me vs. My Kid,” then you are a failure as a parent — regardless of your child’s sexual orientation.

It will help you to realize that despite being different in one way, your child is still very much the same person he/she has always been. Just because your son has admitted his homosexuality to you does not necessarily mean he has to quit his school’s sports teams, or join the drama club. Just because your daughter has told you she is attracted to other females doesn’t mean you can no longer enjoy Saturdays at the mall, shopping and going out for pizza. The self-realization and admission to you that he/she is gay/lesbian does not change anything in your child’s nature: his/her intelligence, compassion, artistic/athletic/ etc. talent, drive to succeed, and love for you remain the same.

This is a very important point: nothing has to change when your child comes out, unless you are attempting to rigidly enforce your vision of the future upon your child. Nothing has to be destroyed in your relationship with your child — unless you yourself allow it to be destroyed! Any “problem” with your child’s natural attraction to the same gender is not your child’s, but rather your own — and it is yours to “get over,” not your child’s. I do realize that “getting over it” is a process that will likely take a long time for you to complete; sometimes, though, the best you’re capable of is small, halting steps. It may take you years to come to a full understanding of your child’s homosexuality, but you’ll find that if you make a clear effort to understand what your child is feeling, he/she will appreciate that far more than you know.

The object here is to preserve your parent-child relationship by making it clear you love him/her unconditionally — and contrary to the lies you may have heard from people who hate gays, “unconditionally” means even if your child is gay or lesbian. Your child is not coming out to you to make any kind of a statement about hating you — in fact, he/she is asking for your continued love and support — so what gives you any right to make any statement about “disapproving” your child’s God-given sexuality, in either word or deed?

All too unfortunately, movies, books, newspapers, and other media, both fictional and non-fictional, abound with stories of what happens to gay/lesbian teenagers and young adults when their parents say or do hateful, rejecting, or disapproving things to them. It is a well-known and much-publicized fact that actual or perceived homosexuality, and in particular the emotional repercussions of actual or perceived parental rejection, are the leading cause of suicide among teenagers. Gay/lesbian youth are twice as likely to develop a strategy to end their own lives, and three times as likely to actually attempt to execute said strategy, as are their heterosexual peers. Is this truly what you want? Do you want your child to die because you put your social status, your plans for the future, or your so-called “Christian” ideology before your child and his/her happiness and well-being? If you really don’t feel like burying your child, you must do everything in your power to show him/her your continued and constant love and support.

Every child has certain basic needs that must always be met by his/her parent(s), regardless of the whims or desires of said parent(s). Some of these needs are simple material things, such as shelter, food, and weather-appropriate clothing. What too many parents seem to neglect are the child’s emotional and psychological needs; proper nurturing is just as important, if not more so, than material needs. A child needs to know that he/she is loved, wanted, and accepted, no matter how angry the parent may become; threats and emotional mind-games, frankly, can leave far deeper and longer-lasting scars than a stove-top burner, a whip or belt, or punches.

Threats of abandonment, such as “We’re going to send you to the State Home for Misbehaved Boys,” may well win you a battle or two — but will cause you to lose the war, metaphorically speaking. You are implying through such a threat that you would abandon or cease to love your child under certain circumstances; you win your battle at that moment by appealing to your child’s worst fear, but his/her ability to have absolute trust in you has just been destroyed. This is about the most evil thing you can do to your child.

However, that doesn’t stop many parents, whether they be so-called “Christians” or otherwise, from using this most base of emotional tactics in an attempt to change that which cannot be changed. “How dare you? We raised you to not be that way! Now we’re going to send you to (insert name of so-called “Christian” “treatment” facility here) to change you!” That I have already proven this doesn’t work in another essay should convince you of the immorality and incorrectness of such a course of action, but even so, can you see the destruction that this wreaks upon both your child’s well-being and your parent-child relationship? (Furthermore, are you aware of the methods used in such so-called “treatment” facilities? How would you like to have an electric-shock device attached to your genitalia, putting out thousands of volts while a projector flashes nude images that you find sexually attractive?)

