#978: “If you were a ten-year-old boy who just told your mom you’re gay, what would you want her to say?”

Hey Cap,

Hopefully this is any easy one for you (and maybe your community?)

If you were a ten year old boy who just came out to your mom, what would you want her to do or say? What could the mom do to support him?

He came to me crying and handed me a note that said, “I think I’m gay.” I pulled him on my lap and asked why he was upset. He said he was worried I would be disappointed. I said, “Oh please. I’m disappointed when you push your sister. This is just normal.” Then he asked if I could ask a family friend who is gay about how he knew he was gay. So I sent him an email, and I’m pretty sure he’ll talk with my son but I’m not sure how best to support him.

Thoughts?

My first thought is “I love this story and your son!” You’re going to hold onto that note forever, right? And someday when he’s a grownup you’ll give it back to him along with a heartfelt letter from you about how proud you are of him? Yes? Yes.

giphy (15).gif
Image description: An animated .gif of a rotating, pulsating rainbow heart. 

 

PFLAG (“Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays”) is an organization that does a lot of education and activism around making the world safer and more welcoming for gay and transgender kids. If you want to get informed and get involved in things like making schools safer, protecting your son and other kids from bullying, and meeting other parents and kids where you live, they’ll be a great resource for you. One of the best things about organizations like this is that you can learn a lot about the subject without making your son (or your family friend) do all the work of teaching you. For example, the NYC PFLAG chapter has a massive recommended reading list for parents, including This Is A Book For Parents of Gay Kids by the wonderful team behind Everyone Is Gay.

If you search for “resources for gay kids” where you live, see what else you turn up. Everyone Is Gay has a state-by-state guide of groups, friendly churches, camps, and events in the U.S. Is there a youth center or camp, a chorus or sports league, a drop-in or mentoring program, an all-ages Pride event, a safe place for counseling and sexual healthcare as he gets older near you?

Readers, are there any really kid-and-parent-friendly websites or books that you like?

And, when you came out to the people close to you, is there anything someone said or did that made you feel especially safe and loved and supported? Can we give this mom and other parents a road map for how to do this beautifully and well?

241 comments
  1. The Green Door said:

    According to my (gay) brother, Dad’s reaction was, “Oh. So was that fella you brought over the other day your boyfriend?” The answer was no, just a friend. And dad then told him he’d like to meet anyone my brother was dating, same as for us sisters. (We were teens at the time). That was it. Just another day.

    Mom’s reaction was a major flip out and the first thing out of her mouth was, “You know you can get AIDS, right????”

    Yea…Dad’s reaction was so much better.

  2. Miaz said:

    As the parent of a trans kid, I can say that the LW is doing a great job. Just love and acceptance all the way around is what your son needs right now. Treating him the same way you’ve always treated him, letting him know you’ll have his back. Also, it’s important for him to decide who he wants to come out to, and when, and how. It’s not the parent’s place to tell people on his behalf, as it’s a personal decision. Unless the son asks the mom to tell people. Even contacting the cousin should be with the son’s permission. I agree that PFLAG is a great resource. Being gay should not be a big deal these days. It certainly is easier than being trans, as there’s no name change, gender marker change, or medical decisions like hormones or surgery. The only issue is…who he falls in love with/is sexually attracted to. If a parent accepts their child, and accepts any partners, that’s all there is to do.

    • MidnightBagels said:

      I agree with the others that, right now, therapy for the LW’s son is, at best, unnecessary, and, at worst, comes off as if being gay is a problem. Instead, I would suggest that the LW concentrate on ensuring her son has a gay community around him. [i.e. Would the gay family-friend be willing to act as a sort of ‘Big Brother’ and take the son out for an activity once a month? Does the PFLAG or other LGBT-friendly organizations in the area organize activities for pre-teens and/or their families?….etc…..)

      Aside from supporting her son (which the LW is already doing – and reading it made my day FYI) I think the best thing the LW can do is make sure that her son peers and mentors he can approach and confide in, especially when his issue is something he doesn’t feel comfortable bringing to the LW, or the LW doesn’t know. Plus, having appropriate emotional outlets and resources set up for dealing with the roiling mess of hormones that IS teenager-hood, is a good thing to have for ANY child, but especially for one that has characteristics outside the mainstream

  3. Miaz said:

    Also, if the son wants someone impartial to talk to, the mom can find an LGBT-friendly therapist.

    • Clarry said:

      Generally I love recommending therapists as I’ve had good results from it, but in this case I think it might have the effect of communicating the idea that there must be something wrong, or Mom wouldn’t be sending me to a doctor. I know that often therapy is recommended when OTHER people are the problem and the identified patient needs help dealing with them, but in this case I’d want to wait until (if) the son reports a problem with bullying or even with being misunderstood. I do like the idea of finding someone impartial to talk to, but that could be almost any relative or friend. You don’t have to be gay yourself or have a degree in psychology to be impartial. I realize there could be communities (like a community as small as a school) that are particularly hostile, so again, I’m not totally against the idea of talking to LGBT therapist, but I’d wait to see if one is necessary.

      • Typhoid Mary said:

        Miaz and Clarry, thank you for both these points!

        I very much second the idea of making sure there are other adults in your child’s life they can talk to. Frankly, that’s true for any child, whether they’re queer or not.

        One intermediate between “seeking a queer-friendly therapist” and a family friend is to engage a school counselor (IF your child has consented to it!) Find out if the counselor has experience working with queer kids, and make sure the child knows they can reach out to the counselor as needed.

        As kind of an aside: Some of the rural agencies I’ve worked at doing rape prevention have found that schools that are generally more accepting of LGBTQ students have lower rates of sexual harassment/violence in general.* The experience really underscored for me how having MANY adults, in various capacities, who can have honest conversations with children at varying levels of seriousness/intimacy is really healthy for all children.

        *THESE ARE GENERAL PRELIMINARY FINDINGS, PLEASE DO NOT QUOTE AS PEER-REVIEWED FACT.

        • Purps said:

          My parents were not helpful when I came out, any of the five times I tried it before I was just like “well, this is the woman I’m marrying”, when suddenly they believed me. (“I guess it’s cool these days to experiment”. Thanks guys. Wow.)

          But (but!) they also decided that we needed to be part of a larger explicitly gay-friendly community and started taking us to a gay-friendly church (in our case the Unitarians) when I was eleven. That was really important. That’s where I had early LGBT role models, including several of my sunday school teachers, and also sort of had the opportunity for a peer friendgroup where people would shut down most homophobia.

      • pixieish blonde said:

        I think it would be okay for the mom to offer to find a therapist if the son wants one at some future point. The phrasing could go something like “Growing up is tough, no matter what your sexuality. There might come a time in your life when you want to talk to a counselor about things in your life that you don’t want to talk to parents or about, and that’s okay. Sometimes a person like that can give you some ideas on how to approach things if you’re having trouble with a friend or another person. If you decide that you would like to talk to someone, I would be happy to set it up.”
        I don’t know if I’d wait until a problem is reported, just because sometimes kids hide these problems from parents until when/if they get really bad. I think I agree that waiting to see someone until the son is wanting to do so is the right course of action, but I also think there’s something to be said for letting the boy know that the option is available to him if he chooses.

    • Nooooo! I was sent to a therapist when I came out, and it really upset me to be made to go. The therapist was very nice, affirmed that yes, really, I knew I was bi (my parents’ excuse was that they wanted to be “really sure” I “knew what I wanted” or some such horseshit), and I refused to go anymore unless they started going to PFLAG meetings.

      Clarry’s right, only I’m going to state it more strongly: This absolutely DOES send the message that there’s something wrong, especially to a kid who doesn’t know about how therapy can help. Please, please don’t send your kid to therapy just because they came out.

      If MOM wants someone to talk to, SHE can find an LGBT-friendly therapist for HERSELF. But she shouldn’t tell the son that’s why she’s going.

    • Tennia said:

      I would very strongly recommend against this. Being gay doesn’t mean you need a therapist, or that having one would benefit you.

      • Vicki said:

        Even if it’s true both that you’re gay, and that you can benefit from having a therapist, being sent to a therapist in response to coming out sends the wrong message. Or messages: offhand I can think of “you can’t trust your parents,” “therapy is a way people try to control you,” and “there’s something wrong with being gay.”

        Yes, a kid in that circumstance may well have other issues that they want to talk about–in my case, it was issues with my father, including but not limited to the fact that he had thought my being gay was a thing that needed therapy–but that’s a bit recursive, even if the person sitting unwilingly in the therapist’s office realizes that she can use the sessions that way.

        • Tennia said:

          It would immediately say to me “being gay is sick and wrong, but don’t worry, we can get rid of that” and “I should never tell my parents anything important, ever, because they’ll just unload me on another adult to fix” and “nobody can ever know I’m gay because if my own family hates me this much because of it, what will other people do?”. Also “therapy is never ever helpful for anything ever and I should never ever consider it under any circumstances”. (Even as much as I am anti-psychiatry I can see how that’s not useful of a belief.)

    • A relative of mine has a 10-year-old son who is probably trans. She found an LGBT-friendly therapist to help him deal with the societal fallout that he is unfortunately already experiencing.

      His teachers have been supportive and have enforced a no-bullying rule, but the teachers aren’t with him on the playground.

  4. Annalee said:

    I remember being nervous about coming out to my mom as a young teen. I remember sitting on her bed and saying in this very small voice, “I think I’m bi.” Without even blinking, she said, “oh, that’s nice. Are you seeing anyone?”

    LW, I think your response–unfazed, matter-of-fact–was dead on. One super supportive thing you can do is model that ‘this is normal and unremarkable’ attitude to other folks in your child’s life–including family, friends, teachers, etc. You are probably already planning to do this, since you’re off to such a great start. Your son is gonna have to grow up doing a lot of advocating for himself to people who will treat his identity as ‘inappropriate’ for children. Affirming for him and for adults in his life that he is normal and should be treated normally will help strengthen his sense of self when he’s faced with people who won’t look him in the eye because they think sexuality is an ‘adult’ topic.

    Other than that? Bone up on queer history and queer heroes so he can see himself reflected in the historical figures and heroes your family discusses and celebrates.

    Congrats on having such strong lines of communication with your son!

    • Andie said:

      My oldest daughter came out in the car one day by saying “Hey! Let’s play a game. Let’s each tell one thing that NOBODY else in the car knows. I’ll go first. I’m bi.”

      My response was along the lines of “You’re right, I did not know that. Good to know. Who’s next?”

      Later I pulled her aside and asked if telling me was weird for her and she responded “Yeah, but I figured you’d probably be cool with it.”

      One of my prouder parenting moments.

      • Charlie Kilian said:

        I told my daughter that she could always use me as an excuse if she wanted to duck out of a party early or just not go. Like, “Ugh, my dad is being a jerk and texted me and I have to go” or whatever. She said, Nah, all my friends already know you’re cool, so I’ll have to say instead. (I don’t even remember what it was, but it was something equally effective.)

        It was one of the best compliments she could have given me.

      • MJ said:

        *laugh* That’s almost exactly how I told my mother figure that I was pregnant. I guess there’s at least one other person on the planet as cool as me!

      • Jynnan_Tonnyx said:

        Ohh, my heart! This story is wonderful!

    • Temperance said:

      A dear friend of mine came out and his mother was a total ass about it. He wasn’t planning on telling his dad at that time because of his mom’s shitty reaction. So, of course, his mother phoned up his dad and spilled the beans.

      His dad, who is a huge country dude with a giant mullet, pulled my friend aside and said, “hey, your mother told me what you told her this week. I love you and want you to be happy. We can talk about it or not, and I’ll meet any boyfriend you have. Also, we’re having chicken for dinner.” And that was it.

      • Solo said:

        LW, I really love your response here. I just want to throw in my 2 cents because sometimes parents can *say* the right things but *do* the wrong things. For example: my dad has repeatedly told me that I’ll always be his daughter & he’ll always love me & be proud of me & there’s nothing I can do to change that.

        He also: was manipulative; gaslit me when I chose to get a restraining order against my (male) abuser; enthusiastically participated in “love the sinner, hate the sin” conversations with fundamentalist evangelical family members (while repeating the “I’ll always be proud of you and there’s nothing you can do to change that” to another openly gay family member); loudly supported politicians with blatantly anti-LGBTQ platforms; pressured me into attending anti-LGBTQ church services; and believed that I endorsed all of the same rhetoric/positions that he did despite arguing about politics at every turn since I was like, 11.

        LW, I never actually came out to my dad, not as bisexual and certainly not as non-binary or non-monogamous. I haven’t spoken to him in years. The very idea of introducing my current girlfriend to him, much less a future girlfriend/boyfriend/datefriend/husband/wife/spouse, makes me feel nauseous.

        You clearly love and care for your son deeply, and I have a lot of reasons to think that you will not do what my dad did. But for me, from my experience, it’s not about what I would want my parent to _say_, it’s about what I would want them to _do_.

        • Solo said:

          … Sigh, I meant to post this as an independent comment. Threading, I do not understand it.

        • Halpful said:

          :/ yeah, I know that feeling. thanks for putting words to it. weaponized love… *shudder*

          LW being open to advice is one of those reasons she’s unlikely to do that 🙂 Another is the desire to *support* him, as opposed to “fixing” anything. And thinking about what *he* would *want*, as opposed to what Needs To Be Done.

          Which reminds me – there’s probably mention of this already, but anyways, LW, remember to check in with him about whether he personally wants the supportive things suggested here. 🙂

    • Anon for this comment said:

      My daughter and I had a similar conversation (probably made easier by the fact that I’m openly bi myself), and I said “I’m glad you felt safe to tell me, thank you for your trust! Is there someone you’re interested in, or is this just about general attraction for the moment?”

      She said that it was still theoretical at the time, I said “Cool, and if anything comes up that you want to talk about, I’m always happy to continue the conversation.”

      Then we grinned, high-fived each other, and she said that “This was officially the most blasé coming-out ever!”

      I’d also introduced her to Scarleteen around age 11, and I read a bunch of articles and shared them with her (not in one huge infodump, it was an ongoing dialogue over several years — we both enjoy reading advice columns, too, which provided a lot of conversation-starters.)

      Being able to talk about some things in semi-abstract (“Here’s this article I read about enthusiastic consent, what do you think about how the author handled XYZ?”) made it easier to talk *with* her rather than *at* her, and it also helped to navigate the discomfort/embarrassment issues that can crop up when you’re talking to your kid about *their* body/sexuality.

      Lastly, I made it clear (starting around age 10) that self-experimentation and masturbation were normal and natural, and that I respected her privacy and wouldn’t walk in on her in the bedroom/bathroom without knocking and waiting for a response.

      (My mother still TO THIS DAY knocks once and then barges in, on the very rare occasions that we spend a night under the same roof — it was made clear to me as a child/teenager that I had zero right to privacy and bodily autonomy, and masturbation was surrounded by disapproval and humiliation. I did my best not to continue *that* cycle!!)

      LW, it sounds like you’re doing great so far!! ❤

      • That’s similar to what my brother said to me, and it was The Best. I called him, after resolving in my coming out group that I was going to, and told him I was telling him first because I thought he was the likeliest to be supportive, and I needed a success before talking to our parents, and he said, “Thank you for trusting me with this part of yourself.”

        If a young person in my life came out to me, I’d crib from my brother’s response.

        And, LW, yay for being a supportive parent!

  5. This is basically perfect.

    Now is a good time for her to start thinking about how she’s is going to have the sex ed talks. The differences if she had a straight son aren’t huge, but there are some little things and his school’s sex ed will probably do even more damage than if he were straight. 10 may be a little young, but getting used to the idea early won’t hurt in a few short years.

    • Sibley said:

      Honestly, those talks need to start NOW. 10 is probably even a tad late for them. Obviously, the content will change with time, but you need to start early and not stop. Parents need to teach everything from puberty to healthy relationships to consent.

      • Kim said:

        LW, your response was great!

        I second the sex-ed thing. Explain everything to him. Biology, consent, barrier methods etc, and be sure to emphasize that (oral/anal/piv/handstuff) sex between to willing people is for fun! And to experience pleasant feelings. Good luck 🙂

      • Mary said:

        Yes, it’s absolutely the time to review your consent talks, if you were already having them, and see whether they assume that your son will be taking a particular role. At ten, your talks are probably more geared towards “you don’t have to play if you don’t want to but also your friends don’t have to play if they don’t want to”, but over the next couple of years it probably would get more specific and explicit about sex. Ideally, it would be good if everyone’s way of talking about consent recognised that everyone has the potential to be victim or aggressor regardless of their gender or sexuality, but since you know your son is likely to be experimenting with boys too, you’ve got a heads-up to make that explicit!

