How do we break the news to our friends and extended family that our oldest son now self-identifies as a homosexual? My husband and I are still reeling from this revelation. Our younger kids are aware that something is going on, but they don't yet know all the details. As for our relatives and the folks at church, we have no idea what to tell them – and we're worried what they'll think of us as parents. What should we say, and when should we say it?
Your confusion is understandable. As a matter of fact, it's a completely normal reaction on the part of a concerned and loving parent in your position. We want you to know that we're standing with you and eager to support you in whatever way we can. We'd also like to encourage you to resist the temptation to blame yourself in any way. You've done the right thing by taking the initiative to seek counsel, and we consider it a privilege to respond to your appeal for help.
The first thing you need to do is to realize that it is not "all about you." To put it bluntly, it really doesn't matter what your friends and relatives think of you as parents. What matters most is your relationship with your son. If your teenage or adult child is making a conclusion about his feelings and labeling himself gay, he's also old enough to think many independent thoughts and process many sources of input. It's not your place – nor will it be productive – for you to assume responsibility for his feelings or choices or to take on a heavy, debilitating burden of false guilt and condemnation. In fact, it will only hinder you from showing him God's love in the most effective way. That being said, if this process uncovers some legitimate offenses you've been guilty of or hurts that you have caused, it's important to seek forgiveness and take steps to make amends with your son and others who may have been impacted by your attitudes and actions.
We'd also urge you to avoid viewing this as a threat to your image, reputation, or standing in the community. Instead, concentrate on doing whatever it takes to establish yourself on a firm footing. Get some support from a pastor, a professional counselor, a mentor, or a small group of understanding friends – caring people you know who can be trusted to exercise discretion and sound judgment. Get yourself healthy so that you can be there in the moment for your child. Whether you realize it or not, he needs you to demonstrate steady faith and a calm integrity now, perhaps more than ever before.
Meanwhile, arrange a meeting with the other members of the immediate family. Use age-appropriate language to help the younger kids understand that their older brother is going through a rough spot. Say something like, "John is having a hard time right now, but Dad and I are talking with him and and we all love each other very much. That means we are doing our best to listen, understand, and support him in knowing God's love for him and following His will. We hope you will not worry – but if you do, please talk to us about anything on your mind." Details should be made available only on a need-to-know basis. Acknowledge and empathize with your children's emotional reactions to the situation, remembering that each one of them may need help sorting out his or her feelings. If they've heard rumors or received bad information, clear up any misunderstandings as quickly and simply as possible. Make it clear that while you remain committed to biblical standards of morality, you cannot possibly stop loving your son. Ask the other kids to join you in your efforts to treat him with love and respect and in praying for him. While the situation with your son will certainly require a lot of your time and energy, make sure that your other children also receive your love and attention during this stressful time.
At whatever point and under whatever circumstances you elect to talk to your younger children about homosexuality, we recommend that you first begin by giving them a solid, biblical worldview of relationships, healthy sexuality and marriage. Several of our resources, listed below, offer guidance and suggestions for laying this foundation.
Where friends and extended family are concerned, we recommend that you take your time and proceed with caution. As we've already pointed out, the immediate issue – your first and foremost concern – is the health of your relationship with your son and your ability to maintain a godly influence in his life. Everything else can be put on the back burner until you're prepared to deal with it. Be authentic with your close loved ones and certainly reach out for the stabilizing emotional and spiritual support you need. However, don't feel compelled to rush to every extended family member, especially when to do so would only add to the outlay of energy or relationship strains that you are already carefully managing at this present moment.
Whatever you do, be sure to respect your son's feelings and defer to his wishes. With the exception of your small support network (which should keep this situation confidential), we recommend that you don't disclose any information to anyone outside the immediate family without his consent. Let him know that you're committed to walk with him through this experience, and that nothing – least of all the opinions of other people – will ever make you stop loving him. Make it clear that, as far as you're concerned, there is only one thing that matters: staying connected to him and keeping your relationship solidly based on the love and truth of God.
When and if you feel a need to share with another person that your son identifies as homosexual or "gay," you can be calm, factual, to-the-point, and non-defensive. The nature of your relationship with this person will dictate a great deal about what is said or not said. However, be honest and straightforward about the very basic facts. For instance, "My son refers to himself as 'gay' and has shared this news with us some time ago." You can also let it be known that while you do not approve of homosexual behavior due to your deeply held biblical convictions, you do care deeply about your son and intend to work diligently to maintain a relationship and godly influence in his life. From there, the variations of what you choose to disclose or share about yourself and your journey in this, as well as any requests you have of the person, will be largely based on the nature of their connection to you as well as your son. Going slow, and not rushing to an "over disclosure" is probably a prudent rule of thumb.
Below you'll find a list of some resources and referrals that we hope you will find helpful. And we'd like to invite you to call and speak with a member of our Counseling staff. Our counselors can also provide you with references to reputable Christian therapists practicing in your area.
Someone I Love Is Gay
Desert Stream Ministries