Some other parents use a somewhat similar tactic: they vow that “I will not have a queer for a son/daughter!” or “No faggot will live under my roof!” Threats such as these, made good, lead to either total ignorance, disownment, and emotional abandonment of the gay son/daughter, or even removal from the household. If you actually have the gall to think that such actions are right, I must slap you back into reality with a reminder that the preceding constitute child abuse and/or neglect — and if your child is under 18, in many jurisdictions, you can be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned on such charges.

Even if such actions are not criminally punishable in your jurisdiction, simple logic dictates that when you tell your child (in either word or deed, explicitly or even implicitly) that he/she has no right to continue to call himself your son/daughter, you also no longer have the right to call yourself his/her parent. Therefore, making a statement to your child of rejection, disapproval, or emotional abandonment, while still continuing to try to force him/her to “change” or to date only members of the opposite sex, is the highest form of hypocrisy — and God will punish you for it (Matthew 23:13-33).

You likely have some misconceptions about what it means to be gay/lesbian, and when things are so contentious between you and your child, he/she is really not in the best position to explain things to you. I will attempt to step in and fill that void of correct information for you. The very first thing you need to realize is that your child has not made a choice to be gay/lesbian; I have already done the work in another essay to prove this, and an excellent web site called Family Acceptance offers yet further proof here. The gist of both of those pages is that given all the anti-gay hatred and bigotry that everybody, especially your child, knows is floating around today, no person in his/her right mind would ever make the choice to be gay/lesbian.

(As I mentioned above, in the third paragraph of this essay, your child is no longer confused about his/her sexual identity, in all likelihood. In light of the so-called “pleasure principle” which states that human beings seek pleasure and try to avoid pain, why would your child flirt with the possibility of such enormous pain if he/she were not 100% certain of his/her homosexuality?)

You may also suspect that your child’s coming-out is nothing more than an act of rebellion against you, i.e., that he/she is “choosing” to be gay because you and your spouse are straight. Even if your child is normally the rebellious sort, I can assure you — in light of the evidence I have already presented — that he/she most likely does not view coming out to you as an act of rebellion. If anything, I suspect that a more rebellious child would avoid telling his/her parents that he/she is gay, and merely go on doing his/her own thing.

Being gay/lesbian does not mean that your child is doomed to an early death from HIV/AIDS, or that he/she will become a pedophile, or that he/she must give up Christianity (if that is the religion in which you have raised him/her), or any of the other crap that so-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” spew on a regular basis. In the interest of not repeating work I have already done, I ask you to read my essay “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist” for proof that all of this is true.

It is important for you to continue to be emotionally available for your child, and to encourage him/her to make healthy choices regarding his/her sexuality. So-called “fundamentalist ‘Christians’” and the hordes of other gay-haters in today’s world would like you to believe that promiscuity and a myriad of sexually transmitted diseases are part and parcel of the gay life experience, but unlike the actual attraction to same-gender persons, the frequency and variety of one’s sexual encounters is in fact a choice.

If you encourage monogamy in a positive, affirming way, and properly model it in your own relationship, your child is likely to follow your example. If you make it clear to him/her that you expect him/her to make the right choices, and positively (i.e., by appealing to his/her sense of logic, not fear) state what you believe to be the wisest courses of action, your child is likely to respect your wishes. If you make a strong effort to first educate yourself, then your child, about the means of transmission and the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, you will have done him/her a great service. (All of the preceding are true even for parents of heterosexual children.) In fact, as the parent of a gay child, you have one bonus: your child won’t come home pregnant, or be responsible for causing a pregnancy.

As I mentioned above, all children require certain things from their parents: a compassionate, loving heart; an empathic mind; an open, non-judgmental ear; and a caring, affirming voice. These basic emotional needs are on a par with food, water, and oxygen. The fact that your child has come out to you doesn’t change or eliminate those needs, nor does it terminate your solemn duty to fulfill them. By saying or doing anything that goes against these basic needs of your child, you are setting him/her up for possibly disastrous consequences — and I will relate a story from my own life to show how this is true.

