My stepson is 14 years old and has told us that he is gay. I don't feel any differently about him, I have been a part of his life since he was 3 years old and I love him as if he were my biological son. I am a little confused as to how to handle a couple of different situations though.
First, his mother feels that we should immediately get him into therapy. She feels that he is just saying he is gay because it is the "cool" thing to do. I don't agree. He has lived with his father and I for almost 7 years now and I think I have suspected he was gay for a little over a year now. What are your thoughts on this subject?
Second, he spends a lot of time on the computer and it has come to my attention that he is chatting a lot on gay web sites and giving out personal information, including his phone number. I have always felt very strongly against any of our kids being in chat rooms. I think I have been a little lenient with him because he needed some other kids his age to talk to that he could identify with. However, it concerns me because of safety issues, and he is lying to me about it. What advice could you give me on this issue?
Dear Step mom:
As you already know, homosexuality is not an illness (mental or physical)- which was confirmed, much too late, by the American Psychological Association in 1973. However, it's not mental competence most parents are worried about when their little ones disclose their sexuality. Many parents enter a state of denial when they find out their son or daughter is gay. Some parents will look for any excuse why their kid isn't straight- they wonder if they babied them too much; if friends or family or some event made them gay; or if it's just a phase or fad like your stepson's mom suspects. Most of the time this denial (which may later develop into anger before acceptance sinks in) has more to do with the loss of the parent's ideals and dreams (grandkids, bridezilla weddings, bragging rights) than the actual happiness of the child.
Reserving a space for little Johnnie in the therapist chair is a desperate attempt to "cure" what some parents believe caused their kids homosexuality. This skewed perspective gets played out in many scenarios. As lesbian Jackie Warner of Bravo's reality show Workout explains, "My mom would rather see me lonely and miserable than in a homosexual relationship."
I suspect by this correspondence that you already realize therapy is not the answer to cure or fix your son's sexuality. I am a fan of therapy only if it's purpose is to help him better adjust to a gay lifestyle and formulate a productive gay future- not to reverse the irreversible.
On point two, the Net is a blessing and a curse for parents of gay teens. Yes, teens now have access to information at a young age to the envy of many adults who grew up in a bubble. However, on the flip side, chat sites can be a breeding ground for predators and dangerous misinformation.
I'm happy to hear that you care enough about your 14 year old to understand that he does need peers and positive role models. Since this is the age of the Net, I suggest complimenting his exposure to gay life with a safer option. One alternative is your local glbt community center. They sponsor many safe and positive programs (including socials, group meeting and volunteer programs) for gay teens. Many gay teens hang out at these centers as well. Here, he can relate to kids his age in a safer environment. Also, join your local PFLAG chapter- where you can commune with other parents and friends of gays. Lil' Johnnie may also find friends there. One last suggestion (and yes, a shameless plug), the Gay Life forum is frequented by many gay teens. For that reason, among others, the posts are monitored very carefully. In just a short time, a community of gay teens has develop, where they assist each other with their problems. There are also many responsible adults that provide constructive advice.
My heart goes out to you as a mother who puts love above all else. Your positive example will continue to shape your son's life. There are many dangerous things in our world today and we all have good hopes for our loved ones within it. Your son will one day thank you for helping him shape his own values instead of being forced to conform to someone else's ideals. Keep the lines of communication open with your son and become the example and support system he needs. Be honest about your worries and the potential dangers of life (gay or not, both you and your teen should discuss the joys and perils of sex and relationships). Be firm about your expectations and continue to be open with your love.
Yours in Gayness,