This article aims to explain to the parents of gay children how their behavior is perceived by sons, so parents can get an idea of what to do and what not to do with a gay child.
When a guy is 14/15 y. o., and sometimes even before, he begins to have his own sex life, he discovers masturbation and, in the twenty-first century, inevitably, begins to make use of online pornography.
Simultaneously with the beginning of sexual activity, the boy feels two different needs, first and foremost the need for privacy, that is to have a reserved area and private times in which he is sure not to be disturbed, just to discover the sexuality, and the need to find reliable information regarding sexuality, that will provide him answers without putting him in embarrassing situations. For a guy who has just started masturbating, activity absolutely natural and necessary for the development of his sexuality, there is nothing more humiliating than to be surprised by the parents while masturbating or, worse, than the parents make him understand that they know what he does. When a boy grows, a parent must understand that it is absolutely inevitable that the boy has a “very private” sex life in which “no one” has the right to enter and “for no reason.” The first rule for a parent is to avoid the intrusiveness into the sexual life of the son and just keep a role as a “merely possible” point of reference for the son. A parent should not ask questions to his son concerning his sexuality; parents must not even embarrass him. And here, in the case of boys, fathers rather than mothers play a fundamental role. A mother does not know in deeply the development of male sexuality because she has not lived it directly and for a guy to talk about his sexuality with a person of the opposite sex, especially whit his mother, can be very embarrassing because the speech should be explicit. A father, if he thinks it makes sense to mention masturbation with his son, should not start from the son’s sexuality but from his own, pointing to the speech as a matter of course, that is not a taboo and accompanying the starting dialog (which must remain only a nod if the child does not continue the conversation) with a winking joke or a smile of relief. I reproduce below a fragment of dialogue between a father 45 y. o. and a 15 y. o. son.
Occasion: father and son have just seen a television service about the approaches to sexuality by the very young guys.
Father: Anyway, they are surprised so much that 14/15 y. o. boys know what is sex, when I was a kid, maybe did not have relationships like these guys today but, I mean, oh… in the end, well, it’s not mandatory to be two … (looks at his son smiling) … what have you got to laugh? … Wow yes, even I did such things … well I’m not a Martian!
End of discussion.
This fragment is a non-invasive approach that plays down and does not create embarrassment but almost a form of complicity. I note that in the phrase of the father there is no reference to sexual orientation (no mention of girls, which for a gay child might create alarm and embarrassment).
The approach to the sexuality of a child by the mother is much more problematic, especially if the boy is gay. If a guy “explicitly” wants to talk to her mother about sexuality “without involving the father,” the mother’s task isn’t to investigate and understand but to listen carefully and not anxiously to give the son a safety avoiding involving him in her own anxiety. When a mother does not know what to say to her son, or is in embarrassment, she can meanwhile calm him in a very simple way: when the talking about sexuality is over, the mother is not expected to resume it, which would be a sign of anxiety destabilizing, as to underline that there is a “problem” to solve, but must continue her relationship with his son as if nothing had happened, this to give sexuality a dimension of naturalness and normality that should always be the rule.
A particularly delicate situation is created when a teenage boy lives objectively a problematic approach to sexuality. These are typically situations where the parents come in anxiety states associated with the discomfort of their son. A parent who sees the discomfort of the child must wonder whether it is more important to relieve the state of distress of the child or “to know” how things are to be able to “help” the child. I state that, despite appearances, these situations are often irreconcilable. To help a child to overcome states of discomfort it is often necessary to understand that it’s better “not to know” the life of the son, in the concrete. If your son wants to talk to you about sexuality, he does spontaneously, if he does not, you have not to force him anyway. You can stay with him through the normal family caring: accompanying him by his friends without asking too many questions, leaving dinner ready when he comes back later, welcoming him with a smile. A parent cannot claim to help a son if the son does not involve him, because a guy is entitled to his privacy. A constant and loving presence that does not address sexual issues it’s much more important than a nagging presence that seeks to “know” and “understand” the way things are, because this behavior may lead to a total loss of communication with the son and to a behavior of reactive and radical separation from family.
If a parent has concerns about sexual orientation of his child, he must avoid to harass him and must instead reassure him avoiding to involve him in a bothering and embarrassing direct speech but through indirect hints of respect for the gay guys, hints that should not even be too insistent, because otherwise would sound false. The son understands perfectly if parents have a real respect for gay people or they pretend to have, so the most important thing for a parent is not to destabilize affectively his/her gay son, to obtain this result one must first be able to respect an show respect towards homosexuality. The parent should first questioning himself and his own preconceptions and only then should think that they can talk about these things with the child.
