Culture is a big factor in how well parents cope with a child coming out. Parents from black or Asian backgrounds may suffer particular problems, partly because they may have learned through their own upbringing that homosexuality is wrong. In addition, homosexuality is more likely to be hidden in black and Asian families, so many parents are isolated along with their children and get no support from close family.
Maya says: ‘My West Indian heritage is unfortunately very homophobic. I felt my son and I would be rejected and hated by family and friends…I only ever discussed it once with my family and it has never been mentioned since as it was passed off as a ‘phase’. This has made it really hard for me as I have no support at all. I wouldn’t tell my brother as he is a traditional West Indian man with strong beliefs. Being a single black mother has made me question/blame myself a lot since finding out about my son. For a long time I told myself that, had he had a strong black male in his life as a role model then he wouldn’t be gay. A part of me still thinks that. Although my son appears to be very comfortable with his sexuality, I’ve not been able to share this ‘secret’ with anyone outside the family for fear of their reaction. Just today I’ve read in the newspaper that a man in Jamaica has been stabbed to death because of his sexuality. I think I will always be living in fear for my son’s safety. The black community is hugely homophobic and sees homosexuality as a Western disease. It is seen as choice made by the individual and therefore something unclean and dirty which should be avoided.’
Mercedes: ‘I was brought up in a religion – fundamentalist Christian, and community – Caribbean that – hold extreme negative views towards LGBT people. Leaving the Caribbean and meeting LGBT people through work in the UK has challenged my early views and has helped my understanding’.
Toni says: ‘It would be harder to accept if we were living in Jamaica. It is not so hard in the UK’.