      • Skada said:

        Ten isn’t too early for sex ed, not at all. My mother took me and my sister to Planned Parenthood when I was (I think) 11. My sister started her period six months before, so off we went.

        For a young gay kid who is growing up in a hostile world, I’d look for age-appropriate sex and HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS education for him. Healthy relationships meaning friendships, intimate partnerships, all of that. It’s hard enough for a straight kid (heck I’m well past half my statistical lifespan and it’s still hard)…growing up gay in a world where there is a non-negligible number of people who will want to hurt you is an extra level of difficulty. How do you Healthy Relationship if you have a partner who is closeted to their family/workplace? How do you Healthy Relationship if YOU are the one in the closet Because Reasons? How do you Healthy Sexual Relationship in a world where there does exist a serious disease that disproportionately affects people like you (and it’s not who they are, it’s specific things people like you do more often than other people)?

    • Naptime said:

      My Mom gave me my main sex talk, which she framed as a biology lesson, when I was 9 and it was good. LW knows her son and what’s right for him, but I don’t think 10 is necessarily too young.

      • Surnameless said:

        My parents took turns reading me bed time stories as a kid, and when I was around 9 my mum swapped out her novels for ‘intro to sex ed’ books which got gradually more advanced over the next year or two (moving from how babies are made to your changing body, that kind of thing). It made the subject really normal and easy to talk about, and I’m still grateful she approached it in such a non-scary way. Would recommend to any parents thinking about how to approach the sex talk – I think it could probably be adapted as needed!

      • Time-Life series of sex ed for children – my very doctrinaire Catholic parents bought it when I was six and started talking about things (mostly the biology of it, in age-appropriate terms) with my siblings and me then.

        • Skada said:

          It is totally possible to give even young kids age-appropriate sex ed.

          How do you tell a room full of six-year-olds that someone is trans? “Everybody is different and that’s ok. Some times you can see the differences. But some times, people are different in ways you can’t see, and that’s okay too.”

          They gay/trans/queer kids will GET IT. Boom. Done. Even at a young age.

    • LW said:

      I haven’t considered this too much, but he did corner me the other day to ask me how gay men had sex. I tried to be as matter-of-fact about it as I can but admittedly, I need to do some research so I can more accurately answer any follow up questions he may have.

      • Blue Cat said:

        The biggest thing to remember is that there is nothing gay men do that straight people don’t do.

        Rather than present the information as gay men do x and straight people do y, present it as different options that people can choose from depending on what they like and what anatomy is involved. And don’t forget trans folk!

      • Rose Fox said:

        The book It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris may help. It basically ignores the existence of trans people, but other than that it’s a very good resource for queer-friendly sex ed.

        These resources are aimed at teens and can get pretty explicit, but may be useful:

        http://teenhealthsource.com/blog/queering-sexual-education/

        • Tabitha said:

          My parents gave me “It’s Perfectly Normal” when I was around six years old and I really highly recommend it as something that kids of a variety of ages/reading ability can get something out of. It has a mix of drawings, comics, and written information and I don’t remember it ever getting too technical or difficult to read. I went back to it a LOT as I got older.

      • Clarry said:

        I recommend finding a book that deals with sex (men, women, gay, straight, everything) and leaving it around so he can find it and read it at his own pace and when he feels ready over answering questions one-to-one and face-to-face. At this point, you don’t even know what being gay means to this 10 year old. With all the wrong ideas you hear out there, all the misconceptions, even the well-meant wrong ideas and misconceptions, it’s possible that he may be thinking one thing while his mother is thinking something else. While you want him to have good information, you don’t want him to feel locked in to any one definition or expectation. You want to be have open communication, but the specifics of sexual feeling and desire are very personal and ultimately something to be figured out on one’s own. You don’t want him complaining in 15 years “Mom was okay with my coming out, but sheesh, the lady has no boundaries!”

        • Anon this time said:

          Yes, but.

          My parents, knowing I was an unstoppable reader, bought a “Puberty and You!” book (don’t remember the exact title) and left it lying in their room where I would be likely to find it. Or they intended to give it to me and I preempted it, I’m not sure which. They didn’t say anything at all when the book disappeared for several weeks, but a couple of days after it mysteriously REappeared, my dad came in and asked if I had any questions, I said no, and the subject was dropped forever.

          Don’t do the “dropped forever” part, don’t ignore the missing book, and don’t ask a vague “Did you want to discuss anything?” question. “Now that you’ve read the book we intended to be a birthday present, I want you to know that we can talk about anything or everything in it, and if you are ever confused, I’m happy to tell you what I know and what I think and what I don’t know, either.”

          • Bagpuss said:

            I’m in favour if actually giving him any books, rather than leaving them for him to find. I think it helps to reduce the risk that he sees these conversations or issues as something that’s embarrassing or that isn’t a thing you discuss openly.
            So I’d go with something like “I got this/these books that I thought you might find interesting. Would you like us to read them together or would you prefer to start by looking through them by yourself then we can discuss anything you’d like to ”

            I also think it might be helpful to talk to your son about why he thought you’d be disappointed, as that may help you to identify any misconceptions he might have about gay people, but also whether there are things you or other people around him have said or done which led him to that conclusion, so you can then work on those things / be aware of people in his life who may be ignoerent and/or unsupportive and so on.

      • whingedrinking said:

        This probably won’t help you explain but it is utterly hilarious. (Summary: Julia Sweeney has to give her daughter The Talk. It starts with frogs and ends with lesbians.)

    • clorinda said:

      Depending on where they live, sex ed might be entirely focused on reproduction and how not to get pregnant–not helpful at all to gay kids–so she may well need to find some other resources.
      Also, the letter made me cry a little bit, but in a good way.

    • BarlowGirl said:

      Also, while you’re at it, acknowledge that asexuality exists and you can be both ace and gay, and not everyone wants to have sex or has sexual attraction.

      • Nanani said:

        Indeed. I can’t be the only one who thought I was gay because I wasn’t into men, only to later realise later I wasn’t into women either.

        • BarlowGirl said:

          My old doctor thought I was gay tbh. I thought I was straight but broken.

      • caedocyon said:

        In general, I agree it’s good to acknowledge that asexuality (and bisexuality) is a possibility. I really strongly disagree that either one is a good response to a boy coming out to you as maybe-gay! It comes off as “don’t worry, you might still be able to avoid having a relationship with a man!”

        Society finds so many ways to tell kids that men loving men (or women loving women, or anyone loving trans people) is gross and bad that a ten year old will come to his mom crying about the possibility that he likes boys. Affirm that it’s not gross and not bad for him, a boy, to like boys, and leave lots of room for his identity to grow and change as he gets older, but please don’t SUGGEST that he should consider other identities. LGBT kids have plenty of opportunities to figure that out on their own, especially with the internet!

        (Note: I’m a bi and trans adult.)

      • caedocyon said:

        In general, I agree it’s good to acknowledge that asexuality (and bisexuality) is a possibility. I really strongly disagree that either one is a good response to a boy coming out to you as maybe-gay! It comes off as “don’t worry, you might still be able to avoid having a relationship with a man!”

        Society finds so many ways to tell kids that men loving men (or women loving women, or anyone loving trans people) is gross and bad that a ten year old will come to his mom crying about the possibility that he likes boys. Affirm that it’s not gross and not bad for him, a boy, to like boys, and leave lots of room for his identity to grow and change as he gets older, but please don’t SUGGEST that he should consider other identities. LGBT kids have plenty of opportunities to figure that out on their own, especially with the internet!

        (Note: I’m a bi and trans adult.)

  6. Jenny L said:

    My dad’s reaction to my coming out to him was, “Okay. What was the important thing you wanted to talk about?” It was perfect.

    The best book I read as a young woman coming to understand myself was Nancy Garden’s “Annie on My Mind.” It rocks.

    • Nicole G said:

      Love your dad! *sheds internet tear of joy*

    • roramich said:

      I’m so glad to hear this! I think that my 14 year old daughter is coming to terms with being gay and is reading this book…doesn’t seem to want to talk about it with me yet, but I’m glad to hear this is a good book. I haven’t had a minute to read it on my own yet, but plan to.

  7. Alianne said:

    All the Jedi hugs to you and your son, LW!

    My BFF came out to me as ace a few years ago, and she was so nervous that she wrote everything out in an email for fear of how I’d react (we were both raised in very conservative Christian families). She told me later that the first line in my response email–“you are my best friend and there is absolutely nothing that will ever change that, so don’t ever be afraid that it will”–was what she desperately needed to hear. She hasn’t yet been able to come out to her parents, but she’s slowly growing a Team You Are Who You Are and We Love You.

  8. sadpear said:

    Stories of people who love and accept their kids always make me cry. I think more than anything, being believed is what matters. Not trying to be talked in or out of it. Just being allowed to have these feelings, and to work through them. Asking what they want, what they need. Good luck LW!

    I remember trying to come out to my mother, and her comment about it that forever closed the conversation. She told me I was “just trying to get attention and make yourself seem more interesting.” It has been twenty years, and the dismissive way she decided she didn’t believe what I was telling her is something I still remember.

    • shantih said:

      What an appalling thing to say! You surely know this already, but that reaction shows that that was not at all about you and entirely about your mother’s limitations as a human being. Ugh! Jedi hugs if you want them, sadpear! Younger you didn’t deserve that nastiness one bit. I hope you had or found an awesome Team You!

    • Ugh, I had a really similar coming out experience. My mother’s initial reaction was sobbing, then this bargaining with “you’re going through a phase/you just want to impress boys/you’ll grow out of it.” I’ve been with my girlfriend for a few years now, and mom seems to have finally gotten the message.

    • roramich said:

      I am SO sorry that happened to you. No child should ever be told that for any reason.

  9. It’s so nice to see GOOD parenting demonstrated, for once! Hug your child. You did OK, if you ask me.

  10. Aurora_Belle said:

    I’d say A+ reaction, thus far.

    I second all of the Captain’s recommendations for resources.

    I think it may be important to talk to your son a bit more about why he thought you’d be disappointed, though, as it might highlight some areas in which you have unconsciously indicated bias or expectations, or help him open up about other people in his life who may have done.

    • Thanksforallthefish said:

      That last part of your comment may be relevant but easily not. Society tells us that it’s dangerous to come out to adults and family and friends.

      There are so many horror stories of people coming out expecting the parents to be totally fine and having it be terrible. A parent could have done everything right to promote a sense of a safe space and the 10 year old could still be nervous.

      I think the fact that a 10 year old could feel safe enough to share is alone awesome. I know people that knew they were gay but weren’t going to even think about coming out to family until they were actually actively dating someone. I know I would never come out to my mother as bi unless I were in a serious relationship with a woman, and at that point I would likely be disowned by her.

      • Elle said:

        Respectfully, I do think it’s every parent’s job to make sure their children know they are unconditionally loved. When I came out to my mom she expressed surprise that it was difficult for me or that I had any question that she would be supportive, but that’s not really fair. In the absence of any information that I was strongly supported, it made sense to temper my expectations. It was on her to explicitly express her tolerance, but that never occurred to her when she assumed her daughter was straight.

        • johann7 said:

          My mom made it clear from a young age that she’d be totally supportive of me if I was gay by telling me explicitly, “I’ll be totally supportive of you if you’re gay,” as well as demonstrating acceptance with gay family friends. As it turns out, I’m queer in that I’m gender-indifferent (so no binary-gender-based category works for my sexuality), though I’m usually read as straight, so I don’t face sexuality-based discrimination or harassment except where it overlaps gender norm enforcement. From my somewhat different perspective, I can still say that active expressions of support are much more valuable than a lack of active queerphobia (which is still better than active queerphobia, of course).

        • roramich said:

          this is good food for thought, thank you very much.

      • SarahTheEntwife said:

        “That last part of your comment may be relevant but easily not. Society tells us that it’s dangerous to come out to adults and family and friends.

        There are so many horror stories of people coming out expecting the parents to be totally fine and having it be terrible. A parent could have done everything right to promote a sense of a safe space and the 10 year old could still be nervous. ”

        Yes, this. The whole societal narrative of COMING OUT as this huge momentous thing made me hold off on telling my parents for a little while more than anything else. Realizing I was bi wasn’t a big deal for me, and it wasn’t a big deal to my parents either, but somehow having to officially tell them made it more of a big deal than I wanted it to be. (Heck, it still feels weird having to officially tell people. I find myself tempted to invent an ex-girlfriend to drop into conversation…)

        • Jay said:

          Me, 30+ years ago to one of the many friends who came to me after college: I’m starting to get really annoyed that {names} were hesitant to tell me. Why would it make it difference in how I felt about you?
          Friend (raised very conservative Catholic): It made a difference in how *I* felt about myself. I couldn’t imagine that it wouldn’t make a difference to you.

          (I am not proud of what I said; I cringe every time I think about it. OF COURSE it changes things and OF COURSE it matters, because it deepens the relationship. We get older, we learn, and if we’re lucky we have friends who forgive us for being idiots.)

  11. Mary said:

    I think the fact that your son told you this means that you are doing a great job as a parent to create a safe and positive hope for him. Well done!

    Next, look around at the rest of the culture your son interacts with, with the question “is this hostile to a queer kid, neutral, or affirming?” Are there queer single people, queer couples and queer families visible to him? Butch gays, femme gays, brother-of-the-above gays? If they aren’t part of your social circle, what books or films or tv programmes can you leave in his way that say, “there are lots of different ways to be an adult, and there are lots off different ways to have a family”? Are his school, his church, his football team, and whatever else he interacts with queer-positive? Do you feel that the wider culture he interacts with is going to be neutral or affirming to him? You can’t necessarily change it if it’s not, but if you know where he’s likely to encounter queer-negative and homophobic messages, you can quietly look out for opportunities to expand what he interacts with or counter those negative messages.

    Good luck! And congratulations for having an awesome son who trusts you a lot. 🙂

    • Em said:

      Mary, I love this and definitely second it! As a gay teen the most important thing for me was seeing myself reflected in books and movies…I joined an early Netflix-esque movie club that sent you VHS tapes of movies and I got all the queer ones, and somehow (don’t remember how) acquired a bunch of books with gay characters, and it was just such a *relief* to get to explore what life could look like, if that makes sense.

    • Stingless B said:

      I recommend “The Manny”, a kids novel I read to my 4th grade class. It’s about a family who hires a male nanny (the Manny) who helps a shy kid come out of his shell. High jinks ensue. The best part is this secondary subtle story arc, where the Manny and uncle Max fall in love. It’s treated as totally normal and none of the characters react except to be thrilled that the Manny is now part of family.

      • Mary said:

        Buying this for my two-year-old RIGHT NOW!

      • Amphelise said:

        OMG I need this book in my family.

      • NiceOrc said:

        Please note – “The Manny files” by Christian Burch, NOT “The Manny” by Holly Peterson!

        • LW said:

          Okay. I was wondering!

    • Mary said:

      (That was supposed to say “butch gays, femme gays none-of-the-above gays”, but I LOVE “brother-of-the-above gays”!)

      • I thought this was intentional and enjoyed it greatly.

  12. Reed said:

    My 13-year-old niece is in the process of coming out. I was so pleased to realize her school is supportive and her friends are supportive and all-in-all it is being treated as ‘just another of those cool things about [niece], who is also devoted to Doctor Who, astronomy, and dying her hair pink.’ Her mum and I are taking her to Pride this year.

    AND I know how lucky my niece is to have this family, this school, this community. AND I know at some point, someone is going to pee in her cornflakes over this. AND therefore it is my duty, as her auntie who loves her, to make sure she knows I’m a safe person before that crappy, crappy day comes, so she doesn’t have to waste time and precious emotional resources on working out who to turn to for comfort.

  13. Madison said:

    Since Cap’n mentioned safe places for sexual healthcare, I want to drop a mention in for the comprehensive and inclusive lifespan sex ed program Our Whole Life, offered by your local Unitarian Universalist group (this is a completely secular program, with no religious references or doctrine). They have programs available for Kindergarten through Adult, and provides accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality. I know I sound like an infomercial here, but this comes highly recommended by many gay teens and gay former-teens that I know and have talked to. If you do not have a UU group near you, the program materials can be ordered by age group and you can find more information about the program here: http://www.uua.org/re/owl

    • ninja o said:

      I was in OWL for a few years (ages 13-14 I think?) and it was really great. Very informative, frank about sex and sexuality and general puberty-body things. Not religious at all, and I found it useful even with a reasonable in-school sex-ed class.

