Reactions & Feelings
Bianca and Jon have one daughter of 21 who came out 5 years ago when she was 16. They were: ‘…a bit surprised, as she is very girly, but not shocked. We were worried that other people and her friends might react in a negative way and felt very protective of her. We were very pleased that she was able to confide in us, although she was worried how we might react’. Now, what they wish for their daughter is: ‘Just the normal things. We hope she does well at school and is happy. We don’t worry about how most other people will react, as everyone has been positive so far. I think it brought us even closer together as she was happy that coming out to us had been such a positive experience.’
Marcia has two children, a daughter and a younger gay son of 23 who first came out when he was 12. She felt: ‘Surprised. I had had no indications before then’. Now she feels: ‘Totally accepting – I can’t imagine him being anything else. He knew he could talk to me about things and knew he could trust me, but, to be honest, it was always like that.’
Rosie has two gay sons, a 22 year old who came out at 19 and a 17 year old who came out when he was 13. Rosie thought it was possible that her sons were gay since they were 2 or 3 years old. She felt: ‘Relief to know for sure. The question mark was no longer hanging over me. That was when I joined FTL as part of becoming active in gay rights. At first, I tried hard to get the boys to talk about being gay, but they both seem completely comfortable with it and don’t see any need to discuss it much’.
Claire has two gay daughters, a 23 year old who came out at 15 and a 21 year old who came out at 19. Claire had been aware of signs that her elder daughter might be gay - such as copies of Diva magazine in her room – so, when her elder daughter came out, she felt: ‘… resigned. More worried about her heartache’. However, her younger daughter coming out was: ‘…a totally different experience. Claire felt: ‘Devastated. I had no idea. I felt bereaved.’ Two years on, Claire says: ‘I have to a large extent come to terms with my daughters’ sexuality thanks to mature conversations with them, researching the subject and the support of FTL. Because they are comfortable being gay they helped me come to terms with it. That said, the first weeks after my youngest told me were hard for us both.’
Maya is a single black parent of a son now aged 16 who came out at 14. When her son told her, she felt: ‘Devastated and heartbroken. I felt as if my son had been taken away. I felt ashamed, disappointed and fearful. Two years later, the feeling of devastation has subsided. The disappointment I feel is still present. I am fearful for his safety and being rejected by family and friends. I have become more compassionate towards him and have tried to be more understanding, but, at the same time, became more suspicious of him, ie his whereabouts, his dress sense, friends, etc. A part of me felt angry towards him but I tried my best to hide it. My dream had always been to see my son go to school, university, get married and have kids. My dreams then shattered completely overnight. Having a son so ‘different’ from everyone else’s is not something I ever planned for.’
Mercedes and John have one son of 22 who came out to his parents at 17. Mercedes suspected he might be gay from his fourth birthday onwards. ‘I was sad and felt a sense of loss and bereavement. I was also anxious for his safety and was worried about how he would be feeling – being gay in a world that vilifies people like him. I know how the majority of people view same-sex relationships. I was worried about the reaction of his peers and how he would cope at school if they thought my son was gay. I worried for his safety when he travelled to and from school or anywhere else. I was worried about him hearing negative comments about gay people from family and friends. My mother, all my siblings and their children’s rejection of my son has exacerbated my isolation.
And people within my own family – like my mother and siblings – think it’s a ‘sinful lifestyle choice’. I was worried about my son’s rejection by peers, friends, relatives.
Gabrielle and Lawrence have four children, their gay son the eldest. He came out at 35 in a letter and is now 38.Gabrielle felt: ‘Very amazed not to have ever guessed. And dumbfounded, being a Christian and biblically taught about homosexuality’. This was 3 or 4 years ago. Gabrielle now says: ‘I accept my son as gay but he has partially come out, which is a bit in a ‘no man’s land’. It still feels very sore. Initially my son was exceedingly angry with me because of the ‘evangelical religious’ background and his intense suspicion of the hypocrite rejection. He has now settled because he is very kind. I suspect he remains suspicious and does not really trust me.’
Lesley has identical twin sons of 28. One is gay and came out at the age of 23. Lesley felt: ‘Devastated, heartbroken and extremely sad that he had not been able to tell us before. I could not imagine the anguish such a revelation had caused him and how lonely his journey must have been. I felt a failure as a mother as I had not picked up on the fact that he was gay. I felt at a complete loss - how to help him and how to come to terms with the loss of my hopes and dreams including having a daughter-in-law and possible grandchildren’. Five years on, Lesley says: ‘I know I was in denial for many months. To a certain extent I feel much better now, as he is so much happier and I have had the support of the group so have been able to share my feelings. In my heart I don’t think I will ever accept it completely. I am very proud of my son but not proud that he is gay. Gay Pride has done a lot for changing the law but I feel it has antagonised many people. They associate all gays with extreme behaviour (including sexual) and this can foster homophobia. There is still homophobia in the workplace especially in certain industries and this worries me’.
Mel and Sam have a gay son of 19 and a younger daughter. They realised their son might be gay when he was 18. Sam: ‘I could not believe it – why us? We felt disappointment, isolation (we don’t know anyone with a gay child), worry for him, ashamed because people may blame our upbringing of him, rightly or wrongly. We felt people might laugh at us or disapprove. I felt guilt - maybe he did not have enough male interaction - maybe I was too involved. Life is hard, but even harder for him, I feel. I wish he didn’t have to cope with this. He may lose his straight male friends. He will be subject to loneliness, vulnerable to bullying’. Now Mel and Sam feel slightly less isolated due to meeting other parents at FTL. Sam says: ‘There is no change, but we have accepted it more. Talking to the FTL group helped’.
Toni has four children. Her third child, a son, is gay. He is now 30 years old and came out at the age of 18: ‘I was really shocked and devastated that my wonderful son was gay. I thought he was just going through a phase. Because of my background and culture I could not believe that I would have a gay son. That was twelve years ago. Since then my feelings have changed because I love him for who he is but I have not given up hope that he will change. Meeting other parents has helped me realise I am not the only one. It didn’t change our relationship – if anything we are closer and I love him more. Without my love he was lost.’
Eliza and Tom have two daughters and a son, their gay son the middle child who came out when he was 19. He is now 43. Eliza and Tom’s son came out in the 1980s, when AIDs was at its height. Eliza’s job involved working with men who were dying of AIDs, so, for them, a son coming out was very traumatic. Eliza says: ‘I was worried that he would become ill and die young before he had achieved anything or made a contribution to society’. Twenty-five years on, Eliza feels far more positive: ‘I am no longer anxious. I gain a lot of support from him. He is a good listener. I only feel sad that he has had more difficulty in his choice of job/career. He has always worked in the ‘Pink’ sector where it would be essential to be gay – and he might have preferred not to specialise so young. He might have studied law and had a legal career’.