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11 Jan 2005

How to handle a gay son
My son has recently "come out" and I need advice on how to handle him. He is 16 years old and I don't want to make a mistake on what to say and do to him because he seems very uncomfortable talking about it. I am glad that he told us and I really want to help him but I don't know how. I just feel that he will have such a difficult road ahead and I want to make it smoother for him in everyway without being patronising. I sometimes also feel "out of control" of this situation because I have never had to face this before. He is an only child and I want him and us to have a normal life and to incorporate his lifestyle into our "mainstream" lifestyle. I love him more than life itself but I know that he has a rocky road ahead and I just want to be there for the bumps and scratches.....Do 16 year olds really know what their sexual orientation is or do they change at a later stage? He is a very antisocial person and is presently seeing a Psychiatrist for a mood disorder although I think this may have been the cause because he couldn't come to terms with it. So I guess what I am asking is how can he know his sexual orientation when he hasn't really gone out and experimented. Is it something you just know? I really need help here because I want to be a liberal mom and help him wherever possible
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

All teenagers are uncomfortable about talking about their sexuality / sexual identity, with their parents, whether gay or straight, so there's nothing sinister if he doesn't feel great about talking about this. And so long as you communicate with love and caring, you're not likely to say the wrong thing. As for "handling" him, maybe he doesn't need to be handled. Make it clear that you'd want him top talk to you about any aspect of his life, sexual or otherwise, with which he wants help --- but just because h may be homosexual doesn't mean he needs help.
Again, ay or straight, life ahead won't be smooth or plain sailing --- life isn;t like that. But atitudes have changed significantly, as has the law, so he should have a far easier time of it than anyone in a similar situation 12 years ago, or earlier. Homosexual orientation has a biological background still being clarified, but isn't anyone's fault, and occurs in all human societies, at all periods in history, and in most animal species, too.
One doesn't need actual sexual experience in order to know one's sexual /gender identity. You could be a nun of 80, and a lifelong virgin, but still be sure that you are heterosexual, for instance. As a married woman, presumably you are heterosexual --- when did you "know" that ? Surely not only after any specific sexual experiences ? it is indeed something one "knows", often without any specific time-frame. Yes, some teenagers go through a period of sexual identity confusion, when they're unsure, and may change their orientation later. And if their earlier identification as, say, homosexual, was not treated as an appalling disaster, they're probably all the more free to chenge later, if that is how they come to feel. Others are sure of their sexual orientation from an early age, and never have reason to doubt it.
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