    • Janissary Jones said:

      Shoutout to UU programs! I’m bi, and while I didn’t really do a formal coming out with anyone, it was really important to me to have a queer-friendly church that was a part of my life. They run some really excellent programs (especially Our Whole Life), and was one of the first spaces where I got to interact with other people like me after I decided to live openly.

    • I was just coming in here to recommend OWL! I’ve facilitated the Young Adult/Adult curricula and they’ve been life-changing for me, so I’m a huge advocate of getting the program out there. Our Whole Lives can be taught as a secular curriculum, in case LW isn’t familiar with any local UU or UCC churches (United Church of Christ, which co-developed the program with UUs iirc), and it promotes the values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, and justice and inclusivity through a number of workshop sessions that are each dedicated to different topics. Kids in the junior and senior high curricula also get a chance to do a panel q&a with real live adults from across the gender and sexuality spectra who are there specifically to speak from their experiences and answer questions the kids might have based on what they’ve been learning and/or experiencing. It’s pretty awesome 😀

    • Lee said:

      Caveat: Don’t put children in weeks-long sex ed programs if they aren’t actually interested. Talking about sex once a week in a group of peers can be a miserable experience if you’re shy, or have related trauma (which parents do not necessarily know about), or if the group just happens to include kids you don’t get along with or who have nasty senses of humor. There are many children who would rather learn from people they actually know in individual settings, or from books, whatever.

      Because OWL is run by local UU groups, the quality is not going to be consistent between churches. The instructors in my group liked to segregate us by sex for discussions – a miserable experience for me, since I’m genderqueer – and actively didn’t know what they were talking about wrt a lot of LGBT stuff. Also, I see what they were going for, but telling the child actively being sexually abused at home that ‘all touch/affection is sexual’ was really not helpful, thanks. But, all of the first paragraph is true even if your local people are great.

      (I was in OWL. I hated it and still resent being forced to go.)

      • DropTable~DropsMic said:

        I’m sorry that happened to you.

      • Who was the creep who came up with the idea that “all touch/affection is sexual”??? EEWWWWWW.

      • That sounds awful 😦 I’m sorry you had that experience – you’re definitely right that mileage may vary depending on the congregation 😦

  14. slfisher said:

    Greatest. Response. Ever.

    When my daughter came out as bi, her dad and I each independently had the same “Are you seeing anyone now?” question.

    It does make an interesting question about sleepovers and it was one I had to think about a lot. I wouldn’t want a daughter to have a sleepover with a boy; would I feel differently about a girl? Would it be less of an issue because they couldn’t get pregnant?

    • Andie said:

      Both of my kids have come out as bi to me, and this is something I’ve grappled with and I ultimately decided I am okay with the double standard, namely because of the pregnancy issue.

      • attie said:

        This is starting to get a bit OT, and I’m sorry I can’t think of a gentler way to say this, but: if you’re *actually* concerned about pregnancy, forbidding sleepovers is counterproductive. Instead, I’d recommend buying a pack of condoms and leaving them somewhere easily accessible (for extra points, unpack and leave them in a heap so it’s easy to take some away without it being super apparent). It’s way easier to have safe sex in your bedroom, with the door locked, plenty of time to take it slow, and a ready stack of condoms, than it is in a toilet stall/the back seat of a car/hiding behind some bushes.

        My mom made sure I knew where the condoms were. It was an embarrassing few minutes, but not really much different from being introduced to the tampon stock. I never ended up using them (except as balloons) but it was nice to know that my mom trusted me and didn’t make a big deal out of it. Not being allowed to have someone over for the night certainly wouldn’t have stopped me from having sex if I had found someone to have it with. (I found a lot of ill-advised hiding places as a teenager. I just used them to read.) It would, however, have meant I wouldn’t have condoms within reach.

        • Elderberry said:

          You posted while I was typing and… I wish I had grown up in the same household, would have spared me so much garbage. ;__;

        • slfisher said:

          Yep, I got a giant pack of condoms, put them in the guest bathroom, told my daughter where they were, and told her she could give them to her friends as well.

          As far as OP, another thing I would suggest is make sure your son has gotten the HPV vaccine. Apparently the cancer rate is *way* down because of it.

          • Jay said:

            Me, three. When mine was 13, I bought a big box of condoms, said “I think you’re way too young, and I hope you don’t use these for a long time, but if you need them – or any of your friends need them – here they are.” I’ve replaced the box because they’ve expired and AFAIK she’s never used them. They’re still there. They always will be. I have a friend whose closet is also stocked with Plan B and contraceptive vaginal suppositories, available to her kids and their friends. I haven’t done Plan B because I’m a doc and there are some sticky are-you-practicing-medicine issues with giving meds to someone else’s kid. I have told my daughter that if her friends need money to buy it, I will give it, no questions asked.

          • slfisher said:

            Yes, I bought a plan B for her too – – who knows how long it’ll be legal?

      • Elderberry said:

        As the bi daughter of a family, I hated this double-standard. When I came out and the no-boys-but-girls-is-ok-i-guess rule still applied, it felt like they didn’t take me seriously. So, my advice is, if you keep this rule, explain the reasoning to your kids!

        Also, just to vent about my own parents, not to imply anything about you two: My parents didn’t talk to me about protection or pressuring, they just didn’t let boys sleep over. Considering I had (unhappy) sex anyway, this didn’t help at all.

        • ReanaZ said:

          As a bi (but not out) teenager with a lot of male friends I was not interested in romantically, in a small blue collar town where there were very few openly nerdy people much less openly nerdy girls, the sleepover thing was so irritating. I didn’t want to giggle over teen magazines and boybands in a sleepover (not that there’s anything wrong with this! Just wasn’t my scene and was the scene of nearly all the teenage femme friends I had); I wanted to marathon Star Wars totally sober and pass out on someone’s couch rather than drive home late and tired with other people who had been drinking on the road.

          Luckily my mom was too much of a mess to pay too much attention to me as a teenager and accepted me at my word that I wasn’t drinking or sexing (I really wasn’t!) and decided to just let to go eventually.

    • Amphelise said:

      TBH, when kids get to the “sleepover with significant other” age I’d rather they did it under my roof… if they’re going to have sex they’ll find *somewhere* to do it, and safely indoors and after a frank conversation about protection is better than somewhere in secret!

      • slfisher said:

        yeah, my daughter was probably about eight when I started telling her, “I will support any decision you make, but not “I forgot,” “I didn’t mean to,” “It was an accident,” or “It just happened.””

      • Drew said:

        I forget where I read an article from a dad talking to his son and telling him, “If you aren’t mature enough to come to us and say you want to have sex, you aren’t mature enough to have sex. And when you DO come tell us this, you are welcome to have your partner stay over, and the only question we’ll ask is whether they want bananas or strawberries in their cereal, because the fact that you have a guest is our business and what you do with that guest is yours unless you choose to share.” Not exact phrasing, but that’s the sense.

    • Just curiously, why no sleepovers with boys? (I had sleepovers with both. My parents knew I was bi. I’m in my 50s)

  15. Em said:

    This is so lovely. Yay, LW, this is a wonderful response on your part!

    The best thing my mother did was treat me the same as my sister: my sister got to have boyfriends sleep over, so I got to have girlfriends sleep over. Like the first commenter’s dad…it really helped. (Granted, we were teenagers, not ten! So YMMV.)

    The other thing I’d say is, and maybe this is going to sound weird, but: don’t get too tied up yourself in his identity? Maybe he is gay and will always be gay in the future (and that’s awesome) and you can continue being the loving, supporting mom you are to your gay son. But identity is so fluid… maybe I’m just speaking from my own experience, but I came out as gay at 16, and bi at 21, and the latter was actually harder, because everyone around me thought I was the gay daughter/cousin/friend, and they all had to re-create their sense of me. So I’d say…reassure him that no matter who he is or becomes, you’ll love him and support him just the same?

    I don’t mean to project my experience, here, so if this feels irrelevant, feel free to ignore this (or, Cap, feel free to delete my comment) but I figured I’d add it just in case!

    Huge jedi hugs to you & your son!

    • ninja o said:

      I agree with this – I’ve seen it born from a place of support, but Parent gets /so supportive/ of Kid being [gay, lesbian] that they push back when Kid winds up with a crush on someone that doesn’t fit with that identity (e.g. “But I thought you were a lesbian! Why are you going out with a boy now?”). Support and openness (like you’re already showing!) is key IMO.

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      No…I get that. I see that a lot – not just in sexual identity but in other things. Ex: One of my sisters has a son with autism. My other sister (not his mom) has created this life for herself that seems to center around our nephews autism diagnosis. It’s weird and frustrating. We’ve tried explaining that he’s a boy with autism, not autism wrapped in a boy’s body. He’s so much more than a diagnosis. I think your advice is great. A person’s sexuality isn’t the only identifying aspect of them. If it were it’d be boring.

      • Eye said:

        I realize you’re trying to be supportive here, but this attitude is actually hugely offensive to a lot of autistic people (me included). We are not “people with autism,” we are “autistic people” (just as we are not “people with queerness” or “people with femaleness” or “people with Blackness”). Our autism fundamentally shapes how we experience and interact with the world.

        There’s a big difference between an allistic (not-autistic) parent who fetishizes or poorly centers their child’s autism, and treating autism as something extra that hangs off a person.

      • Another perspective, this one from the parent of an autistic kid: sometimes you *have* to build your life around the autism. Everybody on the spectrum is different, and I don’t know this boy, but for a lot of kids it creates a level of special needs that simply has to be placed front and centre if anyone in the family is going to have any quality if life.

        I’ve had people try to minimise my son’s autism with me. Granted, he’s my son, not my nephew, and I know him better than they do, which makes it particularly annoying, but it really is counter-productive. I know perfectly well that autism isn’t the whole of him, any more than being neurotypical is the whole of me. But acknowledging that his autism affects pretty much every moment of his day is not losing sight of that. It’s just seeing what’s there. Which is a boy with his own delightful personality, and also with a brain structure that filters everything its own way.

        As long as she’s kind to him, I wouldn’t pressure her. If your nephew is able to speak, let him say what he prefers – and if not, chances are that whether or not she’s kind to him the thing he’ll find meaning in whatever language she uses.

      • Does your other sister raise or help care for the boy? As an autistic adult, I can tell you that having autism can be extremely challenging for both the autistic and his/her/hir caregivers. Depending on individual circumstances, the caregiver(s) may have to center their lives around caring for the autistic person. However, if the aunt does not help with caregiving, then centering her identity around the nephew’s diagnosis helps nobody.

    • Andie said:

      I want to second this. My youngest child recently went through a period of questioning her gender identity, coming out to friends, family, their school as trans, and then after a month or two started having doubts about whether she really wanted to identify as a boy. Adolescence is a great time to try on different identities. I’m forever grateful that both my kids live in a time where they have (more, unfortunately not complete) freedom to experiment and really figure out who they want to be, but the decision to go back to identifying with her gender-as-assigned-at-birth seemed like it might have been harder than the decision to come out in the first place.

      You gotta be supportive either way.

  16. MrsLokiofAsgard said:

    This made me cry wonderful, happy tears. My 12 year old daughter recently told me that she believed she might be gay or bi-sexual – she thinks bi-sexual because she still has romantic / sexual thoughts and feelings for boys. She was so nervous to tell me, wouldn’t let me turn on the light in the room where we were talking, and kept rambling on and on. I ended up taking her hands in mine and told her that love is love and that I loved her no matter what. I wish there were words to convey how big her smile was or how her whole body changed in that moment. There was this moment where we just held hands, then hugged, and then she told me she knew I would act this way and then walked out of the room like it was another day.

    Oh…and I have to share this: a girl (Jane) at her school recently came out as gay. Jane has always run in a different social circle than my daughter and her friends, but has started spending more time with their group. Recently they were outside at gym, doing some laps and the girls Jane used to hang out with started taunting her. They started saying things to my daughter and her friends “You know she’s a lesbian, right? She’s into girls.” My daughter said they were doing all that they could to make Jane cry. One of my daughters friends, this tiny little girl with a huge personality, finally stands up and says “What’s wrong with it? Are you mad she’s gay or just mad she’s not interested in any of you?” She then turned to Jane and said “Does your family love you?” When Jane nodded the girl said “then okay, you just need new friends. Want to sit with us at lunch from now on?” My daughter said it was the most proud she’s ever been of her friend group. She even nominated this girl for a special award the middle school has for being kind for that interaction.

    • Em said:

      That is just so so amazing. I’m kind of weepy right now!

    • Violet EMT said:

      Who is chopping onions in my presence? STOP IT!

    • slfisher said:

      Oh, I am totally losing it at the little girl’s response.

      • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

        I have to be honest. I had so many concerns about my daughter starting middle school. She was the recipient of some pretty nasty girl bullying in elementary school and I was terrified that it would linger into middle school. That, and all of the articles I’d read over the years about the tween years being the worst, especially for girls and I was one scared Mom. I just kept telling my daughter that she would find her people… her “nerd herd” … and that once she did things would be better. I found my nerd herd freshman year of high school and added members to it over the years. She got lucky. On day one of middle school she reconnected with a friend she hadn’t seen since dance class a few years ago, then that friend had a friend who had a friend and voila! she’d found her place. These girls are so incredibly different from one another (my daughter is super smart and leans heavily into the goth/anime kind of stuff, her BFF is a mama’s girl who is sweet, very naive and heavily babied at home, there’s another who would live only in books if she was able, and the girl who made the comment to the mean girls is seriously tiny – as small as my 7 year old niece – extremely popular and full of so much personality that you wonder where she puts it) but they all fit together so well. It’s like they are these wonderful puzzle pieces that fit together to make the perfect group of friends. I really have hope that they stay tight through the next 6 years and just add to the group.

        • Just want to say your daughter and her friends sound so great. I think they need their own comic series.

  17. LW, it sounds like you had a great response to your son and that’s wonderful. I think it’s important to let him have a say in who you’re disclosing his orientation to, even when you’re doing it to be helpful to him; if you remember tomorrow that you have a gay friend or coworker whose input might be helpful here, do ask your son first if it’s ok for you to talk to them about him or ask for input. One thing I found scary about coming out was how powerless I then felt as people then outed me to others, sometimes under the impression that they were doing me a favor.

    Another sex ed resource to look into is Scarleteen, which is comprehensive and fully inclusive for all genders and sexualities. The direct services part of the website, where people can anonymously talk to volunteers about sex, relationships, sexual health issues, etc. is for young folks 13 and up, but there are plenty of articles on the main site that can be accessed at any time. In addition, the Scarleteen book just came out with a new edition last year and is just fantastic.

    • JenniferP said:

      Scarleteen is a national treasure, yes to all of this, also great point about asking before disclosing. ❤ you, Sparklebeard.

  18. johann7 said:

    Do exactly what you did do!

    Scarleteen.com has great queer-inclusive relationship and sexuality info for people of all ages, as well as direct support services for adolescents and a collection of articles written for parents/guardians/mentors (Scarleteen Confidential) on how to parent or otherwise support the young regarding sexuality. They have a number of articles directly addressing the “How do I know if I’m gay?” question, specifically, which could be helpful for your son if he wants more info than he gets from your family friend.

  19. S said:

    Hi, I’m Bi, and I just want to say I think it’s awesome that you’re being so welcoming. (Contrast to my Mom’s “If you turn out to be gay I might kill myself.” messaging…. yeaaaaah. You’re already winning at this!) I guess this is the new normal, and that is also super super awesome! Yay progress!

    My concern with young folks, and indeed a lot of older folks is that we often want to put ourselves in neat little boxes. It certainly makes life easier to have a label or a box to explain yourself and make yourself feel less alone. But sometimes we grow up and we find out things are complicated and maybe our expectations don’t turn out the way we want.

    What I would want to hear is that you loved me for ME and not for any labels, or expectations, or possible futures that I might have. That the future you want for me is one where I am happy and healthy and we are a family, no matter what that family looks like.

    (I just made myself cry so I think 10 year old me would have really wanted to hear that.)

    • Alli Holstrom said:

      I wish someone here could go back and tell 10 year old you that since your mother couldn’t. And I hope you’ve heard some version of just exactly that many, many times in the years since from people who love you.

      Those exact words should be what all parents say to their kids AND MEAN IT. Not just about sexuality but about college and careers and other things. I know so many kids who are hurting because they are struggling to measure up to (or are worried about wanting to deviate from) the picture their parents have painted in technicolor about their future.

      Jedi hugs to you S!