I came out to my own parents — specifically, to my mother — in August 2000. While she seemed to take the news well on that day, it was my perception that things rather quickly turned sour within a couple of months. (This wasn’t entirely due to my having come out; around that same time, I was performing extremely poorly in school, and I had just recently decided to leave the Catholic Church because I was beginning to realize that its views were/are incompatible with my values. These things already had them upset — a justifiable reaction — and my coming-out was, metaphorically speaking, more like the straw that broke the camel’s back.) I won’t rehash the gory details of some of the nasty things that were said on both sides, as (a) there is no need to re-open some old wounds, and (b) those heated arguments themselves are irrelevant to the point I’m making here.

In any case, one end result of all of the late-2000-through-late-2001 acrimony was that I came away with the feeling that I no longer had the support, affirmation, and love that I needed from my parents — regardless of what their intentions might have been, that was what I sensed at that time. At first, I became mired in a deep, nearly suicidal depression; after a few months of taking anti-depressant medication, that cleared up enough to allow me to have a somewhat-normal life. Looking back on it now, I have to admit that I put myself in a lot of potential danger in a desperate, subconscious attempt to find that missing approval and support.

I didn’t even realize at the time that I was apparently searching for that approval by having sex with any man I thought could provide it, and it took me a long time to realize I wasn’t going to find it through a series of quick encounters. It takes a mere 15 minutes to reach an orgasm, but far longer to reach the point in a relationship where your partner displays a commitment to your emotional needs — but as desperate as I was for affirmation and support, I was unable to see that fact clearly.

In my parents’ defense, there is certainly no way that I can place direct blame for that on them. The choice(s) to follow the course of action that I did were my own, and my parents had no direct part in making me decide to whore around. However, my interpretation at the time — which I think anybody would say was reasonable, given what had happened — was that they had “given up” on me, in a sense, and from there it shouldn’t be a huge stretch of logic to understand why I concluded I had to do what I did.

I relate this story not to condemn or complain about my parents, but instead to help you realize the kind of effort you need to make to prevent your own child from going down a similar, potentially very dangerous path. I am trying to make the point that even unintended misunderstandings in your parent-child relationship can indirectly lead to potentially grave consequences. It may feel like you have to put in a superhuman effort to show your continued love for your child, but he/she will be far better off if you make your love, emotional availability, and affirmation clear.

It is my hope that, through sharing this story from my own family, you and your family will be spared the troubles that I feel nearly destroyed my relationship with my parents. As the head of your family (or at least one-half of the decision-making duo), your words and actions often set the tone for your family’s life — whether you realize it or not. If you choose to clearly show your support of, affirmation of, and love for your child, along with a positive, caring concern for his/her health and well-being, your family relationship will flourish and be greatly strengthened. On the other hand, if you choose to follow the path of condemnation, recriminations, threats, and emotional abandonment or unavailability, your entire family will suffer possibly severe negative consequences. As I said above, are your happiness, social status, future plans, or so-called “Christian” beliefs (which I prove are not what you think they are in my essay “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist”) more important than your child’s life? I sincerely hope you will make the correct choice.

I admit to having been somewhat guilty, to this point, of examining your relationship with your gay/lesbian son or daughter in a vacuum, not taking into account any other children you may have. Again, in the same way that your relationship with your gay/lesbian child need not change when he/she comes out, your relationship(s) with any of your other children likewise need not be changed. By doting excessively on your other children after one of them has come out, you are sending signals of rejection to your gay/lesbian child — who is still just as deserving as he/she has always been of your affection and attention. Furthermore, increased attention to your other children isn’t going to have any effect on their sexual orientation — they are still going to be whatever God intended them to be, whether that is gay or straight.

Along those same lines, it borders on abuse of your gay/lesbian son or daughter to cut him/her off in any way from his/her siblings or extended family members, or to permit same from your extended family without loud protest. Merely associating with your gay/lesbian child is not going to make your other children, or anybody else for that matter, “turn gay”; that is impossible. (Think about it: if it were possible, every sibling of every gay person on earth would immediately become gay him/herself — and we know that this is not the case.) All you are doing is denying your child his/her God-given right to associate with his/her kin, and this is a form of emotional and psychological abuse.

