Friday, May 31, 2013

Teenagers and Sexuality, Part 2

(continued from previous post)
If they do turn out to be gay-

1) Let them know that you still love them. A good friend in high school has a father who is a Methodist minister. When he came out, he was worried that his father might reject him for 'religious reasons'. Given the way some homosexuals have been treated by Christians, this is a very valid concern. His father, however, had a completely different reaction. He told my friend that none of that mattered; my friend was his son, and he loved him. Period. I don't think he had 'objections' but, even if he had, his son was more important to him. It is very important that you let your child know that there isn't anything they could do that would make you not love them and want them in your life.

2) Keep any 'objections' to yourself, and have other family members do the same. If what my brother told me is any indication, many gay teenagers have enough negative thoughts going through their heads; they don't need to hear them from their family too.

3) Be willing to toss aside any preconceived notions you may have. It's very easy to hold to stereotypes and political ideologies about something when it's all 'academic' to you. When an 'issue' gains a face, however, many people are forced to change the way they think of some things. They then realize that stereotypes aren't always true to life and that human relationships are a lot more nuanced than the movies make them seem. This isn't a movie or a political issue, though; this is your child. I'm not trying to beat anyone over the head so much as to to point out that, however informed or 'worldly-wise' we may be, we can still be wrong about some things and that the people in our lives are much more important than 'being right'. You probably already know this, but I've known a lot of people who don't.

4) Don't take it personally. More and more studies are showing that sexual orientation isn't something a person chooses. It's not something a person 'does', it's something a person is. I know many people disagree with this, but there we have it. Unlike what one friend's parents thought, she wasn't 'doing this' to get back at them for anything. In another's case, his parents wondered if they weren't 'good enough' or 'did something wrong'. Neither is true. While our upbringing does shape a lot of things in our lives, this isn't true across the board. Some things are out of our hands. If what the (unbiased) studies I mention above are true, sexual orientation is one of them.

There's no doubt that having a child tell you he or she is gay can be jarring. It's certainly not a conversation a lot of parents expect to have. However, it's vital that our children know that we love them no matter what.

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