  20. GayInc Blot said:

    LW, you are wonderful. Thank you. Also, if you ever need help advocating for your son at school, http://www.gladanswers.org and glsen.org can be great resources (GLAD is based in New England, but their helpline can connect you with agencies outside that region)

  21. klopidq said:

    I never came out to my parents. Per se. I did tell my father that I was reading Adrienne Rich, and he gave me a copy of _Dream of a Common Language_ for Christmas in 1980, and wrote my name and the date in it, so there’s that. But within 5 minutes of when he died I thought (with some relief) “Now I’ll never have to tell him I’m sleeping with a woman.” The only talk we ever had along those lines was when he called me in to the living room when I was maybe 15, where he and my mother were sitting, and described for me, pointedly, a cartoon in which a visibly pregnant girl is walking up to her house, where her father is on the porch, pointing her back out into the world. Then he said he just wanted me to know or think about that, that was all, and I was off.

    My mother figured it out from my relationships. I didn’t think I could ever talk about sex with her (she’d prefer we not, I knew), and sexuality was too close to that. But she caught on to the deal. And then a coupla months before she died I told her that yes, this woman I had just brought around might be “the one”. And she said that would be alright with her. And then she repeated it, in case I missed it.

    So I can’t really say easily from experience what I’d have like either of them to say or do, because there was no context or standing or atmosphere for any talk like that to begin with. Thus the first thing that occurs to me is that the LW already has done something very, very important, which is to create an atmosphere in which is was possible for the kid to bring up such a thing to begin with.

    I know that’s not the kind of thing we were prompted to chip in with, but I want to say it anyway. It makes me cry a little, such as I can get away with at my desk at work, just to think about it.

  22. Amtelope said:

    OP, I think what you’ve said sounds perfect, and that you are an awesome mom, and your son sounds like he is doing a great job of figuring all this out. 🙂

    In my experience, PFLAG can be anywhere on the spectrum of great to … not so great. Some PFLAG groups (I’m a lesbian who’s attended as a speaker/guest rather than a member) can be very focused on processing their members’ grief and fear about their kids being queer, in a way that can feel uncomfortable to parents who are 100% fine with their kids being queer and just want resources for helping them navigate the world. Check out your local group, see how they are. You may also want to see if there’s an LGBT youth center/youth group in your area; your son may be a little young for it, but they can probably hook you up with some resources and help your son connect with other queer kids near his age.

    One other thought — ten is an age where some kids have a better grasp of “what makes you gay” than others, so it might be worth very gently checking in about what your son understands “being gay” to mean. Sometimes kids can absorb some homophobic ideas about what it means about them if they’re gay, or about which things make you gay (liking dolls, not liking sports, hugging friends, etc.) Your gay friend might be a great person to handle that conversation, and to make sure your son knows that boys are gay or bi because they love/want to kiss/want to date other boys, not because of anything else about them.

    • Seconded re:”what does being gay mean to you?” An acquaintance found out via a similar conversation that her son equated masturbation with being gay, because it meant touching a penis for physical pleasure. I’m NOT saying that I think OP’s son is wrong or confused about his identity, just that kids sometimes have odd ideas around love and sex.

      • Esselyn said:

        Yes, I think that’s an excellent conversation point. It might help the OP’s son get a better handle on his own feelings about himself/boys/romance too, since it gives him a chance to talk.

        Not that lots of resources and things that the OP says aren’t important, but I think it will also be important to let him speak for himself about his own identity.

  23. GoatMaaaaaaaam said:

    I’m a therapist and work with kiddos and I’ve worked with kids at this age who are coming out. It sounds like your reaction was about perfect- your kid wants to know you love him, no matter what.

    That said, some common complications that come up are related to other family members and peer group. Talk to your kid about who he wants to come out to and what his fears are regarding this. At 10, I’ve found most kids want to be open about being gay with friends and family- if that is your child, you should support him in being as open as it is safe to be.

    Sadly, peers, even in super-liberal/accepting areas often say mean things. I always tell kids who are coming out in late elementary/early middle that they are unusual to know their sexuality at this age and to be out about it. I phrase it as “your peers may not understand and may say hurtful things. It isn’t ok, but I want to prepare you for that being possible.” Then do a role-play or two about ways your kid could respond to rude comments from peers. Great responses to rude comments include “Wow, that was mean.” and “My friends are people who support me.” A group would be helpful, but sadly, most LGBTQ support groups I’ve looked into for clients don’t start until the kid is 13 or 14.

    As to telling extended family, let your kid lead. Don’t indicate that you expect him to hide his sexuality, but don’t pressure him to tell either. Share with him that telling some family members has the effect of telling everyone and let him decide.

    Keep offering your kid love and support. That is what he needs. Going to Pride family activities, buying books with LGBTQ characters in them, talking about gay history, all help too. You want your kid to have a community- he’s too young, for the most part, to access things on his own, so you need to help him.

    • Adele said:

      “your kid wants to know you love him, no matter what.”

      Something I loved about LW’s response was that it made it clear that him being gay wouldn’t come under the category of “no matter what” in any case.

      I’m a child of the 80s and to me a less-than-woke-but-means-well probably sounds something like “of course I’m disappointed, but it won’t stop me loving you! I’d still love you if you KILLED someone! [subtext: or boned dudes]”

      This reaction is so straightforward. I loved that she says she’s disappointed when he pushes his sister, that she’s contrasting nastiness/violence against the issue of who he might love, and that she’s contextualising this by implicitly reminding him that sometimes he *does* disappoint her, but this doesn’t wreck their relationship or stop her loving him.

      I just really wanted to give props for that.

      A few people mentioned that sexuality is fluid (which it certainly can be – I came out as asexual as a teenager, believing I personally invented the concept, and I’m certainly not Ace now). As a teacher it might be relevant to have these conversations. Does anyone have scripts for discussing this without shading into “just a phase” territory?

      • Ginger said:

        “Does anyone have scripts for discussing this without shading into “just a phase” territory?”

        I frequently say (to my kids, to other adults, to myself) things along the lines of “You did the best you could with the tools and knowledge you had at the time” (context: past decisions), “It’s important to be honest about what your wants and needs are and to respect that, and to respect the other person’s wants and needs. And what you want/need may change later, because that’s life, and that’s okay, you just have to tell the other person as soon as is feasible so they can be aware and adjust accordingly” (context: discussing your needs in a relationship), “You don’t need to decide now and forever; you’re only ten and you have plenty of years and anyway, even when you’re an adult you may change your mind sometimes and that’s okay…you don’t need to sort out ALL your potential future marriage decisions right now love :)” (context: my 10yo explaining to me that she FOR SURE wanted to make sure she married someone who was okay with her having sex with other people – she’s knows I am not monogamous at all and I wanted to assure her that she could make a range of decisions and did not need to lock this down at 10 lol). In discussing sexuality with my kids, both of them have informed me they are bi (it would be hard to categorize these as “coming out” conversations, mostly probably because both my kids knew I never presumed they were straight/anything about their sexuality) and my older one has later come back and talked about maybe being more into girls, or maybe being more into boys, and my standard is to just listen, let her talk it out to me, and say something like “okay” and “yep, teen boys CAN be a little much, huh?”. In these moments, I think back often to a fantastic comment here on CA many posts ago wherein someone related their training for the US Census, and said someone had asked “wait do we really ask a bearded guy what his gender is? [answer: yes definitely]” and told the story of one surveyor who asked and the survey-ee asked something like “legally or how I identify?” and the surveyor said – and gods all how I LOVE this line – “We don’t tell you what your gender is, you tell US.”

  24. CL said:

    I would be supportive but relaxed about it. He’s only 10, so a lot of the situations that come up later (dating, sex) probably don’t apply right now. He just needs to know that there is nothing wrong with liking boys, and that you just want him to be happy. I would also reassure him that people are much more accepting these days (assuming that’s true where you live). Gay people can live openly, get married, have kids, whatever they want. He might face discrimination at times, but those people aren’t the majority anymore — and more importantly, his family has his back.

    I’m a 33 year old lesbian, and it’s amazing how much has changed since I was a kid. I’m legally married. We’re expecting a baby, and we will both have full legal rights. I have great friends, supportive coworkers, and I live in an awesome community. I rarely even think about “being gay” because it’s so normal here (big lefty city). It’s not like we never experience discrimination — my in-laws aren’t supportive, which sucks — but overall my life turned out great.

    So I would tell a gay kid that he can go after whatever he wants in life. He doesn’t have to feel like there are limits, or that he can’t have what other people have. He might want to be more picky about where he goes to college and where he lives one day, but he can find a supportive community. And his family will be there to support and cheer for him no matter what choices he makes in his life.

    • Mary said:

      yay queer families! We’re expecting number 2. 🙂 Good luck and I hope everything goes well!

  25. My mom’s reaction was “don’t tell your father” and an immediate concern about every female friend I had who I might suddenly be dating.
    I finally told my dad after he and mom had a public fight mid-divorce and his reaction was “Big surprise.”
    All things considered I probably liked his reaction better for all that it would have been entirely inappropriate for many other people. But, I went through the confusion of figuring it out all by myself and presented it more as “Here is this information about me” to him and him not making a big deal out of it was an amazing thing for me at that time where everything else was blowing up.
    Good luck reader, I love your story and it sounds like you have this well in hand. -jedi hugs-

  26. CosetTheTable said:

    I love love love love love the framing of “this is just normal”. I want to stand on my desk and applaud you for that, LW, but I’m at work and I’d get Looks.

    Your child is 10, it’s going to be a journey. He may or may not be gay, bi, trans, genderqueer, or any other of a long long list of labels. Thinking about it, not being sure, figuring it out, finding new words over time, all of these things are normal. And having a safe person (you!!) where it’s just…. normal? That it’s not a Big Deal? That’s huge. That’s real, and important.

    Short term? Let your kid direct this. Treat it like a new interest in dinosaurs or superheroes or an author or a country— provide the info/resources when asked. Even offer a little bit more than asked— buy some books and put them on the shelf (not just books at level— buy a few more for when he’s older, and put them on the shelf so they’re already there and unremarkable when he’s ready for them). But don’t force things, don’t drag him along. It’s gotta be his timeline. Because, among other things, he might not be gay.

    Longer term? Look into making things safer for kids who are queer or questioning. Ask schools what they *have done* about bullying. If they want to talk about what they WOULD do, rather than what they’ve done in the past (and the lessons they’ve learned!), warning bells. Sure, they don’t want to break confidentiality, but if they don’t have concrete experiences to speak about, they are NOT taking bullying seriously, because it’s there.

    Figure out your line between your son’s privacy and your right to share your experience parenting him— both are important, but it’s probably in his best interest that you don’t seek support in national media without a pen name.

    Don’t just talk the talk– make sure it’s normal in your life. My guess is you have this covered (or mostly covered)- but it’s still worth taking stock. Lesbians of your acquaintence have wives or partners, not “friends” (and so on). Talk about your queer friends. Have them over for dinner. Work on your language about body parts and gender, even if you don’t do it 100% (ie– people with penises get wet dreams, rather than boys get wet dreams). Read books, watch movies, see plays by and about gay people.

    Don’t do it all at once, and don’t do it just because your son thinks he might be gay. Maybe he’s not, but maybe your daughter is. Or maybe they’ll have a gay best friend who comes to see you as the safe person to talk to.

    You’re going to make mistakes. Your reactions in the moment will not always be what you want them to be, or you’ll use the wrong pronouns, or get a fact or term wrong. It’s okay. Fix it, apologize, move on. Just like any other place you can and will make mistakes as a parent, this is normal.

    I am at work, crying a little at my desk about the power of this…. just… being normal. About the power of it not being some sort of third rail in your relationship, about it being important, but not any more important than any other fundamental thing about your kid. Don’t lose that, it’s precious.

    • roramich said:

      It is precious. Thanks for putting it this way.

  27. Trash Panda said:

    I’m straight, and I’m in my early twenties, and I’ve been the first person that 8 of my friends/family have come out to! Recently I met up with my best friend from middle school, who was the first person to ever come out to me and we were talking about this and he said that I just give off an accepting vibe, whatever that means haha!
    But in general, with my friends I’m always just like “okay! That’s cool! Do you want to talk about it more?” And then let them make that conversation. With my big sister (who came out as bi when she was 19 and then as ace when she was 23) I think I said something along the lines of “cool! You’re still the worst sister ever!”
    And I think I usually say that it means a lot that they feel comfortable telling me and then give them a hug if they want. But in general-I try not to act like it’s a big deal, because it’s not! It’s just my lovely friend telling me something new about themselves, and I’m always happy to learn.
    So acceptance + love + not a big deal + don’t change how you treat *person* has been my go to.

    • Janissary Jones said:

      Your talk with your sister sounds so much like my relationship with my sister!

    • MrsLokiofAsgard said:

      Years ago a friend of mine came out to me. He was 16, I was 24. We worked together. I was counting the money at the register and he was my witness (to make sure I didn’t steal) and suddenly he said “I have something to tell you that I’ve never told anyone before. I’m gay.” I was so happy for him I started crying and gave him a hug right then and there. It was a wonderful moment that I’ve thought of fondly over the years. He as a very sweet, soft spoken guy not prone to dramatic moments so this was completely in keeping with who he is. I remember asking him later why he decided to tell me and he said that I just seemed like a person that would be happy about it for him. He was right. I was. Still am. R- I love you!!!

  28. Lumen said:

    When you tell him you love him, make sure to remove the word ‘still’. I came out much later than 10 and got a lot of “I STILL love you” from my family. I know they meant well, but it made it really clear that they saw my queerness as something that would be considered (by any reasonable upstanding Christian, of course!) an obstacle to loving me. It was such a small thing but I remember it with a lot of pain.

    • roramich said:

      thank you for this idea. I can see how the use of “still” would be very hurtful and I’m sorry it caused you pain.

  29. Leithal said:

    LW, I love your response to your son who sounds absolutely adorable btw. Anyway, I want to tell you how I worked out I wasn’t gay and I hope this helps your son work out if he is or not. I am female btw. When I was thirteen I read a mag article about if you are gay and I spent 3 very anxious weeks trying to work out whether I was or not. In the end I realised that while I could think other girls were really pretty, or I admired them or I wanted to be like them, it was boys who’s pants I wanted to jump down, not girls. And really that is the defining feature, who are you sexually attracted to, women, men, both or neither. I really hope that can be of some help, I know that it completely cleared up the issue for me.

    Best of luck to both yourself and your son LW. I’m really glad for him he has a mother like you.

    • MorkaisChosen said:

      So that’s why I thought I was entirely straight until I was 23, when I noticed that while that kind of attraction I only get with women, the kind of close emotional intimacy that leads to wanting to kiss someone and sit in a tangle of limbs and affection with them is less restricted; I’m now pretty solid on being bi.

      It’s as simple as it was for you for some people, but not necessarily for everyone. I don’t mean this as a criticism – just another perspective.

  30. Letter Writer, you did great.

    Things you did not do:
    * say anything about sin, especial highlight to “hate the sin, love the sinner”
    * say “I’ll believe it when I see it”
    * say anything to suggest your kid is out of the ordinary
    * say anything to suggest your kid just admitted to being broken

    You did so much better than my parents.

    I can’t actually think offhand of any resources specifically for gay kids? I do recommend Assigned Male Comics, which is primarily about a trans girl (written by a trans woman, Sophie Labelle) and deals with a lot of queer issues as well as trans issues, but this lead character and her friends all know an awful lot of words I wouldn’t expect a ten-year-old to be familiar with (such as “dehumanizing”), and anyway trans is not the same as gay. So I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing you’re looking for here.

    I would definitely check out I’m Here, I’m Queer, What The Hell Do I Read? I expect most of what Lee Wind reviews there might be a bit above your kid’s reading level, being as it’s targeted at young adults not preteens. But, like, kids grow up, and for all I know your kid’s the voracious sort of reader who’s already into books targeted at full adults. Representation in media is so important—giving him books that demonstrate the truth of what you said about “just normal” will reinforce that message. A lot of these books are going to deal with homophobia (and transphobia and other sorts of queerphobia), because that’s just the nature of the beast in this spacetime moment, which (1) isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it’s all in how it’s handled, and (2) it’s not like he’ll magically avoid homophobia all his life. In fact I have no doubt that the reason he was crying and expected you to be disappointed in him is because he’s already encountered homophobia.