This also covers any actions that demonstrate mistrust of your gay/lesbian child’s ability to temporarily care for or “baby-sit” his/her younger siblings. You would have to be delusional and extremely paranoid to honestly think that your gay/lesbian older child is going to sexually harm his/her younger siblings in any way, simply because he/she is gay/lesbian. (Even people with some of the sickest sexual fetishes are still revolted by the idea of doing anything sexual with a sibling.) Your gay/lesbian child’s love and protectiveness for his/her younger siblings are not affected at all by the fact that he/she is gay or lesbian — this is a fact.

Your younger children also deserve an age-appropriate explanation of what your older child’s homosexuality means. The best way to describe it, frankly, is with the truth — that gay/lesbian relationships are, for all intents and purposes, equivalent to heterosexual relationships, with one important difference. On the topic of age-appropriateness, I would recommend describing same-sex relationships in the same terms you would use to explain heterosexual couplings to your child. Think about how you would describe it to a 4-year-old, a 7-year-old, or a 9-year-old, if your 16-year-old had an opposite-sex boyfriend or girlfriend, and then use those terms to describe your gay/lesbian teenager’s romantic relationships to your younger ones.

Very young children obviously need not know about the biology or mechanics, but can handle a statement along the lines of, “most children have a mom and a dad, but a few have two moms or two dads.” Slightly older children (say, 6 to 10) who are mature enough to understand the concept of platonic love can be told that their older sibling loves his/her partner in the same special way that you love your spouse. Older children, who are nearing or entering puberty, probably already have some rudimentary understanding of sexual attraction; you can explain to them that gay people are naturally attracted to the same gender, in the same way that most people are attracted to the opposite gender.

If your gay/lesbian son or daughter is instead somewhere in the middle, or among your younger or youngest children, he/she deserves the same treatment (vis-a-vis romantic partners) from you as you give to his/her older siblings. It again borders on abuse of the gay/lesbian child to refuse invitations to family events to his/her partner while warmly inviting the opposite-sex partners of your other children. What makes you think you have any right to treat your gay/lesbian child any differently than you treat his/her siblings? If you feel for some deluded reason that this is right, my personal recommendation to your gay/lesbian child would be to stop attending family events entirely until you change your bigoted mind.

As your child grows into adulthood, he/she will determine exactly who he/she considers to be “family,” blood relationships aside. His/her new definition of “family” will be based upon exactly whom he/she feels share his/her same values, and with whom he/she feels close enough to talk about anything. In some cases, young adults will find that they fit into a group of friends better than they do in their own biological families — especially if their parents have been closed-minded, ignorant, and unnecessarily mean-spirited. By taking the proper steps to strengthen your family through love and affirmation, you can assure yourself of a close, strong relationship with your child for decades to come. On the other hand, if you make your rejection, disapproval, or emotional unavailability clear to your child, he/she may very well never contact you again after moving out.

(The 2003 independent film Latter Days, starring Steve Sandvoss and Wes Ramsey and directed by C. Jay Cox, includes an excellent depiction of how to destroy a family over the topic of homosexuality. Sandvoss’ character Aaron is a closeted Mormon missionary from Idaho who travels to Los Angeles to do his two-year mission; while in L.A., he meets and falls for Ramsey’s character Christian, an outgoing party boy. After Aaron and Christian are discovered kissing, Aaron is summoned by Mormon elders back home to Idaho, where he is summarily excommunicated from the church. In a poignant scene in the kitchen of the family home, Aaron’s mother makes it clear that she and her husband consider their status as Mormon elders to be more important than Aaron’s well-being and happiness. After a suicide attempt and a stint in a Mormon-run “treatment” facility (where, as I alluded to above, Aaron receives electric shocks to his genitalia while images of nude men are flashed on a screen), he realizes that for his well-being and happiness, he must permanently cut ties with his family and move back to Los Angeles. The ending scene of the film, a feast in the banquet room of the restaurant for which Christian works, includes an “inner monologue” in which Aaron’s inner voice tells him that Christian and Christian’s circle of friends are more his “family” now than his blood relatives have ever been. While I am not mentioning this to either promote that film or condemn so-called “religious beliefs,” it should be obvious that actions such as those taken by Aaron’s parents are highly destructive to families.)

