By Malan vd Walt - Intern Educational Psychologist
Many parents hold dreams for their children that they cherish. However, at times, a parent’s dream might not fit the reality of their child. One of those instances may be when a parent realises that their child is gay.
17 May marks International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. For the purposes of this blog, we will look at sexual orientation (who a person is romantically attracted to) and not gender identity (whether you identify as a boy or girl, or man or woman).
This blog post will be dedicated to parents of children that identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual. Some people prefer other terminology to identify their sexuality. For the sake of simplicity, we will focus on the LGB acronym. If you have any further questions, however, please do not hesitate to contact JPCCC.
Being gay is a normal, healthy expression of love, just like being straight is. But we often get questions from parents, such as:
Did I do something ‘wrong’ as a parent?
You did not do anything to “make” your child gay. There simply is no way to predict homosexuality. Gay children have come out of loving families as well as out of abusive families. They have been given positive messages about diverse sexuality in some cases, where other families have told them that being gay is bad or wrong. There is no amount of shaming, intolerance or negative messaging that can change a child from gay to straight, or straight to gay. Disowning your child because of it will only rob you of a relationship with your own child and will not change their* sexuality.
Is it a choice to be gay?
This is a common misconception about being gay. People claim that it is a lifestyle choice caused either by wanting to be different or by being confused. Many people assume that gay people can choose to be straight if they want to, or that they could simply go through their lives without acting on their romantic or sexual feelings even if they are gay. Many people who regard it as a “sin” to be gay compare it to other acts like murder, theft or even child molestation, and say that they can choose not to act on it just like others choose not to murder, steal or abuse children. Let’s look at these assumptions for a bit.
Very few gay people regard their sexual orientation as a choice: why would someone choose to be discriminated against, face stigma, be bullied by other children, be rejected by their parents and families, and be isolated from their religious communities? In fact, these forms of discrimination leads to anxiety, depression, and a disproportionately higher rate of suicide, not because of being gay, but because of homophobia.
Being gay is your child’s identity, not their choice. People might consider being straight to be “normal” and being gay to be “abnormal”, and “choosing” to be gay is trying to deny convention and what is considered normal. But if you start to understand your gay child as being inherently and innately gay, and realize that being gay is a part of their identity, you will understand that it is not their choice to have the identity.
Sexual identity is not a rational aspect of our being that is based on choice. It just happens. We have involuntary responses when we are around someone we find attractive, and we can’t instruct ourselves to have those responses if we do not naturally find someone attractive. The idea of “choice” also assumes that it is easy, or even possible, to redirect your affections to others who you do not find attractive at all. If you are or have ever been in love, imagine a world where someone told you that you are no longer allowed to love that person, and where you have to only love someone from a group of people you are not sexually or romantically attracted to, like someone from the same sex.
Would you be able to “choose” to change who you love?
For more questions or concerns in this area, or to enquire about the many other services that JPCCC offers, please do not hesitate to contact us.