    Another thing. Straight people are typically more willing, on the subjects of queerness and queerphobia, to listen to other straight people (and if my assumption that you yourself are straight is false, my apologies) than to real live queer people. You have more power to get pro-queerness, anti-queerphobia messages across than your son does. Use that power. Amplify his voice. Amplify other queer voices. Don’t talk over queer people on the subjects of queerness and queerphobia, but do learn from them and use that learning to teach others. There’s been a lot written on the subject of how to ally well with people who have a marginalized identity you do not share; find a lot of that and internalize it. For instance, Radical Neurodivergence Speaking is here discussing non-autistic people allying with autistic people, but the principles pretty much carry over.

    Oh, and? Tell your son you understand he was afraid to tell you he’s gay, and tell him you’re not proud of anything you did to help him think that (nota bene, he will mostly have got that impression from society generally), but tell him courage is all about facing down fears, and tell him how brave he is and how proud you are that he is brave.

    • Regarding the Radical Neurodivergence link: my son is autistic and I fight hard for him, and I take the advice of autistic adults, but I am not aided by websites that greet me with capsyelling and swearing. I get enough hostility from bigots already! LW, if you do need to look for online support or guidance, remember that the person you answer to is your lovely son first and foremost, so don’t feel guilty if you prefer sites that don’t yell and swear at you on sight. Equally useful advice can be found in friendlier formats, and it’s easier to be a good parent – which is our job as well as being a good ally – if you aren’t overly strung out.

  31. subliminalflicker said:

    I didn’t come out until I was almost 30, so I may not be much help in this specific case. However, for people reading and wanting to be the kind of person people (or your kids) feel safe coming out to, just be more aware of the things you say and how much they reinforce heteronormative “standards” or express your tolerance and/or acceptance of anything outside that. My mom was somewhat tolerant, but just the way I grew up made me uncomfortable expressing anything out side of their expectations for me, and even when I came out (over the phone) at 27, I was worried as hell about what their reaction might be. It worked out ok, for the most part but I wish I could have done it sooner, and felt safe doing so.

    • Em said:

      So so agreed about the “being aware of the little things”! As I mentioned above, I came out at 16…and it was probably only 10 years later that my dad began to say things like “your future partner” rather than “your future husband.” I was startled by how much it mattered to me, so many years later, to have that kind of validation!

      • Anon said:

        Oh my god, yeah, seconding you hard on the “partner” instead of “husband” thing. I’m bi, and my dad is really good about being like “your future boyfriend or girlfriend or whatever” whereas my mother, who openly believes I’m not actually bi, says things like “your future husband/boyfriend” and gets irritated whenever I tack on “or wife/girlfriend.” Which crushes my soul a little bit every time.

        • LW said:

          I’m working on the “partner” thing. Probably 14 years ago, when my oldest son (not the one we’re talking about now) was 3, a member of our faith community pulled me aside to remind me to use gender neutral terms when talking about his future partners. Mostly I say, “if you get married, then your husband or wife…” but I’m not perfect at it, and as I think it through there are other heteronormative speech patterns I use without thinking. Thanks for calling that to my attention.

  32. Alec said:

    I’m not crying you’re crying. :). This response is perfect.

    Queer transdude here. I love, love, love this response. Keep doin what you’re doin!

    Great advice on this thread, I love it all. There’s only one thing I don’t see mentioned. Not for right now, but for as he gets older. Not to act on, but to keep in the back of your head.

    Gay boys- like straight girls- are vulnerable to predatory older men. Actually a little more vulnerable, because of the numbers game- since there will be so few other queer boys his age to date.

    This is different between queer teen girls and queer teen boys, so advice that works for lesbians doesn’t always work for gay men.

    I think Dan Savage is great on this. He talks very frankly about the need to protect straight daughters and gay sons in their teenage dating years. There’s a risk of wanting to be so cool about your kid being gay that you leave him undefended.

    If you continue being awesomely pro-gay when he’s little, then as he gets older you can set boundaries confident that they’re not from homophobia.

    So, when it comes time for you to be protective of your son around dating, you need to be protective in the way you’d be of a straight daughter, not of a straight son.

    • postscript said:

      Ooooh, thanks, good advice!

  33. Michaela said:

    When my sister came out to me, I thanked her for trusting me to know, and I think it was a pretty meaningful moment for both of us.

  34. Mir said:

    Great job LW!

    My comment is actually a question: do you know why your son was expecting a possible bad reaction from you? It sounds like you’re an awesome parent so my bet is that he’s been exposed to negative ideas about being gay somewhere else: television maybe, or the comments of friends at school, or whatever. On my to-do list, not necessarily right away but at some point, would be to try to ask him about why he was worried, to find out who or what made him feel scared.

    Obviously there are close-minded ideas about gay folk all over, but just in case it’s a specific thing (like maybe he has an uncle making homophobic comments or something when you’re not around?) one of the things you might be able to do for your son is to figure out the source of the negativity, address it as appropriate if possible, and help your son develop coping strategies for future negative experiences as he continues to explore growing up and what that means for him.

  35. Hi!

    Here’s a tip from my experience of parenting a kid who doesn’t quite fit inside the cookie cutter (autistic, in our case): be aware of a few points with schools.

    1. If you’re looking at a new school for him, ask what the bullying policy is. If they say, ‘Oh, that’s not a problem here,’ find another school. Denial protects no one.

    2. Ask to have a face-to-face meeting with someone high up – the head, or someone responsible for pupil welfare. If your son is willing, tell them your concerns and watch their reaction. If you ‘put them off having him as a pupil’, it’s good to know before he went there that it wasn’t a good place for him. If he’s not willing, ask them more general questions, but do talk to them. Trust your gut and hold out for places under the authority of someone kind, receptive and smart.

    3. If they aren’t willing to let you meet the appropriate person and discuss your concerns before you sign him up, find another school. Laziness and closed ranks protect no one.

    4. If you ever have to have a confrontation with teachers over how they’re protecting your son, insist on doing it in the presence of a non-school witness and, however hard it is, whatever you do, keep your cool. If you’re agitated and alone, tell them you can’t have this discussion now and will have to make other arrangements, and leave the building. Or get it in writing and keep all documents in case you have to complain later. The depths to which a hostile school will sink when using a parent’s distress against the family can be astonishing. Give them no excuse to call you crazy.

    5. Look into whether ther have been complaints against the school, take it seriously if there have, and pick up as much local gossip as you can, especially from parents whose kids are potential misfits or having problems. The parents of the golden children often don’t have the full picture: talk to the parents of kids who most *need* the school to be a decent place.

    • Indoor Cat said:

      To add to this re: gay kids specifically– I know several students who came to our public school from other districts because we were known as being LGBT-friendly. How did they know this?

      1.) Our middle school and high school has a large, active GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) club, chaperoned by an out gay teacher. Though officially GSA only meets once a month, there is something GSA-related pretty much every week.

      2.) Openly LGBT teachers. When I was in seventh grade, our Art teacher came out as trans. (This was back in 2006). He is very cis-passing and most kids thought he was a “regular dude;” in addition to teaching art he is also a martial arts sensei and many students took classes at the dojo he taught at, so he was seen as very cool. When he outed himself as AFAB / trans-male, that was one of the bravest things I’d ever seen at that point in my life. It prompted many other kids to come out, and it made clear that he was a safe person to be around if you are struggling with your sexuality or other issues. It also shut down a lot of anti-trans rhetoric some parents were spewing (regarding an openly trans student at another school), since he was a very popular teacher.

      In addition, he was able to field a lot of questions about gender and sexuality from non-LGBT students, which made them less anxious. Also, because everyone knew him as “Mr. Drugan” already, and nobody knew his deadname, so nobody at school misgendered him. When kids asked what his name “used to be,” he matter of factly said that that’s a rude question, akin to asking someone’s weight, and then changed the subject back to art. I think (hope?) a lot of students internalized this and have refrained from asking that of trans people they met in the future.

      3.) Our health class and sex-ed includes LGBT sexual health. There is still a lot of be desired from our school’s sex ed curriculum, but it is not abstinence-only or pretending that LGBT students don’t exist.

    • Mary said:

      >>If you’re looking at a new school for him, ask what the bullying policy is. If they say, ‘Oh, that’s not a problem here,’ find another school. Denial protects no one.

      Yessssss. We’re not at the visiting-schools stage yet, but one of the questions I plan to ask is, “What will you do if my daughter is bullying someone?” Because I want to know your strategy doesn’t stop at protecting the victims, and that you’re working to divert and help the bully too.

  36. Letter writer said:

    Friends. This is so helpful! I ordered the book by the Everyone is Gay people. And I hadn’t considered books/movies about gay heroes–this despite I’m very careful to include books about female/people of color/disabled heroes in his library. I’ll get to work on that post-haste. My one experience with PFLAG, years ago, was as described below. Many people did seem to be there to be sad about their gay kids, which I guess is fine, but isn’t how I feel. I’ll have to check it out again. And I found out our local LBGT center has a program for kids 10-13 so we’re going to try to get to that. But it starts at 430 pm. Because no one has a working single mom. ::sigh:: our faith community is very welcoming and we’ve used OWL but it’s been years since I looked at that.

    I can’t tell if he “thinks” he’s gay because he’s trying to gauge what I would say if he said he was gay, or if he’s asking if he could be gay. He told me again this morning he “thinks” he’s gay. So I said it was probably just like how mom dates people and you just see if that person is for you. And maybe he’s date some boys and decide that was right, or some boys and some girls, or mostly girls but sometimes boys and that people try things out when they’re tweens/teens. And then I said our friend would maybe have some ideas for him. (But I might curate some Scarleteen articles for him too.)

    He asked me not to tell anyone but our friend, so I’ve only told that friend and you all. I am a little worried how his dad will react. Everyone else in his life will just feel like it’s not a thing. If he were an adult, if just stay out of it and let him decide. Being ten, I don’t want him to say something to dad and feel shamed or belittled–or like a disappointment. But I also don’t want to say “Let’s not tell Daddy yet” because then maybe son will start to worry Daddy will have a negative reaction. Then I think maybe I should tell his dad so the initial…stuff…will be on me and not him. I think Kid would tell me before he’s going to tell Dad, so that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get there.

    And yes. I saved the letter. 🙂

    –Letter Writer

    • mf said:

      “So I said it was probably just like how mom dates people and you just see if that person is for you. And maybe he’s date some boys and decide that was right, or some boys and some girls, or mostly girls but sometimes boys and that people try things out when they’re tweens/teens”

      I think this is a fantastic response. You’re giving him the freedom let his sexuality evolve, if that’s what he wants and needs, while also normalizing his feelings.

      For his dad: Maybe you can follow his lead and wait until he wants to come out to his father, and then perhaps help him work though what he wants to say? Obviously you can’t shield him from his father’s disappointment or belittling, but you can be there support him if that’s what happens. Ultimately, he has you and your unconditional love, and that will go a long way in getting him through tough times like this.

    • Dino said:

      I didn’t “come out” so much as I asked my mom if she would drive me to the LGBTQ youth group once a week. She said sure and was totally cool, but she also told my dad who was deployed at the time. I’m honestly really glad that she gave him a heads up (“Hey, Dino asked me to take her to the LGBTQ youth group”) because I’m sure his initial reaction wasn’t great. He tries hard to be liberal but he’s overly concerned about appearances, so I’m glad that little 14 year old me didn’t have to deal with his freakout over what his family would think. My family has some pretty messed up dynamics so that was the best way for this to happen from my perspective and knowing what I know about my family, so YMMV. I wouldn’t tell your son’s father anytime soon or even at all, depending on what your kiddo wants, but I just wanted to offer an alternative opinion.

    • Miaz said:

      LW…thanks so much for commenting! You said you are contemplating telling his dad…I would hesitate to do that unless you clear it first with your son. If you tell your husband without your son’s approval, he may feel like you went behind his back, and you may lose his trust. I understand this puts you in an awkward situation, where you have info that you aren’t sharing with your partner, but I’d err on the side of keeping your son’s trust. Your son may have strong feelings on this that he wants to discuss with his dad himself (when he is ready to do so), or he may want you to discuss it on his behalf. It’s worth a discussion before you do anything.

      I had similar feelings about PFLAG. I was there for the transgender parenting group, which often had joint sessions with parents of gay kids. People go to support groups when they feel that they need support. Some parents just need some info and meet other parents and talk even though they are accepting, and other parents have significant issues accepting their gay children and struggle with acceptance. You take what you need from those groups, and move on if it’s not a good fit.

      As for his being 10…that’s generally when kids start having sexual urges, so it’s not “too young” for your son to be thinking about this. I remember vividly being attracted to a boy in my fourth grade class. I didn’t find out for years why my panties were wet whenever I thought about him (though I did notice and make the connection). Sex ed was really great about teaching me about Fallopian Tubes, periods, pregnancy, and STDs, but they lacked information about arousal, and lubrication, which would have been very helpful to know. This was a couple of years before I got my period, so even when a kid looks prepubescent, doesn’t mean that they aren’t having sexual thoughts and urges.

      • Elenna said:

        For what it’s worth, my first crush was when I was 8 (although I didn’t really have sexual thoughts about him, mostly romantic thoughts). My first sexual dream was when I was 12. So, IMO, 10 is not too young to be having sexual thoughts.

      • LW said:

        I absolutely won’t tell anyone without Son’s express permission. And he told me he doesn’t want anyone to know except me and our gay male family friend. To be clear, Dad and I are divorced. I would like Son to wait to tell Dad because Dad is going to be far less accepting. But I think I’ll just tell Son, “When you’re ready to tell Dad, let’s talk first about how to do that.” Or something like that. I’ll have to think about it. Or I may say, “When you’re ready to tell Dad, why don’t you let me chat with him first?”

        • ashbet said:

          That’s a really good plan — had to make similar choices regarding my daughter’s (noncustodial) father, who isn’t a bad person at all, but likes to have strong reactions that are all about his feelings (i.e., wanting to meet and growl at anyone she dated, making jokes about meeting them at the door with a shotgun.)

          She’s in her mid-20’s now, and still is fairly reserved about disclosing personal info to him.

        • Allya said:

          The only change I would suggest to this script is to instead of saying “let’s talk first”, which makes it sound like an order, consider, “we can talk first” or “I’m happy to chat with him first, if you want”. I think it’s super important not to suggest that telling his dad is a bad idea/something he shouldn’t do and send the message that this is something he has to keep to himself.

          I’m probably sensitive to this because of experiences from my own adolescence but I’m sure you want the subtext to be “how you handle this is totally your choice but I am on your side and here to support you” rather than “Ask me for permission before you tell other people because I’m afraid/ashamed of their reaction and you probably should be too”, and I think that minor change will help.

          • Zahra said:

            I’d even say: don’t make it about Dad specifically. Say that if he’s afraid to tell Dad, uncle, cousin, friend, etc. you can talk about how to manage the discussion or that you can broach the subject if he prefers.

          • Elsajeni said:

            Maybe even a more general, “If you’re nervous about telling other people, you can always talk to me about how to tell them, or ask me to talk to them first.” Telling Dad is high-stakes, of course, but there are lots of other people he might want to tell but feel anxious about telling, and framing it this way might help with avoiding the message that telling his dad, specifically, is something he should be worried about.

    • Anon for this said:

      Popping in to say that Steven Universe is a super queer friendly show targeted at your son’s age group. I would also recommend Rick Riordan’s two most recent series, Trials of Apollo and Magnus Chase; all of his books are targeted to the middle grades. The former has a bi+ male protagonist with a prominent mlm couple in the first book and a prominent wlw couple in the second book. The Magnus Chase series has a genderqueer character. The former might be a bit harder for him to get into without having read the other books first (it’s the third series with some of these characters) but honestly reading that first book just made me BAWL??? Because even though I’m almost 30 this is somehow the first time I’ve read a book with a bi+ protagonist who encapsulates how I feel about my own bisexuality and how I want to treat it in my life: important, but not my single defining feature?

      As he gets a little older Dante and Aristotle Discover the Secrets of the Universe might also be good. That’s about two queer latino boys in late 80s El Paso, and it has some really beautiful things to say about unconditional love.

      Finding queer media that resonates with me has been so, *so* hard. What I really appreciate about Steven Universe et al is that queerness is treated as completely normal and natural, something that isn’t a source of angst and despair. There is absolutely a place for stories that deal with the really hard parts of being queer, but more and more I need the ones that treat it as normal. They’re soothing and really help me feel confident and strong in my own queerness. So absolutely encourage your son to engage with queer media, because wow it’s just so liberating and always gives me such a boost.

      It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your son. Like others have said, give him the control in the situation and help him to have the confidence to take the lead about who to tell and how he would like to handle the situation. I think you guys are going to be great ♥♥♥

      • Halpful said:

        Steven Universe is so many kinds of awesome. So. Many. 😀

        The first half dozen episodes I found a bit tedious, but once the plot gets started it just gets better and better and OMGWTFBBQ

        I’m in withdrawal now. So many questions. So many Feelings.

