When a child says, “I’m gay.”

Two letters are making their way around the Internet this week. Both tell a story about how a parent might react to their son or daughter coming out of the closet.

The first, a real letter posted on Reddit, is from a father to his son, essentially disowning him for being gay. “I will not come to visit, nor do I want you in my house,” he writes.

The second, posted on the daddy blog “Ask Your Dad,” is a letter written to “a hypothetically gay” son. The author, Utah resident John Kinnear, writes how he would respond if his child was gay, saying, “I am still, as always, your biggest defender. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you’re any less capable of taking care of and defending yourself. That said, if you need me to stand next to you or in front of you, write letters, sign petitions, advocate, or anything else, I am here. I would go to war for you.”

These two very different responses have made me think a lot this week about how I would respond to a child being gay. And here’s what I’ve come up:

First, it’s not an easy answer. Sure it’s politically correct to act like having a homosexual child should be no big deal, but it’s not that easy. Religious beliefs, personal beliefs and societal pressures all come into play if a child announces his or her homosexuality. There are no easy answers or responses – and certainly no easy paths to walk for either a parent or child.

Because of all of those complexities, it’s hard to say exactly how I would react. And it’s impossible for me to judge how another parent reacts.

But I do know this: no matter what your beliefs — religious or political — the conversation has to be grounded in love. If love is the start and finish, then everything else will fill in naturally.

I simply don’t understand how a parent could write a letter like the one posted on Reddit. How can a father say goodbye to his son because of his sexual orientation? How can a father turn his back when his child needs him? He doesn’t have to walk in the next gay rights parade or even agree with his son’s lifestyle, but he does have to love him.

The problem is this letter is about shame. The shame of a parent who hears only how his child’s actions will reflect on him. It’s about the father’s discomfort, not about the son’s need for a loving parent.

So while I don’t know exactly how I would react if my child announced at dinner that he or she was gay, I do know my love would not change. I hope I would be as loving as John Kinnear, who writes, “You need to know with every fiber of who you are that when you walk in the front door of your home, you are safe, and you are loved.”

I would feel that same love whether my son says he’s gay or sleeping with every girl on the cheerleading squad or can’t get a date to save his life. Either way . . . he would be my son. Nothing could change that.

This type of conversation has to begin and end with love. How can we expect to have a national conversation on homosexuality without it? The truth is, we can’t. We can’t hope for a dialogue based on understanding and respect in the vast political arena if we can’t even have one in our own family rooms.

How would you react if your child announced he or she was gay?

8 comments

  1. Cat

    It would depend on how and why they were telling me. If they were telling me because they wanted me to know what they were dealing with in life it would be much easier than if they were telling me and demanding that I accept this new lifestyle they were about to embark on. It wouldn’t change my love for them, but either way, but one way demands that I change my beliefs that the other acknowledges that we may have to agree to disagree.

    I currently have a child who is persuing a path that I don’t agree with. I still love that child. This child knows that I am not happy with choices they are making. This child also knows what choices I think they should be making. We are at the point to agree to disagree. They are also aware that while they live at my house they have to obey my rules. This causes some conflict but I have to think of my younger children too. However, I don’t have to agree with the choices being made.

  2. John Charity Spring

    Stewart, and much of the public, have been fooled by the first letter. It is clearly not real, it is clearly a fraudulent letter created by left wing extremists in order to advance a political agenda.

    The left wants to create hatred towards all those who oppose same sex marriage, so it creates fake letters by nonexistent straw men for the public to hate. Indeed, the left seeks to silence all who oppose it.

    The left doesn’t want the public to decide issues of morality for itself. Instead, the left wants to force decisions on the public by using deception and intimidation. We must all recognize this fact before it is too late.

    • Chuck Anziulewicz

      DEAR JOHN CHARITY SPRING:

      You think the letter in question was fraudulent? What proof do you have of this? Gay people get shunned by their families and kicked out of their homes all the time. They also get fired from their jobs and sometimes even beaten up for no other reason than someone found out they were Gay. You think I’m making this up? If so, I feel very sorry for you, because your personal prejudices have overwhelmed your sense of decency and compassion.

    • James

      Los Angeles’ KABC (Conservative Talk Radio) confirmed the story. Fortunately, they podcast their morning show in which they talk about it. The confirmation happens at about 32:20 into this broadcast: http://kabc.com/FlashPlayer/default.asp?SPID=41496&ID=2510155

      If it’s a left-wing conspiracy, how could right-wing radio confirm it?

      As for your claim that “The left doesn’t want the public to decide issues of morality for itself.” It’s more that the left believes Americans *can* decide morality by itself and *without* the undue influence of evangelists. After all, have Jewish-Americans outlawed bacon? Have Mormons outlawed caffeine?

  3. Chuck Anziulewicz

    I think ANOTHER question parents ought to ask themselves is whether they would WANT to know if one of their kids was Gay.

    Speaking from personal experience, I can tell you that “coming out” to one’s own parents is one of the most difficult things a Gay person can do. There’s no way to break the ice tentatively; you can just say, “Gee, Mom and Dad, how would you feel if I was Gay?” There is absolutely NOTHING is heterosexual experience analogous to coming out.

    Suppose you have a son who is in his late teens or twenties, yet to the best of your knowledge he has never talked about having a girlfriend. Do you ask him if he’s Gay? Do you ask him if there’s anyone special in his life? WOULD YOU WANT TO KNOW?

  4. Kevin Patrick Murphy

    As I read the article and the thread, I see a search for a supposed middle ground with phrases like “it depends” or “it’s complex.” While understanding your loved one’s orientation is difficult when it is different, the response shouldn’t depend. A parent should always make their support and love clear. While many parents rush to give advice, judgement, or declarations on how it fits in with religion or values, a parent would be more effective by just listening and loving. The child has struggled with this for years, despite knowing fully well how the community shuns it.

    After listening, ask yourself, that if you realized your community’s, your church’s, and your other family members’ views about your child’s orientation were wrong, who would you side with? Would you be willing to stand up for your child and face the same judgement he or she has feared for years? If you feel fear of shame, you will know you have bias that you need to work to overcome quickly. The views of communities and churches are slowly (okay very slowly) coming to understand same-sex attractions, but your child can’t wait. They need you to ‘get it right’ now.

  5. Day80

    My children are taught from a very early age that you can hate the sin, but you should never hate the sinner. There will be a lot of things our kids do that we won’t agree with, but we will not love them any less. A parent who truly loves their children, will not put conditions on their love. If they are upset, it is because they are afraid of how it will affect themselves. I have seen this on both political sides, its not about politics, or religion, its about family and what you believe is right. I would still love my child with every fiber of my being, because that is what a parent does.

  6. Erin R.

    I have a hard time with this one. The notion that a gay person is inherently wrong or choosing a wrong path or sinning or whatever else just doesn’t sit right with me. Forgive me, I’m not comparing homosexuality to a deformity or handicap, but it feels like frowning on someone’s homosexuality is the same as disapproving of someone’s autism or other congenital problem. Some people are gay. Some people are tall. Some are black. A person’s conduct is what really matters. I don’t get how gay automatically equals bad. There are plenty of gay Mormons (or other faithfuls) who live the gospel teachings as well and as strictly as their straight counterparts. I honestly wish it was enough that someone just be a good person.

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