TEENAGEHOOD is the most confusing phase, and realising that you are attracted to a person of the same sex as you, can add to your frustrations. However, there is no running away from life. Living the way you want to should be more important to you than what other people think of you.
THE HARDEST THING
Your happiness should come first. It can be helpful to find a support group, or other people who have gone through the same experience. You have to accept yourself first before you can be open about it. Since coming out about your sexuality is one of the hardest things, Move! speaks to counselling social worker, Mandisa Muruge, and Famsa’s educational psychologist, Claudia Abelheim, on ways to break it down to your parents. Mandisa says that seeking counselling first from a professional will help the situation.
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She says telling your parents is a scary part because not only will they feel that they are losing their child, but they may also fear being stigmatised by the community.
She says that belief also plays an important role in parents’ denial about their children’s sexuality. “I suggest that a person who wants to tell their parents about being gay or lesbian should do so in the presence of a counsellor,” says Mandisa. “Ensuring a safe and supportive environment is the task of a counsellor. We don’t want to disrespect the parents, but we help them to understand that their children are individuals who want to lead their own lives, even if it is different to theirs as parents, it is important for parents to support their children.”
Claudia adds, “Parents need to understand that they cannot change you. Seeking help from a counsellor could help them to understand that what you have is not a curable disease, it is who you are and that can’t be changed. Parents may also feel sad that their child’s life is going to be more difficult due to their sexuality, and it might help to assure your parents that you will seek help and support where needed.”
DEALING WITH PARENTS
Sometimes parents won’t accept their child’s sexuality due to background, culture or religion. Claudia says that being patient with your parents about the situation will help you too as they also need time to adjust. “Be patient with your family, once they realise that you are not suffering from a phase or disease, they will accept you the way that you are.
But allow them to blow out their steam because what you have told them came as a huge surprise to them,” Claudia says. “Fathers expect their children to get married and have children. When they realise that their child is gay or lesbian and might not be able to get married, a lot changes for them. Sometimes parents see this as a loss.”
Claudia adds, “If your dad doesn’t accept your sexuality, give him time to come around. Remember that it isn’t easy to learn that your child is not what you hoped he or she is and will become. Parents are very proud of their children. When all that is dashed, they can get angry and act out. Try to give him time to be angry and eventually he will come around and accept you.”
Things can get even more complicated if you have a strict religious mother, who thinks that you are possessed by an evil spirit or thinks you a sinner. “It might help to give your mother some details that can explain more to her about homosexuality. Also going to see a counsellor together will also help as the counsellor is an objective neutral person whom your mother might listen to,” she says.
COMING OUT PUBLICLY
Mandisa says going public about your sexuality is not such a great idea as it can lead to other unwanted situations such as being bullied or made fun of. She says you don’t need to tell everyone about your sexuality, just the ones you trust. “You may need to be ready to be judged and made fun of, even bullied. This is because being gay is still frowned upon in many societies,” says Mandisa.
“If the bullying is really bad, report it. You can also talk to a counsellor to help you deal with any bullying. But always be proud of who you are. Tell your friends the truth and be prepared to lose some of them after revealing your true identity. If your siblings are calling you names, remember that they are as shocked as your parents. They also need time to come to terms with the fact that their brother is gay.
They might not know how to deal with it. Going on counselling might help them.”