  37. OP, I think you did great, but if you do want an oversensitive grumble about the problem with unfazed-responses….

    LGBT+ kids get told a lot of things about what our families will do. We’ll get denounced! Disowned! Sent to conversion therapy! In an abusive wilderness camp! And a lot of allies are so eager to seem accepting that they just gloss over that. “You’re gay? Okay, and you had something important to tell me?”

    Like, no, that was important. There are enough “I thought my parents would be cool with it and they kicked me to the curb” horror stories about there that any LGBT+ kid has cause for a bit of anxiety. And sometimes it can help to have someone stop and validate that. “Was it scary for you to say that? Are you afraid of how people will react to you? Did you worry about it? I’m sorry that you were so worried. I know that sometimes it’ll be scary and hard and you won’t be accepted. I’m here for you.”

    My mom (and it’s a tiny issue but she keeps bringing it up) is honestly offended that I was ever worried about telling her that I’m queer. Sometimes it shows that even 16 years later, she’s a little bit mad at me for it. How could I not have magically intuited that she would be okay with it?! So when I try to talk about coming out to my coworker, it trips a little brain in her head and we stop talking about my concerns about being out at work, and start talking about how when I was 14 I thought SHE would judge me and she DIDN’T….

    So yeah. There is such a thing as taking “unfazed” too far. Sometimes I think it could help to do something to celebrate or commemorate a child’s coming out, kind of like a lowkey birthday–a card, a cake, a shopping trip for the nail polish they were afraid to ask you for before. Something to acknowledge that it WAS a bit of a big deal, and you’re glad you’re on the other side of it.

    • “it trips a little brain in her head”…. what are words even, Trips a little circuit.

      • JenniferP said:

        Aw, I kind of love that image of the little brain in your head being like “Don’t worry, big brain, I got this!”

    • MuddieMae said:

      Absolutely. IMO there’s no real downside to validating, even if that particular kid didn’t “need” it, per se. It’s good to validate your kids!

    • Katie said:

      Yup, 100% agree. Countering a profoundly homophobic/transphobic society isn’t saying “Ummmm, was that it?” when they come out to you. It’s thanking your child for telling you, assuring them of your love, support, and confidentiality, and checking back in about it to see what they might need.

    • Andie said:

      Even just saying something to the effect of “Hey, I really appreciate that you trusted me enough to share this news with me. I understand if it might have been difficult for you.”

      And if it is difficult for you as a parent to process, sometimes you can help by acknowledging that. When my kids were young I was TOTALLY PREPARED for the possibility of being gay or bisexual. What I wasn’t as fully prepared for was the possibility of having a trans child, and being aware of that, I told her that I wanted to be supportive, but that I might suck at it, and if I was screwing up, to please tell me so I could do better.

    • Anon said:

      YEP. For me I came out as bi when I was 14, at the dinner table about two weeks after I figured it out, as a way to rip off the band-aid. My parents said “okay” and went back to their conversation. One of the most invalidating experiences of my life, especially since they never brought it up again. Later I found out that they straight up didn’t believe me and thought I was making it up to fit in on Tumblr. And thought they were being very supportive in not actively discouraging me. FUN.

    • Enail said:

      Yes to this! Before I came out, I knew for sure that my parents would have no problem with it; they were supportive of gay rights in the specific and the abstract, and often used gender-neutral terms when talking about hypothetical future partners with me and my sibling. I wasn’t scared of their reaction at all. But I was still shaking when I told them, so nervous I couldn’t stop laughing so hard my mom thought I was joking. Coming out isn’t just about the relationship between you and the person you’re coming out to, in some ways, it’s about the whole world.

    • LW said:

      That does not feel oversensitive. I will take some time to tell him how brave and strong he is and how proud I am of him. Thanks for the reminder. I also love the idea of something low-key to celebrate. Thank you!

    • Rose Fox said:

      Thank you, I was going to say a similar thing. It may be no big deal to a parent, but TELLING YOU was a BIG DEAL to your kid. It may not matter to you that they’re queer, but it matters to THEM. Reflect that and empathize with it.

      Things I wish my (generally very accepting parents) had done rather than treating my queerness as a total non-issue:

      * Introduced me to queer adults. I found peers through my high school’s GSA (which predated the term!) but there’s an empty place in my heart for the older queer mentors I never had. I came out in the early 90s in AIDS-ravaged Greenwich Village, and it would have been wonderful to get connected to the community that remained rather than swimming in news articles about what was lost.

      * Given me age-appropriate books and other media with good depictions of queer characters.

      * Checked in with me occasionally. “How is dating going? Is anyone giving you shit about being queer?” I was very out-loud-and-proud so maybe they figured I wouldn’t be too shy to tell them about problems, but in truth I wouldn’t have wanted to lose face by admitting that I, the out-loud-and-proud queer, was having trouble.

      * Treated all my partners equally. My mother adored all my boyfriends and disliked all my girlfriends. She wasn’t rude to them but it was still a discomfiting trend.

      * Made sure I learned about same-sex safer sex, and the importance of joyful affirmative consent with any partner.

      * Educated me about different possible shapes of relationships, without assuming that bisexual meant promiscuous. I figured out non-monogamy from first principles and still often felt like the only path to love and partnership was forcing myself into a monogamous mold that didn’t work for me at all.

      * And just… talked to me about being queer. This is a tricky line to walk, because you don’t want to be like “So, how’s my queer kid today?” over the breakfast table every morning, but I often felt like I was being queer at them, that if I didn’t mention it occasionally they could just pretend it didn’t exist without ever having to say they didn’t want it to exist.

    • THIS HERE OMFG THIS.

      Sure, your kid being queer may be NBD and Totally Normal. But coming out? Coming out is terrifying. Like, I’ve technically been ‘out’ for half my life and I still get sweaty palms coming out to new people sometimes- and those people are generally a hell of a lot less important to me than family when you’re still a kid.

      So like, please please [i]please[/i] acknowledge to the person coming-out to you that they’ve done something Difficult?

    • roramich said:

      thank you for this, I appreciate you making this point so clearly.

  38. DesertRose said:

    It might also be worth looking to see if there’s a local queer youth community center in their area. My city has a community center that is for queer people ages 13-23 (so the child in this letter is a little young for it now, but it would be good for him in a couple of years), and they do things like host support groups for various groups of kids (gay boys, lesbian girls, trans kids, bi kids, nonbinary kids, etc.), they help find housing for kids who are kicked out of their homes by asshole families (which, fortunately, is not a problem for the kid in this letter! Yay LW! but it is unfortunately a problem for some queer kids), they host social gatherings for queer kids to just hang out and goof off together, stuff like that.

    I think, otherwise, the LW is on the right track. Someone upthread said that some PFLAG groups are better than others, and I agree. It would probably be worth the LW’s time to go by herself maybe a few times to get a good feel for the group before taking her son to any of their functions to make sure that particular chapter is worth their time.

    Also, look into your local Pride. June is Pride Month, so it might be that it’s being held in their area this month, but if you live somewhere warm, it might be held in the fall; October is LGBT History Month, and a lot of US southern cities hold their Pride in October, because the weather is a little less oppressively hot and humid and thus a little more hospitable for outdoor activities such as parades and outdoor festivals.

    I also agree with making a “small deal” out of it. It took a lot of courage for a ten-year-old to come out to his mom; rewarding him in some small but meaningful-to-him way would not be a bad idea. 🙂

    Best wishes from a bi mom of a bi young adult.

  39. Awwwww. OP, I think your initial reaction was really great! I’m the OP of letter #941 who wrote in about my parents not knowing I’m gay OR married. (They…still don’t know because I’ve been having ongoing health issues and various life events that have taken up my time, but anyway! Just for context.) But, from the other side of things, here’s some stuff that I’d like my parents (or any parents of a queer person) to say and do, and a couple things I genuinely do appreciate that they did when I was younger.

    -Finding validating stories and environments for queer kids to be in is so, SO helpful. I didn’t put the pieces together about being gay until college, because my environment was very heterocentric and restrictive, but I do remember having weird feelings about other girls and being like ???? !!!! WHAT DO. It can be really difficult to find media that features queer characters and is appropriate for kids, but I know Steven Universe is pretty generally pretty queer. There’s also The Legend of Korra, which has a bisexual female lead (and is a sequel to the excellent series Avatar: The Last Airbender). (Unfortunately I can’t think of any prominent gay male characters in children’s media off the top of my head.) If your son’s a reader you could google something like “middle grade gay/LGBT books” and some lists come up. These might be a little advanced for him at the moment, but I know there’s a prominent gay character in the Percy Jackson sequel series, Heroes of Olympus.

    -You mention having a gay friend that he can talk to. That’s great! It would be really helpful for him to also have gay peers and people close to his own age to talk to, but it’s possible that he’ll find them on his own in time, whether at school or via social media. He might become comfortable talking to you about his crushes or other experiences he has as a young gay person, but it would be helpful if he was able to find a community of peers to talk with as well.

    -Sidenote: I don’t know if your son is into YouTube or gaming, but I know that certain parts of those online cultures are extremely homophobic and hostile. Make sure he’s prepared for that, that he can stop the video or quit the game or walk away or do whatever he needs to do to remove himself from the situation, and that he has a place to vent any anger, fear, shame, or negativity he might feel when he encounters that kind of talk.

    -Don’t use absolutes about their future. WHEN you get married, WHEN you have kids, WHEN you have a husband/wife. I finally trained my mother into using “if” instead of “when” and saying things like “I know you probably won’t have kids BUT JUST IN CASE, XYZ parenting tip.” My family is conservative evangelical Christian, so Mom is kind of swimming upstream a little and slips up occasionally, but if you treat all of the “typical” future live events as hypotheticals and don’t, for example, talk about wanting grandkids frequently once he does start dating, you should be fine.

    -My sex ed at home was…iffy at best, but one thing I am grateful for is that I was friends with many boys in high school and my parents, while presuming I was straight, never once asked if I was dating or wanted to date any of them. (At the time I DID want to date one of them, but that’s a long story lol.)

    -That being said, it is of course important if your son dates in middle or high school to treat his dates or boyfriends like you would have treated girls he dated. Don’t go assuming every boy he hangs out with his his boyfriend, but be nice to anyone he brings home and be sure you keep a supply of condoms in the bathroom cabinet once he hits about 14-15. (Don’t make a big deal out of them, but the idea is to make sure they’re easily accessible without embarrassing him.)

    Above all else: love him. Make sure he knows you love him, and make sure he knows you have his back if someone’s an asshole about who he is. You don’t really have to treat him that much differently than you would have if he started figuring out he likes girls. Love him, be proud of him, and have his back. That’s my summary of this tl;dr comment lol.

    • Elenna said:

      “These might be a little advanced for him at the moment, but I know there’s a prominent gay character in the Percy Jackson sequel series, Heroes of Olympus. ”

      Yep, there is a prominent gay character, who deals with his own self-hatred and emotional issues (partly due to being gay, and party for other reasons), survives the book, and ends up in a happy relationship with another male (and they are SUPER ADORABLE TOGETHER, seriously, we got to see the two of them as a couple in the first book of the series after that one and that was probably my favorite thing about that book).

      Also, the main character of the series that follows that one (Trials of Apollo, and yes, the main character is the god Apollo, who has been turned into a mortal because Zeus is pissed at him) is bisexual, and two of the secondary characters in the second book of that series are a lesbian couple.

  40. Too often I’ve heard “I don’t care” from well-meaning people trying to express that a person’s sexuality does not bother them, but it comes across as dismissive and often hurtful when one has just come out and is vulnerable.

    “Thank you for your trust and I love you,” is a more supportive alternative.

    • Yeah. Being gay is an important part of my life! “I don’t care” just comes off as an attempt to diminish its significance, even if the intentions are good.

    • Jenny H said:

      I totally agree with this. What I wanted more than anything when coming out to my parents (aged 22, mind!) was for them to be *proud* of me, and with me. I had put lots of effort into exploring and accepting myself, I was telling them happy news but I was so nervous. Ideally I’d have wanted them to acknowledge all that at once. As it was, they were more absorbed in their own emotional reaction, but they got much better at it over time. We’re cool now! So super well done LW, I’m sure you know to make sure your son knows you’re proud of him for being brave and open about this (I, a random internet stranger, feel super proud of him! And of you!)

      And maybe watch Stephen Universe together, I reckon you’ll both enjoy it 😀

    • roramich said:

      I wonder if this is something akin to the white person’s protest “but I don’t see color!! I’m not racist!” in some way? While sexuality is not the ONLY thing about a person, in a homophobic and tranphobic society (and racist, among other things), it’s really important to treat it as both normal AND important?

  41. Temperance said:

    LW, you sound like a great mom. I’m going to touch on one thing that no one else here has. I’m a straight lady who is a dedicated, outspoken ally, and who also has a background in evangelical Christianity.

    Please be mindful of any homophobic influences in your kid’s life. I’m especially thinking of the church variety when I say this. If your kid is attending church every Sunday and hearing people talk about the “sin of homosexuality”, he’s going to internalize that homophobic, hateful message, even if you work to combat it. I know many other formerly religious kids who had a really rough time because of this issue.

  42. Riley J Wildman said:

    Hello, gay guy here.

    You are already on the right track based on your response, but also that you are seeking out help and understanding that you don’t necessarily know everything. Keep doing that! 🙂 Reading your letter made me SO happy.

    Basically, queer kids and teens just want to know that you’re okay with their sexuality and gender identity, that you love them (with, not despite, their queerness), and that this isn’t suddenly going to change.

    It’s also good to have talks with him at some point (you don’t have to do it right away or all at once) about the realities of homophobia. I say this only because it’s real, it’s out there, and burying somebody’s head in the sand won’t prepare them to deal with it. This could easily go very badly, however, so I recommend approaching this only once you’ve done some reading and such. Obviously, you don’t want to terrify him, but I still think he should know (he probably already does, since he was crying when he came out to you).

    There’s lots of other little pieces of advice I could say, but I think I’ll just end by saying to keep doing what you’re doing, and make sure you know how to apologize and admit when you’re wrong. If you’re straight, you will never 100% be able to relate to your son’s experience as a queer person. That’s okay! You don’t have to entirely understand to be as supportive, and sometimes that means saying, “I messed up when I said that, and I’m sorry about that. I’m still learning.”

    Keep up the good work! 🙂

  43. aineotter said:

    Yay! I’m glad your kiddo has such a loving parent! There is a summer camp near me (Seattle area) called Camp Ten Trees that is for queer youth and kids from queer families. My stepdaughter went there for years and absolutely lived it (she’s in college now). Families of kids going there will often host kiss coming from out of town /out of state by picking them up from the airport and bringing then to camp, and they have offered some scholarships/ financial aid for families that need that, too. So, just so you know, and because our kid recommends it so highly:
    http://camptentrees.org/

  44. Elspeth said:

    You kid is much braver than I am, Letter Writer. I didn’t come out to my parents until I was in my twenties and already engaged to another woman. I was also a late bloomer, who didn’t figure out my sexuality until my late teens.

    One of the issues you’re going to have to deal with is when and how to tell the rest of your extended family (just for the record, “in twenty years, when we invite them to his wedding” is a bad answer). You should ask your son when/if he wants to tell anyone else, and if he says “Not yet,” then don’t tell them. He may not be completely sure about his own sexuality yet, especially since he likely either has yet to begin or has only barely begun puberty, and explaining your sexuality to everyone else is hard when you’re still in the process of figuring it out yourself. Not to mention potentially excruciatingly embarrassing when you’re still at the “boys/girls have cooties” stage (On that note: I’ve never been a little boy, but I imagine “Do you like him? Is he your ~boyfriend~? Tee-hee, little [kid’s name] has a crush” is probably just as embarrassing to a ten year old boy as similar “Is she your girlfriend?” comments about girls are). So no calling up siblings/cousins/grandparents/etc. and saying “He doesn’t want me to tell any one yet, but [son] is gay,” not even if you know or are fairly certain they’ll be supportive and okay with it (the exception is if you have any close family members who are LGBT themselves, who could help give him advice or support or even just serve as a “you’re not the only one” positive example, but even then, you should say something to your son first, ex: “Have I told you that your aunt is [sexuality/gender identity]? Would you like me to talk to her and see if she can talk to you about what it’s like?”). Don’t pressure him to keep it a secret or say things like “Let’s not tell grandma about this,” or otherwise act like being LGBT is something that needs to be hidden, but if you know or suspect that a particular relative is likely to react badly, you need to start planning how to manage that.

