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What does it feel like to find out that your son is gay?
So my 19-year-old son told me he is gay last night. It wasn’t face-to-face. It wasn’t on the phone. It wasn’t by text message. It wasn’t on Facebook chat. It was through the chat on Words with Friends (Scrabble), which is an iPhone game. It was perfect for us, because we both love playing online video games.
He had been trying to see my wife and me to talk in person for some time — it isn’t easy living on opposite sides of the city and with our attention almost always on our 3 young children. So when I asked him about a Facebook post that seemed odd, he took the opportunity let me know.
It was a surprise, but not at all inconceivable. I hadn’t seen him with a girlfriend. He’s a kind, intelligent and good-looking guy. He doesn’t “act gay,” but it’s not a huge leap to imagine him being gay.
But it still put me into shock. I felt dislocated. Like my body was 2 feet to the right. It felt like being very slightly winded.
My first reaction was to say things like:
- “I’m proud of you”
- “I love you”
- “I only want to be closer to you”
Then I started to feel guilty. My basis for that thought was the view that many neurological/psychological characteristics are established in infancy. So my failings as a father, husband and human when my son was small must have contributed to this outcome.
Later I read in Psychology Today that self-blame is one of the typical reactions.
I think it’s important for parents to know this kind of news takes time to process.
Talking with other men produced the support I needed to digest my anxiety. I feel fortunate that a great friend happened to come over for lunch today and we talked about it at length.
I was struggling to think straight because it is so close to me. If you had asked me last week about the same situation but involving someone else’s kid, I’m sure I could have been supportive. But today I really needed one or 2 men to say simple things like:
- “It doesn’t change who he is.”
- “Don’t get stuck on thinking about the mechanics of gay sex. How much do you think about your neighbours having sex? Is it nice to imagine in detail what they like to do to each other? It’s like that.”
- “So one day you meet his partner. Do you want your kid to be happy? That partner is the person that makes them happy.”
I am not done processing, but I am far more settled than I was just 12 hours ago. I think it’s important for parents to know this kind of news takes time to process. Of course my son, who is studying psychology at university, knows that and he told me to take time, sleep on it, etc. Compared to me he’s been as serene as the Buddha. I apologized for making it about me.
This whole thing makes me feel stupid too, even child-like. Because I’m obviously the person who is going to have trouble understanding that he’s gay. My response is another thing that makes me feel bad.
So since I know this is a fact — a situation that I am going to have to evolve to fit in with — I know struggling will just make it take longer and be more painful. For now, I’m just going to relax with it and give it time to sink it. Nothing has really changed — he’s still beating me at Scrabble. There’s no sequined blimp floating over the house. It’s kind of anti-climactic.
I feel maybe one inch out of my body now.
Something I’m grateful for is how my thinking about LGBT people has really developed in the time I’ve been active online. I’ve listened to people like Dan Holliday and Erica Friedman and Ariel Williams and many others and learned a lot. These interactions with the online community are helping me in a real and powerful way.
David Urquhart lives in Australia with his wife and kids, and enjoys writing about Australian culture, plans, and parenting. Read more from Quora here:
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