A Mother's Anguish

I originate from the Caribbean where many people hold deeply religious beliefs which informs their views about homosexuality.

My Christian fundamentalist mother and my Presbyterian father brought me up. My father did not play an active role in my religious upbringing and my mother was the more dominant with the religious education of my siblings and myself.

As a young girl growing up within a mainly Christian fundamentalist home, my early views about homosexuality was that it was 'sinful', the liberal traditions familiar in European liberal societies were non-existent in the Caribbean. During my teenage years, I remember the ridicule that gay men faced for daring to be 'out'. I did not hear much about lesbians until I came to the United Kingdom in 1975.

Since coming to the UK, I have worked and interacted with gay and lesbian people on a social and professional level and this has made me realise that we share many of the same goals and aspirations, the only difference being that gay and lesbian people are attracted to people of the same sex. Gay people are ridiculed and hated because of this one difference.

About 2 years ago, my then 18-year-old son confided to me that he was gay. For a number of years I had considered the possibility that my son might be gay, but having it confirmed still left me with a sense of bereavement. I never imagined that having a gay son would bring up such strong feelings of powerlessness, sadness, loss, fear and loneliness in my husband and me. The questions that have run through my mind then (and now) were: What do we say to friends and relatives? Whom could we trust with such disclosure? Who would support our son and us? Who would be non-judgemental and the opposite and want to distance themselves when they knew? How best to support our son? I continued thinking that if the issue of disclosure presented so many problems for my husband and I ,what must it be like for our son? I speculated that my son could have been feeling a deep sense of isolation, distress and insecurity.He may have been thinking who can I trust if I share my secret and can I deal with losing friendships, family relationships now? I feel so helpless that I cannot protect my son from the entrenched homophobia which exists in society and also from the religious homophobia of my mother, siblings and their children.

When we first found out my husband and I only talked to each other, as we were unsure about whom we could trust and we were worried about the anticipated hostile reaction from others. We were subjected to years of extreme hostility and anger from our son and at times, it has been very difficult to support him in the face of unbridled aggression towards us. Our son talked about being 'full of rage'. We now know that he was having difficulty talking about his inner turmoil.

We sought professional counselling as we were concerned about the irretrievable fragmentation of our family but we did not disclose to the counsellor that perhaps our son's hostility and anger might be related to his own difficulties in coming to terms with his sexuality. Despite the counselling, difficulties within the family continued with my son blaming my husband for his unrelenting hostile behaviour towards us and culminated in us asking our son to leave home following his disrespect, threatening behaviour and verbal abuse.

I felt that I was giving unconditional love and in return only received anger, abuse, disrespect. At times the overwhelming anger paralysed us. My husband and I felt 'empty'. We often said to our son 'we want to help you with the difficult issues you have to face but please do not abuse us'.

Our son has recently moved out of our home to be closer to university, and we are in contact. However, the relationship remains a difficult one, which saddens us.

My husband found the FFLAG website and information and passed it on to me and I contacted Hatta from Families Together London who was extremely helpful. I felt such relief to be able to be honest with another parent like myself who empathised with me. Initially my husband and I did not speak to members of our families or friends. Our son was himself coming to terms with his sexual orientation and was angry with us as he was not ready to 'come out' to us or anyone else. We suspected that he might be gay and asked him, which forced the issue when he was not yet ready.

I have spoken to Hatta many times and have found our chats very helpful. I was able to talk with her in a frank and open way. Hatta has visited my husband and me to offer support and she invited us to the Families Together London meetings. We have not attended any meetings yet but hope to go in December. Hatta has also introduced us to another mother who lives close by. I have met with this mother and found our meetings supportive. It was amazing to hear about the similarities our boys faced growing up and at school. I am grateful for the support from Families Together London. I was at the end of my tether and did not know whom to turn to. Since speaking to Hatta and to another mother, I feel able to share some of the issues that having a gay child have on a parent. I have recently also shared with one member of my family and a few friends who have also been supportive.

Despite all the anguish that I have experienced, I do not give up hope that someday my son would realise that he does not have to fight with his Dad and I anymore. We love him yet he continues to hurt us so much.

Ruby Lee