    I never officially ‘came out’ to my extended family and just relied upon the fact that my relatives were probably talking to one another about it behind my back whenever I wasn’t there (because that’s the way my mom’s family does things), until I finally destroyed any remaining plausible deniability by inviting my aunt and cousin to my wedding and having my sister post the wedding photos on facebook. It went well, but the potential for NOT going well was extremely high, and this is probably not the way you want to handle things.

  45. bondbabe said:

    LWs response was fantastic! When my 14-year old daughter came to me and asked, “What would you say if I told you I was gay?” Everything kinda went into slow motion (as in, wow, I had no clue at ALL), I replied, “Oh thank God…I though you were going to tell me you are pregnant.”

    To the LW, I would say be supportive, be an outlet/listener, let him know there will be times he will have to bear hardship just because he is gay–he doesn’t deserve it, of course, nobody does.

  46. Logomach said:

    My son was about that age when he came out to me and my wife/his mom. My wife and I had always made a point of talking to the kids about LGBTQ issues (and issues relating to sexism and racism and whatnot) and we had suspected that he was gay since he was very young, and when he came out he was terrified about the reaction. He was in tears and obviously very scared about what might happen. We hugged him and told him that we loved him and supported him (and that we already knew) but it was clearly very hard for him. I think he is comfortably out with his friends at school, but he was reluctant about talking to his various family, some of whom are socially conservative and whose reaction was hard to predict. (It was always good, as far as I have ever known.)
    As far as I know, there haven’t been problems with bullying, although I was definitely worried about it for a while. When he was younger, we found some local meeting places for LGBTQ youth, and he enjoyed going to those. Now that he’s in high school, he doesn’t seem to care as much, I think because he has a comfortable group of friends. I assume that many of them are LGBTQ, but I don’t know. We’ve put a little effort into finding books with some LGBTQ characters, but he’s past the point where he needs our help finding books or movies.
    Your son will figure out for himself if he is gay or bi or what. I am not sure what, if anything, a helpful concerned parent could do to assist with that problem, except to be supportive.
    When my son came out, I did some Google searching about kids coming out to their parents. There are an awful lot of webpages with advice about how you shouldn’t come out to your parents if you won’t be safe doing so, if they might kick you out or hurt you. I am not really sure how to be a good father to my gay son, but I’m also not really sure how to be a good father to my other son (straight, as far as I know, but a hypercompetitive jock, which I am not) or to my daughter (a girl, which I am not, duh.) But I’m pretty sure none of them worry that I might kick them out or hurt them, and I’m also pretty sure that no parent is ever sure they’re doing it right. There’s no specific right thing to do when your son comes out, any more than there is a specific right thing to do if he wants to play football and you’re worried about head injuries, or he gets caught shoplifting, or he really really wants to go to Europe for a semester or to join the Young Republicans. It sounds like you’re on the right track. Good luck.

  47. I would recommend protecting the gay son from any homophobic relatives – including cutting off contact with said relatives if they act like arseholes.

    • rmloro said:

      Yeah. And maybe let him know about that? Like, “if anyone is mean to you about this, I’m here and I will fight them for you”. Or, translate that into speaking-to-a-10-year-old, a language that I do not speak. What a good mum you are ❤ I'm happy for your son. Much love x

    • Skada said:

      This.

      It’s always easier to protect yourself from vampires if you never invite them into your house in the first place. If you make a blanket policy of not letting emotional vampires into the mental house where you and your son live, it will be a lot kinder, safer, and calmer for everyone.

      “We don’t see Aunt Patty anymore because she went off on a nasty rant about how (fill in the blank). I don’t need that kind of ugliness in my life. Neither do you. Since she’s not going to stop doing that no matter what, you shouldn’t feel like you have to change who you are.”

  48. Sen said:

    Congratulation to you, LW! For positive gay models, I sadly don’t have any male ones, but Steven Universe’s lead cries, dresses in colours traditionally attributed to female characters, and is a loving character that defy conventional norms. Furthermore, there’s a lot of queer (lesbian-coded for now) characters and there’s no shock nor emphasis upon it; one lesbian pairing is even shown as the very model of romantic, fairy-tale-like love. It’s cute, sweet, and contains lot of advice to deal with stress, self-esteem problems and such. I’d really advise it for a young kid.

    Sadly, the other books I have in mind are too adults for now, but I think positive models for him to identify with, people that are not defined by their sexuality but by their qualities would be pretty cool. Maybe support groups can advise you about that?

  49. Dia said:

    LW, I don’t know if you need to hear any of this, you may know it already and you may already be doing what I recommend at the end. These are just my thoughts, as someone who is a bi adult (and not out to parent).

    Also I haven’t read most of the comments so I apologize if I am repeating.

    LW, my first reaction upon reading your letter is that I am so happy and thankful for your reaction. But the fact that as a queer person I feel this overwhelming gratitude that your son isn’t dealing with a bad reaction to his coming out is because society *doesn’t* fully accept people like us. I want the world to get to a point where coming out in the form it takes today isn’t necessary because being straight/cis isn’t seen as the default.

    One thing that really bothers me (and I’m not saying you’re doing this, it’s just background info) is when parents have said things to or around their children that are homophobic, even in a mild way, and then later on when they find out their child is not straight they are hurt that their child didn’t feel like they could trust them. I’m like, what?! They MADE IT UNSAFE for their child to tell them. They don’t get to feel hurt by their child’s reaction to that unsafeness. They don’t get to make it about them.

    But let’s say that someone doesn’t say hurtful homophobic things. Well, in our society, straight is still the default. Because it is, coming out might STILL be hard. Because we hear horror stories of friends or people we don’t know online and their coming out. Because children know they don’t have power in a parent-child relationship. Because people are killed for this.

    *Because it’s having to correct an assumption our parents have made and we are scared to disappoint them.*

    Please take a look at http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/coming-out-vs-inviting-in/ article entitled ” 4 Reasons Why Expecting LGBTQIA+ People To Come Out Is Problematic (And How Inviting In Is Better) “.

    One of the ways I’d love for you to support your son is to realize that his tears may not really reflect on you, but if you feel they do, or you are questioning that, you need to deal with that on your own/with somebody that isn’t him and don’t put that on him. Asking why he didn’t come to you sooner, or why he didn’t come to you without upsetness, won’t be helpful, I don’t think.

    But yeah, all that being said, I do want to emphasize that the part of the letter where you quoted what you said really hit me in a good way. Whenever I think about coming out to my own mom a reaction like that is so far off the radar. Like she’d still love me, but that’s not enough to make me feel like I can come out to her. We ARE normal and we need to hear that we are normal, so thank you. I think “this is just normal” is a quote I’m going to carry with me and be bolstered by 🙂

  50. Dia said:

    LW, I don’t know if you need to hear any of this, you may know it already and you may already be doing what I recommend at the end. These are just my thoughts, as someone who is a bi adult (and not out to parent).

    Also I haven’t read most of the comments so I apologize if I am repeating.

    LW, my first reaction upon reading your letter is that I am so happy and thankful for your reaction. But the fact that as a queer person I feel this overwhelming gratitude that your son isn’t dealing with a bad reaction to his coming out is because society *doesn’t* fully accept people like us. I want the world to get to a point where coming out in the form it takes today isn’t necessary because being straight/cis isn’t seen as the default.

    One thing that really bothers me (and I’m not saying you’re doing this, it’s just background info) is when parents have said things to or around their children that are homophobic, even in a mild way, and then later on when they find out their child is not straight they are hurt that their child didn’t feel like they could trust them. I’m like, what?! They MADE IT UNSAFE for their child to tell them. They don’t get to feel hurt by their child’s reaction to that unsafeness. They don’t get to make it about them.

    But let’s say that someone doesn’t say hurtful homophobic things. Well, in our society, straight is still the default. Because it is, coming out might STILL be hard. Because we hear horror stories of friends or people we don’t know online and their coming out. Because children know they don’t have power in a parent-child relationship. Because people are killed for this.

    *Because it’s correcting an assumption our parents have made and we are scared to disappoint them.*

    Please take a look at http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/06/coming-out-vs-inviting-in/ article entitled ” 4 Reasons Why Expecting LGBTQIA+ People To Come Out Is Problematic (And How Inviting In Is Better) “.

    One of the ways I’d love for you to support your son is to realize that his tears may not really reflect on you, but if you feel they do, or you are questioning that, you need to deal with that on your own/with somebody that isn’t him and don’t put that on him. Asking why he didn’t come to you sooner, or why he didn’t come to you without upsetness, won’t be helpful, I don’t think.

    But yeah, all that being said, I do want to emphasize that the part of the letter where you quoted what you said really hit me in a good way. Whenever I think about coming out to my own mom a reaction like that is so far off the radar. Like she’d still love me, but that’s not enough to make me feel like I can come out to her. We ARE normal and we need to hear that we are normal, so thank you. I think “this is just normal” is a quote I’m going to carry with me and be bolstered by 🙂

    • LW said:

      Thank you. This is a helpful reminder. He has made comments to the effect he knows most people assume people will date opposite gender and we’ve talked about how that is not true. I try hard to use inclusive language but I’m certain I make mistakes. (I think it is important even for not-gay kids to hear their parents using inclusive language so I hope I can help my kids adopt inclusive language as the norm.) But this is a timely reminder and I will work on. Thanks for the suggestion.

      • Dia said:

        You’re welcome, and oh my gosh you sound like you’re doing an awesome job. 😀

  51. Mx Juliet DOnaghy said:

    It’s a great sign that he was able to come to you! I came out fairly young and I think what would have helped most would be lots of space to talk about it, and some kind of acknowledgement that it was hard and brave to come out.

  52. Clare said:

    Your son is so smart to know, at age ten, that asking another gay person for advice and support is a good way to take care of himself. All my respect for this child!

  53. Tennia said:

    One of the things that really touched me when I came out was that my parents explicitly gave me hugs and said “I love you for who you are and celebrate this” and later that year took me to a gay jewelry shop and bought me an earring organizer. Buying your son something with him that he might love, from an LGBT bookstore for example or a pride stall, would be a great way to explicitly show your support.

    I’d also recommend a) not outing your son at all to anyone ever without his explicit permission, as this can be extremely dangerous for us, and b) addressing others’ homophobia in front of your son, again without outing him. It has a powerful effect when you see your parents firmly and consistently defend you and not let anyone get away with bigotry; it makes you feel very safe.

    Later on, when sex becomes an issue, please make sure he has access to condoms, lube, body-safe sex toys, and some of the great sex ed resources that others have suggested. HPV vaccines and accurate, non-alarmist education about STDs and especially HIV are incredibly important to gay people; even in places with ostensibly good sex ed, often we have literally nothing to go on.

  54. LW! You did wonderfully. I’m glad your son felt comfortable enough to come out to you and I’m glad you’re supporting him.

    I came out to my own parents at about twelve or thirteen – well, no, let me amend that slightly. *My sister*, who up to that point I trusted with secrets I just had to get out but didn’t know who else to tell, outed me to my parents at about twelve or thirteen, not a half hour after I confessed to her in floods of tears that I thought I was bisexual. Thankfully I have got a set of those Super Awesome Parents, people like you, LW, who just sort of shrug and go “good to know, you’ve got our support no matter what” so it all turned out quite well in the end. And I suspect it will turn out just as well for your son. You got this.

    In the years following my outing it’s made me feel very good to have the outspoken and vocal support of my parents (my dad in particular; he’s got quite political in the past few years and is pushing Very Hard for LGBTQ rights in our little racist sort of backwards town.) It really helps that they treat all of this as totally normal – my second coming out, as transgender, was literally just the result of an everyday conversation in the car on the way to the hardware store. We might as well have been discussing the weather for as utterly normal as it was (and is!) A good dose of “yep, this is who you are and that’s how it should be” is really the biggest help of all.

    I do in fact have some extended family who are not cool with this, however. My aunt pretends I don’t exist, my uncle must never know because he’s literally tried to kill people for far lesser offenses, I’m not entirely sure if my brother-in-law (married to my oldest sister, who is the Cool Sister, not the one who outed me) is really accepting of this or if he’s basically just stuck his head in the sand and gone NOPE…but I find this actually doesn’t bother me. Why? *Because* I have the support of the family who’s closest to me. It gives me confidence. It lets me shrug off the bullshit and wtf and other minutiae, since I know that when it comes down to it, I’ve definitely got a rock-solid Team Me who has my back. I’m sure you can be that Team Me for your son, LW, and I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.

    • EEK! Hearing about your uncle makes me terrified for you! I hope you don’t have to spend any time with him ever.

      • I don’t have to, no! Last time I did was at my grandfather’s funeral before I came out as trans and I rather suspect I’ll likely never see him again, which suits me fine.

        To expand a little bit – my female cousin was shot a few years back, some time after the funeral, and is now paralyzed from the waist down. My uncle, goddamn rat bastard that he is, has stolen cousin’s share of her inheritance from grandfather’s will, is very fond of stealing her pain medication (we’re not sure if he’s selling it or taking it himself – he basically lives on a diet of whatever drugs he can get his hands on; at the funeral it was morphine, muscle relaxers, and various kinds of alcohol, all at once) and has literally beaten her brother, my male cousin, RIGHT IN FRONT OF HER with a baseball bat. He’s never been quite right in the head, according to my mum, but in recent years he’s really…just gone even more nuts. I will not get near that crazy with a ten-foot pole, nosirreebob.

        • I’m glad you don’t have to ever see him again. Praise Maude!

  55. Clappie said:

    Just a little blip for LW, the book and movie Paranorman was really cute, tackled “banishing Eeeeviiill” from a different perspective, was IMO enjoyable for adults and ten year olds and had a hunky, dude bro like character who casually mentions he has a boyfriend. Wish I knew of one where the main character fit the bill better.

  56. BarlowGirl said:

    Since this is kind of my thing… DEFINITELY try and get a ton of media featuring queer characters. I’d particularly suggest not just limiting them to “gay boys” because, you know, empathy and stuff, but seeing yourself reflected in media is amazing.

    I do have a caveat, though, and some people might agree – I think you should stick with mostly modern media. Some older stuff can be fine, but I notice that a lot of people recommend things they grew up with, and it’s like… the world has changed in a lot of ways. Reflect that.

    Some cartoons I recommend:
    Steven Universe (amazing show)
    The Loud House is not super my favourite, but the MC’s best friend has two dads and I think kids would like it
    Paranorman has a queer character, although it’s not focused on that

    And like, ALL THE BOOKS. But look up reviews/pre-read so you know they have happy, not-dead/tragic endings.

    I haven’t read most of these yet but I would suggest looking into:

    The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher
    Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee
    Better Nate than Ever by Tim Federle (I’ve heard – not sure on this one especially)
    Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

    Seriously, I’m a book person in general, but my response would just be “all the queer books” XD

    • storyranger said:

      I loved loved loved Parrotfish, if we’re doing queer book recommendations. It’s about a trans kid and probably a little old for the son right now but as someone said upstream, it’s never to early to begin fostering empathy towards other people with different-but-similar experiences.

    • Apparently Dav Pilkey’s books (Captain Underpants in particular) has a family with two dads that’s just treated as no big deal, too.

    • Tafadhali said:

      I was coming down to make some of these same suggestions! Steven Universe is the BEST, and I really liked both Better Nate Than Ever and its sequel.

      Here are a few other good middle grade novels about LGBTQ kids, for any one looking for titles for their own LGBTQ kids (or their not LGBTQ kids, because books are for everyone):

      – “Drama” by Raina Telgemeier (comic book about 8th grade theater — if your kid likes comics, they have probably read hers; this is a bit of a step up in maturity level from her memoirs but not too much)
      – “Lumberjanes” is a totally great all-ages comics series with a very diverse main cast of girl campers!
      – “Totally Joe” by James Howe (part of The Misfits series, all of which are good books about being different and responding to bullying in middle school)
      – “The Lotterys Plus One” by Emma Donoghue (9-year-old main character, very cool nontraditional family with two sets of gay parents)
      – “My Most Excellent Year” by Steve Kluger
      – Of the very few trans middle grade books, I like “Gracefully Grayson” by Ami Polonsky (12-year-old protag) the most, but “George” by Alex Gino is geared younger (9-year-old protag); “Lily and Dunkin” has a nice friendship focus
      – “The Marvels” by Brian Selznick is really, really beautiful and is based on a real gay artist; in terms of other books I’ve loved with queer adult role models (/ coded queer children) there is also “The War That Saved My Life” by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (awesome historical fiction!) and “The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World” by E.L. Konigsburg (also has an artsy bent)

      I may or may not be a secondary school librarian.