Perhaps your child didn’t directly tell you, face to face, that he/she is gay; you may have discovered the fact on your own. You may have found same-sex erotic or pornographic images on a computer hard-drive, in magazines or books, or elsewhere; you may have come across “love letters” from a same-sex friend; or perhaps most shockingly, you may have caught your child having sex with a same-gender friend.

While you do have a right to confront your child regarding what he/she left in your “Temporary Internet Files” folder, especially in light of the spyware and computer viruses that many free porn sites spread, it is not your right to criticize the fact that said porn is of a same-sex nature rather than an opposite-sex one. As I have said above, all the threats and abuse in the world still aren’t going to make your child straight, and if it’s same-sex material that he/she finds stimulating, you’re just going to have to get used to that fact. Sure, you can dock his/her allowance $50 to go buy a reputable computer security suite like Norton AntiVirus or McAfee Security Center, or ditch his/her broadband access, but that’s about all you can do within the boundaries of proper parenting.

If you inadvertently walk in on the middle of “the act,” screaming and ranting isn’t going to get you anywhere. While I know that you will be quite shocked at what you have just seen, you need to remain calm for everybody’s sake. Your child’s paramour is likely going to try to re-clothe him/herself and get the hell out; remember, he/she is his/her parents’ concern, not yours. There’s obviously going to be some awkwardness, but at some point, you will have to muster the courage to talk to your child.

He/she needs to be made aware of the potential dangers of sex, especially that of the unprotected variety, and reminded that sex is an activity best left to those who are mature enough to handle the consequences — not those who just want to get off. You can certainly make it clear that you’re disappointed in the fact that your child felt he/she needed to sneak around and avoid telling you the truth; at the same time, you also have to understand how terrifying the prospect of revealing that truth has been to your child. The fact that his/her sexuality has been revealed to you under less-than-desirable circumstances still doesn’t change your duty to take the news in a proper, non-abusive manner.

For most of this essay, I have been assuming that it was (at the very least) a huge surprise to you that your child is gay/lesbian. It is also entirely possible that the reverse could be true — you’re almost certain that your child is gay, even though he/she hasn’t told you — and I need to make a few points about the best ways to handle that. It is not a good idea even to ask your child point-blank if he/she is gay, much less confront him/her, even if you have absolutely no problems with his/her being gay — your child is likely to feel that you have cornered him/her. (If you know anything about animals, you know that they become most vicious and savage in their attacks when you corner them — in an emotional and psychological sense, the same is true of teenagers.)

Although it was never my own parents who asked or confronted me about my sexuality before I came out — in my case, it was always school classmates who didn’t really like me — I still reacted the same way I would have had my parents said anything, by lying, spinning, and fabricating stories to try to appear “straight.” If your child isn’t yet ready to come out even to him/herself, he/she will no doubt do the same thing — so at the very least, by asking the question at a time that is too early for your child, you’re putting him/her in a position where he/she feels the need to lie. That sets a precedent in your parent/child relationship that I really don’t think any parent would want to set.

Let your child come out to you on his/her own schedule. It is possible in this scenario that you could actually be ahead of your child in the process of coming to terms with, and accepting, your child’s sexuality. The best thing you can do, really, is just to take whatever opportunities you can get to remind your child that you love him/her unconditionally, and that he/she can talk to you about anything at any time without fear of judgment, condemnation, scorn, ridicule, or punishment. (It takes a lot of empathy to pull that off, but empathy is a prerequisite to good parenting. Without empathy for your child — that is, being able to put yourself in his/her position and understand where he/she is coming from — you’re not much better than a sperm or egg donor.)

