Jennifer DuBose, M.S.,
C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private
practice in Batavia and writes a monthly column for Chicago
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What if your child says he's gay? How will you
respond? The recent heartbreaking headlines about gay teens who
have committed suicide in response to senseless bullying has
rattled a lot of parents. You cannot insulate your child from every
homophobic taunt, but you can choose how you would respond to your
child's coming out.
Think it's too early to worry about this stuff? Think
again. Children as young as 9 can experience 'crushes' and feelings
of physical attraction. Gay and lesbian children raised in
intolerant homes may try to deny these feelings to avoid rejection.
But denial can lead to depression, risky behaviors and even
Suicide is the third leading cause of death during
adolescence, and gay teens are four times more likely than straight
teens to attempt suicide. But when a child's family rejects him,
the odds of that child attempting suicide soar, to nine times
What's a parent to do?
Whether or not you suspect your child is gay, foster an
accepting atmosphere. Casually comment on a gay relative, friend or
celebrity in a positive way. Don't laugh at gay jokes or use
demeaning language. When the subject of gay rights comes up,
express your support.
But what if you believe that being gay is a
Most scientists, doctors and mental health professionals
agree that people are born gay, that it is as natural as
heterosexuality. Nothing you did or will do has any bearing on
whether or not your child is gay. Whether you agree with this or
not, though, isn't really the issue. The question is, are you
willing to love and support your child?
When asked what it is that gay children most wish their
parents understood, one gay man I know said it best. "They aren't
sick, they aren't weird, they aren't bad and they aren't a
disappointment. They are still the same exact people they were
before they came out." What's different is your perception.
Remember: A child's sexual orientation is just one part of who he
is. Your child who loves soccer and Aerosmith is still the same kid
you've loved since birth. Reassure him of your unconditional love
by continuing to connect as you did before you knew he was
It's OK to be scared and to say so. "I love you. It's only
natural that I want to shelter you from any hurt, but no matter
what, I'm with you."
Jennifer DuBose, M.S., C.A.S., is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Batavia.
See more of Jennifer's stories here.
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