I am sure my son is looking for sex with gay men. He is only 17. He is meeting strangers, who are much older than him. I read his emails sometimes when he is not around. I definitely disapprove of this activity at such a young age. -S.
Conversations About Sex
I started exploring my sexuality around your son's age. I understood my physical attractions for men, but not the emotional bonds or the complexities of sexual relationships. There were no conversations about sex in my home, so I was left to my own devices and explored without guidance.
I understood the basics of safety, such as condom use; but knew little about anything else. I would search for information where I could find it. My home, however, was not an option because, to me, the silence surrounding sex meant it was somehow forbidden or inappropriate. I was confused enough. I didn't need to be reprimanded for exploring my curiosities.
This is where you come in as a mom. Few teens want to talk to their parents about sex, but that doesn't mean they're not looking for guidance. In order to open dialogue, there must be trust. He has to know that you'll be open to the conversation, which is an opportunity for you to talk about the appropriateness of sex as he begins to explore.
I understand the temptation to read his emails. Obviously his safety is of great concern. But, doing so disrupts his privacy and breaks any trust that's already built.
I'd log off of his account and forget his password. Instead, build trust by showing your concern face-to-face. I wouldn't bring up his sexual relationships with older men right away. As a mom, you know better than I that the quickest way to get a teen to shut down is through accusation. Opt for conversation instead. I'd start with the basics of sex, what it really means, how it can empower and disrupt, and how he can be as responsible as possible.
Open conversations by being affirmative. My most fruitful conversations with my mom were had when she became my mentor and guide as opposed to an authority figure. Be direct, but humanize the situation and let him see you as a person who once explored their sexuality, went on first dates, had relationships and met men that were both good and bad for you. Tell him what worked and what didn't and how some actions led to others.
Sexuality aside, a man is a man and you have experiences that you can share with him. Help him make the best decisions possible and leave a door open for him to come to you at times when things don't go as expected.
Also, understand that he may not come around right away. I've learned after many years mentoring LGBT kids that just because they're not talking doesn't mean they're not listening. So, be proactive and create a safe space for him to get the support he needs at home.
Many parents of gay kids have found guidance, support and advice in the Gay Life forum and PFLAG (Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) has local chapters that provide support services for parents with LGBT kids. I also recommend the personal accounts of Deborah Hawkins at Is Your Child Gay? for additional tips from the perspective of a mother with a gay son.