Your child needs to see through your actions, through the way you react to things, that he/she can trust you 100%, in order to have the most rewarding, best possible parent/child relationship that you and he/she are capable of. By doing that, you create a safe space for your child, and that may very well encourage him/her to come out to you a lot earlier than he/she otherwise would. Make sure you are careful in your choice of words, though, because the last thing you want to do is come off sounding accusatory or suspicious that your child may be gay — that ruins the whole thing.

Up to this point, I have been aiming the content of this essay at those parents whose teenaged or young-adult children have just come out to them. I would be remiss if I didn’t also say a few words aimed at parents of younger children; the best “sex ed,” so to speak, is that which is taught by parents before the child in question reaches puberty. In terms of homosexuality, the truth you must impart to your child is that it does exist, and that it is not a choice — a person either just is or is not gay, for some as-yet-unknown reason. (Proof of this can be found here and here.) Being gay or lesbian is not necessarily a desirable thing, given all the hatred that an ignorant, bigoted society directs at gays and lesbians, yet some people just happen to be naturally attracted to the same sex. You need to let your child know that you will love, support, and affirm him/her if he/she does someday realize that he/she is gay, and also that he/she is truly the only one who can figure out if he/she is gay.

All of the “raising your children to be ‘moral’ or ‘a proper Christian’” (i.e., straight) talk you can direct at your school-age children is absolutely meaningless in the end. It should tell you something that many well-known gay people are the children of equally famous gay-haters; for example, the hypocritical “fundamentalist ‘Christian’” leader Randall Terry, founder of the militant, terroristic anti-choice cult “Operation Rescue,” has a gay son, Jamiel Terry. David Knight is in his mid-40s and living with his male partner in Maryland; his father was the late Rep. William “Pete” Knight, the California assemblyman who spearheaded a successful voter-initiative drive to deny tangible financial and legal benefits to same-sex California couples. As many people learned in October 2004, U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney’s daughter Mary is a lesbian; Cheney has demonstrated on several occasions that he will only show public support for his daughter when it is to his political advantage to do so. Perhaps most surprisingly, the Rev. Fred Phelps of “God Hates Fags” fame has — guess what? — a gay son! It is quite clear that if parenting does play any role in determining sexual orientation, one of the best ways to make your child gay is to actively demonstrate homophobia and homo-hatred.

While you have the absolute right to raise your child in whatever religious tradition you choose, you do not have the right to use said religion to pollute your child’s mind with a bunch of lies regarding homosexuality. Your pastor, minister, or friends might try to convince you that homosexuality is about as un-“Christian” as it gets, but the absolute Bible truth about homosexuality can be found in my essay “How to Out-Argue a Fundamentalist.” Read it before you start filling your child’s mind with a bunch of garbage.

Beyond that, I must emphasize that the best way for you to deal with the issues that make you uncomfortable is not to sweep them under the rug, but to face them with your child in the most open, honest manner you can possibly muster. It is better that he/she learns every last thing he/she needs to know about sex and sexuality from you, and doesn’t have to cobble together a bunch of innuendo, gossip, half-truths, and rumors picked up from his/her friends — as long as you yourself are properly educated on the topic. To properly educate yourself, you must find a way to get beyond your fear and shame, remove the blinders that so-called “religion” may have placed upon you, and use your own ability to reason to come to a proper understanding of the truth.

I hope that I have provided you enough guidance to understand the process you will go through if and when your child comes out to you. I am not trying to tell you that you must raise your child in a particular way; rather, I am saying that you must keep your foremost duty to raise your child with love, positive emotional feedback, and just the right amount of proper discipline and education, in the front of your mind at all times. If you feel you need more help than what I have given here, you can visit the excellent Family Acceptance web site, created by a Georgia couple to help them deal with their son’s coming-out; or go to my contact page to send me e-mail. Offline, you can attend meetings of a local chapter of Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), where you can meet other parents going through the same process you are. With enough true family love, you will get through this rough patch in your lives and be stronger for it.

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