  57. Anon said:

    I had a bad parental reaction but I’ve had some other ok and good and mixed responses from friends that have helped me figure out how I like people to respond to me coming out. Ideally I would like to hear that my friends and family support and love me, and are happy to talk about it more or leave it alone as needed. And then it did feel good to have friends not completely avoid the subject forever and treating it as normal (like talking about crushes and dating and sex as normal stuff and future girlfriends instead of future boyfriends in my case, etc. – this all probably doesn’t apply to a young kid yet though – while also not outing me by talking about it in front of strangers or people I haven’t come out to). Well-meaning friends outing me randomly has been a problem a lot and it feels awful. I also agree with other commenters that people acting as if it’s silly to think coming out is a big deal is painful since it definitely is a big deal and the apprehension and fear of it breaking the relationship is real. Also, avoiding heteronormativity can be quite an adjustment but it makes me feel so much less like I’m holding onto some alienating secret.

    LW, I think you did a great job and your replies in the comments and your letter assure me you’ll handle this well and I’m glad you and your son have such a wonderful relationship 🙂
    Also, its important to make it clear that your kid can keep telling you stuff he’s worried about or wants help with, and I think your loving reaction will help with that.

    Also just a reminder to the other commenters – reclaiming “queer” is great and calling yourself queer is great and completely fine, but try not to call other people queer without their permission or without knowing they’re ok with it. It’s a historical slur and people in less liberal areas still often hear it as a slur! (So some people don’t even like hearing about the “queer community” etc and prefer LGBT+). I know many people know that but I haven’t seen that as a comment yet and I’ve seen that word a lot so I thought I’d add that in.

    • flyby said:

      Can I very gently push back against the “Queer is a slur so you shouldn’t use it for people” thing? It’s something that’s grown up in the last couple of years, and it can be directly traced back to certain groups of people who want to stop the queer community from being inclusive. To put it plainly, TERFs and other bigoted radfems dislike the word queer *because* it’s inclusive, and they realised that Tumblr is full of well meaning young people who believe what they’re told and aren’t very aware of queer history.

      Queer has been the accepted umbrella term for decades (see eg queer studies departments in universities) and it’s no more of a slur than “gay” is.

      • Emmers said:

        The parallel to “gay” seems apropos here. That’s a slur too, in some parts of the country, but that’s not a reason to not use it.

        Reminds me of how someone once told my Jewish friend that she shouldn’t use the noun “Jew” when talking about herself. Wut.

  58. Allya said:

    When I was going through high school and figuring out my sexuality, one thing that made a WORLD of difference to me was that many of my friends were lgbt+. Having support and connections from within your community is a huge thing, and having peers who really get you and the things you’re going through is so important. I’m still friends with most of those people now – they’re my found family and I love them to death.

    With that in mind, I cannot recommend this highly enough: don’t just get involved in organisations like PFLAG yourself, find an organisation or group where your son can meet people his own age who are like him. You can be the absolute best and most supportive mother in the world (it sounds like you’re on the right path!) but you can’t be his whole support network, and helping him build one that includes friends who know what he’s going through will help immensely now and into the future.

  59. A friend of mine came out to his very conservative parents. He’s really not too good with words, and so after sitting them down and staring at their expectant faces for about twenty seconds, he simply blurted “I’m gay.” His father’s mouth pursed up and his face turned beet red. His mother immediately turned to her husband and shook a finger in his face. “Don’t. Don’t you dare,” she told him. But his father could not stop himself and blurted in return, “HI GAY, I’M DAD.”

    • I expect that’s pretty much what I’ll do.

    • Sibley said:

      OMG, I’m laughing so hard at that. Glad it wasn’t something like get out of the house though.

    • Lirael said:

      THIS IS MY FAVORITE STORY

  60. Rebecca said:

    Lesbian here. LW, I love how you responded to your son. I notice that he was afraid you’d be disappointed, and even though you handled that so perfectly, the fact remains that he lives in a queerphobic, toxic masculinity stew of a society, and he’s clearly already internalized some of that. We all do.

    The thing about being queer is that you don’t come out once, which is sort of how straight people imagine it. You come out to your mom. And one friend. And maybe your sister. And then every new friend you make for the rest of your life. And your new teachers or coworkers, etc. For some, the way they present themselves might make them visibly queer, and presentation is a choice many of us make on a daily basis. How queer do we want to look, if we have any choice about it? (I have a big ol’ rainbow tattoo on my forearm, a very short butch haircut, and lots of flannel shirts!)

    How quickly and casually one comes out changes over time, but regardless, you are the first of countless people he will tell.

    He’s going to face discrimination, and plain old awkward interactions when coming out, and may need help responding to both of those. So I guess my suggestion (other than keep being an awesome parent) is to be mindful that this is an ongoing process for him, and continue the conversation about whether he’s gay/bi etc., since he’s not 100% sure about his orientation yet, and support him with the daily, terrifying, absolutely thrilling process of settling into one’s true identity.

  61. Joanna said:

    Considering all the horrible news in the world today, this was lovely to read! I love stories like this.

    I don’t have kids or any advice but to say LW you are awesome!!!

  62. hooray!!

    The Philadelphia Trans Health Conference has a track called “Kids Camp” and several workshops for parents and family of trans folks!

    September 7-9, 2017

  63. Fish said:

    I’m also queer.

    Like any other growing up thing, sometimes kids need support, and other times they need space. Whatever concrete things you can think of to support him, ask and offer, rather than force it upon him. Sometimes people have phases where they need EVERYONE to know about some identity related thing. Other times there are phases where they need that part of their identity minimised, so that they’re not just a single attribute person. For me, if someone could have saw those phases and swung with them, it would have been a huge help. I imagine the only way to do so is ask and say what you are comfortable offering for any given phase.

  64. As a queer person whose mother reacted to my queerness by crying “because of the life I’d chosen to live”, this story gives me a lot of hope. I don’t really have anything to add the the Captain’s advice beyond seconding the PFFLAG recommendation. They do really good work!

  65. Los said:

    One more bit of advice from a queer child of well-intentioned parents: don’t necessarily assume that your son wants to tell anyone, and let him know that it’s fine if he doesn’t tell anyone else at this point. I love my parents dearly, and in an effort to do right by me they told neighbors, coworkers, friends, extended family members, etc., that “we stand by our gay daughter in refusing to tolerate [assorted casual heterosexism]” which had the unintended consequence that there were a bunch of people for whom literally THE FIRST THING they learned about me was that I was gay. SO uncomfortable. Obviously there was no stuffing most of the cats back into that particular bag, but I had to sit my parents down and have a talk about the fact that a) I’m a pretty private person and prefer strangers not to know anything about me, and b) I consider my sexuality to be item 70-something on the list of Things That Make Me Who I Am, so wow do I not want to start right out the gate with that news.

    I think that the Pride movement in general (while awesome) can also have this accidental consequence where some people feel pressured to come out, and to come out to absolutely everyone. So I’d say there’s no harm in emphasizing that this is one of those things (like, say, one’s favorite Power Ranger or one’s current sock color) that can be shared with other people or not depending on how he feels about sharing.

    • Vicki said:

      Yes. Coming out can be stressful or even risky, and is still often a political act, and it’s up to the individual whether and when they want to do that. It’s okay for LW’s son to be out to her but not (or not yet) to other relatives, or to some trusted adults but not others. I think LW knows this, given that her letter says he came out to her by handing her a note while crying, but it’s worth reiterating that (speaking as a queer daughter of parents who I do think were well-intentioned even at the time).

  66. Jane said:

    Reading this letter and all the responses is such an emotional experience for me, 23 years after coming out. Thanks LW for supporting your kid, and thanks to all the commenters for such compassionate advice.

  67. Solo said:

    I love so much of this. ❤

    One more thing on representation: please, please, please make sure that as you're picking media for representation, you also keep an eye out for racial justice. There are aspects of modern (adult) gay male culture that can be incredibly toxic from the lens of racial justice. Unfortunately, there are also a number of prominent white gay men who are extremely racist (especially wrt Islamophobia and anti-blackness). Especially if you're white (and might not already be thinking about this), please be prepared to have discussions with your son about race–preferably ongoing.

    • roramich said:

      thank you!

    • bat lord said:

      Ooh, yes. Great catch, Solo.

  68. postscript said:

    My almost-10-year-old son has been gradually floating the concept to us (and maybe also to himself) that he might be gay. He and I have both really enjoyed “Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsburg. This is fun for adults too because the protagonist pokes gentle fun at his over-the-top-supportive “I love my gay son” parents. I also loved “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell, which he’s reading now, which has a protagonist in a world that’s a little more like Harry Potter. Both are pretty white and cisgender. These are definitely YA territory but no super-explicit sex.

  69. slythwolf said:

    When I came out to my mom in my early 20s, she told me she didn’t care the gender of the person whose hand I was holding, she just wanted me to be happy.

  70. Congratulations, LW and especially LW’s son! I only recently realized that I’m a lesbian (or, to be more precise, bi-heavily-leaning-lesbian), and the second person I came out to… well. He never questioned it, but his reactions were all about *him*. (In the circumstances, fair enough, but don’t come to me to process your feelings about me, maybe?)

    I hope that LW’s son has a life filled with love and happiness, however that looks to him.

  71. L said:

    I just wanted to say that your nonchalant reaction was definitely the best route. My very queer group of friends joke about the whole “I love you no matter what” or “I just want you to be happy” thing because it implies that being queer is a reason to not be loved or a reason you won’t be happy. We actually all tend to come out in a casual way by acting as though it’s common knowledge and making puns or joking about it because it normalises it and often stops us having to answer questions or educate people about it. (I actually have a personal rule to never come out to someone who needs me to explain my gender or sexuality first.)

    As for advice, I agree with most of the others here: educate yourself, let him choose who he’s out to, and if he wants friends and contacts in the community, help him find those.

  72. Just wanted to say that LW is great and the commenters are great and this whole thread made me smile.

  73. Sarah Jenkinson said:

    This may be offensive coming from a someone who has no (real) idea what is means to be anything other than hetero. If it comes across that way, I’m sorry, it’s not my intention at all …

    I look forward to the day when there is no such thing as “coming out.” I look forward to the day when sexuality labels and identifiers (self-applied or not) are unnecessary. People are people and are worth caring about for who they are and what they do, and though sexuality -in all its forms- is a *part* of of a person, it’s really only a small part. It seems to me that it plays a bigger role than it needs to because of the societal climate we live in, and I think a lot of really good energy is being used up for something that should just … be.

    When some news item breaks about so-and-so being gay, my instant reaction is “Yeah, so?” Gender issues are obviously more complicated, but I can’t see why it needs to be a hugely bigger deal than someone getting a boob job, or facial reconstruction, or hair implants. One is refining the hand that Nature dealt one, and it’s really nobody else’s business.

    In the meantime, this hetero cis-woman is cheering for all of you who have written in. You are good people, and the world needs a lot more of you!

    • Emily said:

      Hey, I am sure that you meant well with this comment, but in the spirit of Pride month, I should tell you that it is, in fact, kind of offensive to have a hetero person tell me that my identity is “really only a small part” of who I am, or that my sexuality isn’t who I am or what I do! You can have feelings about “coming out,” and I certainly wish it were less expected and our society were less heteronormative, but that’s entirely different than saying that you wish that my identifier, a big part of my identity, was “unnecessary.” I know that you mean well, but it does come off as uninformed, and a comment space filled with queer people discussing the importance of their queerness and how it affected their relationships is maybe not the best place for this comment!

      Also, I’m not trans, but I would definitely, definitely not recommend comparing any type of gender confirmation surgery, or any trans behavior, to getting a boob job. It trivializes something extremely important in a way that does not feel right.

      I hope I’m not being too harsh — I know you mean well! But just as I would be annoyed if someone told me they wished we lived in a world where Judaism wasn’t considered important, because it’s an important part of my identity, my sexuality is too and I don’t want that to be wished away.

    • bat lord said:

      I appreciate that you mean well and want to be supportive, but you were right, and this does come across as offensive.

      Plenty of heterosexual, cisgender people wish that queer & trans people like myself would just go away and return to the closet permanently. So when you, a cis, straight woman, say that you look “look forward to the day when there is no such thing as “coming out,”” or suggest that our energy is being wasted on coming out, it has a really negative connotation. What you are saying has been tainted by the people who want me to shut up and go away and cease existing.

      I don’t know how to say this politely, also, but your opinion on coming out is irrelevant and unwelcome. Like Emily said, you’re allowed to have feelings about it, but this is really not the time or place to share them. You haven’t experienced living in the closet–you don’t know how soul-crushing it gets to constantly fake a major aspect of your identity to the world. You don’t know the joy and relief of being seen and loved for who you are for the first time (or the second, or the third, or any of the thousands of times that we make the choice to come out to someone new). I realize that you’re trying to comment more on the state of society than on our individual choices as queer and trans people, but it is obscene to hear you suggest that coming out is in any way unnecessary.

      • JenniferP said:

        Agreed, I’m sorry that this particular version of “I don’t really see gender/sexual identity” made it through moderation.

  74. Velma said:

    As a formally queer kid (now queer adult), please don’t suggest therapy unless they are struggling or ask for help. If your child is struggling you can ask them what kind of help they need or want… Do you want to read these queer books? What if we both read the books and talked about them afterwards? What gay friend Bob and hung out and talked? A support or social group for queer kids? Do you want to talk to a counsellor who is queer friendly and will support you as YOU figure this out? There are so many options and if it’s positioned as one option of many, is a choice for the queer kiddo, AND clearly specified the counsellor is queer positive it will take the sting out of it.

    But unless kiddo says they’re struggling or want help, the mom can just be a queer positive mom and answer whatever needs are expressed. If the kid knows they’re supported, they may not need anything else at the moment.

    I had a great experience at a support group for queer youth (this was in a small city, in the 90s!) so just meeting people who don’t make you feel alone or freaky could be enough unless new issues present themselves.

  75. Your son’s only 10, but he’s already very aware of the social stigma of being gay, from what you’ve said. It’s worth being extra watchful for a while to see if there’s anyone in his life (family, close friends, teachers) who is reinforcing this. It’s entirely possible that he’s only picked up on it from media and other ambient sources, but I’d be a bit watchdog about it.

  76. Dear LW, it’s good that you want to support your precious child. Please remember, however, that he is young – probably prepubescent – and the best way to support him is to let him know that you quietly accept him as he goes about his journey of growing up, which could take him in any direction; ‘I think I might be gay’ does not mean he will necessarily feel the same in a few years time – he might, but he might not. I think it’s so important not to railroad children into any one path or identity when we are all constantly evolving beings. As a warning against the parent who makes their child’s (possible) sexuality into their own cause see Katherine Tate’s ‘My John’ clips on Youtube for a comic, but still pertinent take. And I say this as a mother who has had this experience with a son who many years later fell hard for…a woman. That was a curveball. I’m just thrilled that he’s found somebody he is so compatible with and remind myself that my internal identity as ‘mother of a gay son’ was always an illusion: I was only ever the mother of a son.

  77. Anonymous Queer Lady said:

    Hey LW, I just wanted to tell you how great you are. It honestly made me tear up to read how you responded to your child, and that even doing that awesome you didn’t pat yourself on the back and call it a day but kept looking for resources and advice. I’m well into adulthood and don’t think I could’ve heard anything like your answer from my parents when I was a kid or now, so thank you for being awesome and hopefully setting an example for other parents of LGBTQ kids out there. All the <3s.

  78. Modern Culture said:

    When I came out as lesbian, my mom was awful, my dad had Alzheimer’s but my brother said, “I love you, and anyone you love is welcome in my home.”

  79. The one thing I’d be concerned about is that a kid that young might not know his own mind for sure. Not that I’m ever likely to be a parent. But if I were, or if I were an uncle of such a kid, I’d say, “Hey, you’re still growing up, and it’s okay not to be sure about things like that yet. If you’re gay, that’s fine. If you decide you’re not, or you’re something else, that’s fine too. I’ll still love you no matter what you turn out to be, and please tell me if there’s anything you need from me to support you while you work on finding that out.”

    • JenniferP said:

      This is probably not what you intend, but when a person works themselves up to say “I think I’m gay” to a parent, howabout we just believe them? And if later, their identity shifts to something else, we just believe them about that, too? Saying “It’s okay not to be sure about things like that right now” to a child who just did a brave thing comes across as denying what he told you.

%d bloggers like this: