Briefly describe how your child first came out to you and your initial reactions.
I am the overly trusting parent and my husband is opposite. God took me out of the picture that day, taking care of my widowed mom post-surgery. My husband was suspicious of our then 17-year-old son’s behavior and just told our son to give him his phone. My husband read only one or two texts, but it was enough to to know. He handed it back, and asked my son what he needed to tell him. Our precious son dropped to the floor, crying, and said “Dad, I’m gay. Please don’t make me move out. I like my family, I like living here. Please don’t kick me out.” My strong husband sat on the floor with him, crying, and told him he still loved him and would never kick him out. That he wouldn’t keep the secret from me, as our son asked, but it would be ok.
When I came home a couple of days later, my husband told me. And I agree with him, was heart broken that our child would think we would kick him out, and was full of SO much fear of what was going to happen next. When I first spoke to my son to reassure him I agreed with what his dad had said, our boy was uncharacteristically defensive and had already built a wall between us. We were so afraid we had already lost him.
What concerns did you experience over the first weeks or months? How did you deal with them?
Our son had come out of his closet — to us — but we had now gone into one of our own. We couldn’t tell anyone, out of respect to our son’s privacy, and really wouldn’t know who to turn to anyway. We felt completed isolated and alone. Terrified. Terrified initially for our son’s soul, as well as what this meant for our family. We grieved what we had lost — not our son, but our expectations for his life.
I turned wholeheartedly to God. I started in my NIV bible, but saw only the same things I had always seen, and felt hopeless. I didn’t know how else to study, how else to see it differently, as badly as I wanted to. I buried myself in God — did everything I could to ensure God would listen to my prayers and make my son straight again. I prayed constantly … often spent hours during the night, sleepless and beseeching God. I started listening to Christian music — my soul craved the solace it provided me. My husband reacted in silence. He didn’t really want to talk about it, not even with me. He was already angry at God over the death of his dad, and this pushed him to the point of being ready to give up on God. We lived in a terrifying bubble of silence.
Has your child come out to other family members over time? What was their reaction?
Yes. We kept our silence for over a year. Slowly we let a few people in, including our daughter. She reacted as we had, but with extra anger for having been kept out of the family for the months we kept our secret. My husband and I actually told our family members, in an attempt to shield our son from what we were afraid would be harsh reactions. We were wrong.
every family member we told reacted similarly at first, expressing love for our son and support for us, yet fear at what this meant. They all believed it to be sin, but loved our son regardless. One uncle has since cut our nuclear family out of his nuclear family’s lives, banning our son from his kids.
What is the hardest thing about knowing their LGBTQ identity?
The hardest thing is the constant risk of losing our community. Our church family. Our church is loving, but non-affirming. Right now they are all supportive of our son, but as we have studied culture and translations and have become affirming ourselves, that it getting harder and harder. Harder to hear how they love our son, and his sin is no different than any other sin. Hard because we no longer believe it to be sin.
What are some challenges have you faced concerning your LGBTQ child? How did you deal with these?
Initially we had trust issues in our family, as he had been in secret relationships for a while, and it took us some time to regain that trust back. When he went to college, we were torn as to what to do about a roommate — did we want him to have a straight (potentially unaccepting) male? A gay (potential love interest) male? Female?
Most recently, we deal with the issue of his social media posts, and the discussion of him being open v. having discretion in order to try to continue to influence others. It’s on-going — not sure still what the answer is.
Parenting has never been easy, but Christian parenting an LGBT kid truly has no guidebook, so the only thing we can do is pray, go where God leads us, and take each new challenge one at a time.
What is the best thing about knowing your child's LGBTQ identity?
Our family has developed a closeness that is amazing. We have closed ranks and formed a team. It’s beautiful. We also have gained a new relationship with our God that is closer than ever. My husband, too. We have adopted a group of Christian LGBT students from a local Christian university and have been blessed by those relationships. God has used us to be there for other parents, and to make sure they don’t feel the loneliness we felt initially.
Knowing what you know today, would you want your child to “stay in the closet”? Why?
No. We have seen the self-destruction that causes. Plus we love everything about our son. Everything.
What would you say to other parents learning the LGBTQ identity of their child?
LGBT doesn’t define your child. He/she is still the same kid as always, you just know them better. Also, your role as parent hasn’t changed — you are still to love your child unconditionally, do what you can to help them develop a personal relationship with God, and the rest (as always) is up to your child and God. You aren’t alone.
What would you say to youth coming out to their families?
Be patient. It took you a long time to figure out who you are and come to terms with it. Give your parents the grace to react, grow and figure it out themselves.
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