It is always good to take care of their sons in the first person, without delegating key tasks to anyone; nevertheless sometimes it happens that a parent, seeing the difficult situation of the son, addresses him to a psychologist who could provide support. A delicate point needs to be clarified: the relationship between a psychologist and his patient must be absolutely “confidential” that is “strictly personal”, a serious professional, even in a relationship with a minor patient, has the obligation of professional secrecy. Unfortunately, this requirement is not always respected and sometimes psychologists “in the interest of the boy” or better in the purported interest of the boy but objectively under direct or indirect pressure from parents, get to communicate to parents the homosexuality of their son “without his knowledge” breaking in a manner so violent the relationship of trust that could be very important for the boy. Such incorrect behaviors produce devastating effects for the boy who feels betrayed in a dimension that should be absolutely confidential. In this way, the psychologist, carefully chosen by the parents, becomes a spy for the parents, something that shows no respect for the boy, but only the will “to know at any cost” by the parents, violating the privacy of the son. I note that the relationship of a boy with a psychologist must remain absolutely confidential. Parents should not choose the psychologist and should never have to go to his studio before talks with the boy and even after. The relationship with the psychologist is not an appendage of the parent-child relationship, but something absolutely distinct and separate in which parents should not get into, worse than ever if the psychologist is a family friend. It is good to have the name of the psychologist by your GP and “never” ask the psychologist information about the boy, nor ask the boy a judgment on the psychologist. I happen several times to speak to guys, sent to a psychologist by their parents; sometimes they do not trust the psychologist. In these cases, the approach of the psychologist is not only useless but strongly counterproductive.
In accordance with the importance of the privacy of the children, we should be aware that if a parent has doubts about the sexuality of the son, he/she must keep those doubts absolutely to himself/herself, it’s a wrong thing to talk about with her husband/his wife, and it’s much more to be avoided to speak about with separated spouse especially if he/she hasn’t a good contact with the child.
A parent should not interfere in the relationship of the child with his classmates and his friends, when a child makes a house party and invites his classmates, parents, if not directly called into question by the son, must maintain marginal, low-profile behavior, they must avoid getting intimate with friends and classmates of the son and for no reason should seek information about the son from his friends or his companions. Putting a son in terms of embarrassment with his classmates or his friends creates a break in the relationship between parents and son that is difficult to repair. Terrible and hideous are situations in which a gay young man who has confided privately with his parents realizes that his other relatives “know about his sexuality” and that the source of the news was his father or his mother, unable to maintain the confidentiality.
I’ve seen many times parents scared that their son was openly gay, the more typical reaction of false acceptance is to say that “It is only a transitional phase that will pass and then everything will return to normal”, but there are also other reactions of typical non-acceptance: “Go to a psychologist and see what you can do.”, “Are you sure?”, “But you’re not gay, you say it just to provoke me.” In these situations it is obvious that parents should solve their problems about the rejection of homosexuality before thinking of being “helpful” for their children. The verb “help”, used in relation to gay children only underlines the problematic dimension of being gay, problematic dimension that exists only to the extent that we see being gay as a problem. The problems of being gay rises with the ignorance of the matter and with increasing levels of anxiety for parents who want at all costs “help” the child to solve a “problem” that does not really exist and want to “save” him from an indefinite number of dangers about which they know nothing at all.
If one thing a parent has a sacred duty to do, it’s to make clear to the son that health must be safeguarded in every sexual activity because it is something absolutely essential. Prevention should not be addressed in a general way with a vague “Be careful!” but in a competent way, talk to his/her parent can help a boy a lot in order to obtain reliable and accurate information. If a parent does not feel sufficiently informed he/she can update specifically on the website of the Ministry of Health.
A growing boy, especially a gay boy, should not be involved for no reason in aggressive situations, especially if aggressive situations are related to his being gay. I still sometimes talk with concerned mothers who don’t want her husband to know of his son’s homosexuality because he would react in a violent way. A scene and worse than ever a slap given by the father to a gay boy because he’s gay, involves the understandable break-down of father-son relationship. One is amazed at how, even today, there are violent reactions of fathers to the homosexuality of their children and also by parents with high level education but who apparently are completely ignorant about sexuality and are not even able to stay from violence and to think like civilized people.
I have often seen as contentious relationship with parents can be conditioning and oppressive on gay sons well beyond the limits of adolescence. It is hugely significant that when it takes place, coming out with parents is always the last in chronological order and in any case the guys who say openly to their parents that they are gay are not more than 3%.
The basic meaning of this article can be condensed into two principles that parents of a gay child should never forget:
1) A parent before addressing homosexuality with his/her son should ask himself/herself what is his/her personal attitude on the matter, should seriously wonder if he/she knows what it is or if only presumes to know, and if he/she realizes do not have clear ideas, he/she in person, should look before to clear ideas. He/she must look first to clarify whether his attitude is really of acceptance or behind seemingly conciliatory words do not hide homophobic views (homosexuality as a disease to be cured, as a vice to be overcome, as sin to be avoided).
2) A parent, after reaching a full understanding of what homosexuality is, must respect “without exception” the privacy of the child, being present and available but never in intrusive manner, and understanding that the sexuality of the son belongs only to the son and never to the parent, and that the desire to protect the son is likely to make him unable to react independently or to take him to a position of open break with the family.
If you like, you can join the discussion on this post on Gay Project Forum: http://gayprojectforum.altervista.org/viewtopic.php?f=18&t=16