In most cases, parents found out about their child’s sexuality when their son or daughter told them. Bianca and Jon’s daughter told both her parents. Maya’s son told her. Eliza and Tom’s son told Eliza when he was 19, at the end of his first year at university. Claire’s younger daughter came out to her and her husband: ‘…over a meal in a public place’. Lesley’s son: ‘Told us he thought he might be gay – at midnight at a party when he had been drinking a lot.
Mercedes’ son told both his parents: ‘When he was around 14 years old, he withdrew and did not want to socialise with his peers. He spent a lot of time alone and on the computer, when he was previously a gregarious boy. I also noticed some things he was writing to a couple of friends which suggested a realisation of who he was and also a sadness/ despair about this. A friend advised him to speak to the Samaritans. He was very reluctant to speak with me or his father at this time’.
Toni noticed that her son was withdrawn and quiet, and realised that something was wrong: ‘Then he confessed to me that he was gay. I was worried because he was previously an outgoing child’.
In three cases, finding out was precipitated by an event. For Marcia, it was: ‘…finding a gay magazine under the bed, bringing it to his attention and then discussing things.’ Claire’s elder daughter: ‘…fell in love and, after a relationship of four months, was dumped. She came to me for solace’. Gabrielle tells us: ‘My son looked very depressed. I gained his confidence by convincing him to speak to me. A week later he wrote us a letter to tell us he was gay’.
Rosie had always thought that it was a possibility that her two sons might be gay. They did not come out, as such. She asked her older son if he was gay when he was 19, already certain that he was. Her younger son was dropping hints about his sexuality at the age of 13, so she asked him as well. ‘Asking them was more of a formality, but a necessary one. I really did need to know for sure. There’s nothing wrong with just asking – but you have to be prepared for the answer.’
Sam and Mel’s son has not yet told his parents of his sexuality. They realised that he might be gay because: ‘…he left men’s magazines around in his bedroom and left a history of men’s sites on the computer’. Green Pepper says: ‘…He left leaflets on his bed about gay issues which he picked up in Fresher’s week at Uni. His Facebook page/profile said: ‘…In a relationship with –‘ (his partner’s name). He now shares a one-bedroomed flat with his friend’. Despite this, Silver Fox says: ‘He has never come out to us, or any of our family as far as we know’. Green Pepper says: ‘Our son has never openly spoken to us about this – no ‘coming out’ as such – I’ve tried to make openings in conversation but he doesn’t follow up. I don’t insist. I don’t know if he’d want any family member to know or not. I felt it should be his choice to tell others or not, unless he asked me to, which he hasn’t. I wish he would confide in me so I could be more supportive’.