My Mother Made Me?!?!
Short answer: Oh no she didn’t!
Over the course of my years counseling individuals and families I have been struck by the difference in experience related to coming out. For those of us who are GBLT, that moment when we finally muster the courage and inner strength to announce our true selves to our family (uh, if we do) is certainly liberating, even if the reaction is not a joyous celebration. There is something so positive and self affirming about saying, “I am gay”, or, “I am a lesbian” that it is a milestone that is often never forgotten. I can still remember the time, place and person of that event for me.
This article is not about us though. It is about the receiver of our announcement, our parent or parents as the case may be. For them the “news” may be devastating for a variety of reasons. The loss of their hopes and expectations for us…that is, the heterosexual us they may have thought or hoped we were. The loss of the role(s) they imagined they would play in our assumed heterosexual lives…being at our wedding, christenings, etc. Their fears about our lives as GLBT persons. Worries that were will be unhappy, get sick, never find relationship happiness or be subject to harassment or even worse.
These are things to consider when you come out but I write about a different issue. I write this article to help you understand a reason that some parents have a very difficult time coming to terms with accepting their son or daughter. I write this to help you, and perhaps your parents (if you share this article) off the proverbial hook. Even though the American Psychological and Psychiatric Associations removed homosexuality from its pathology nomenclature many years ago, the culture still tends to blame families and particularly mothers as “the cause”. In trying to help families come to terms with their son’s or daughter’s coming out the biggest obstacle is often guilt on the parents part. They have absorbed the cultural notion that “they must have done something wrong.” Since traditionally mothers tend to have more time with the children and more child rearing responsibilities then mothers must be to blame. Part of the pride of mothering is seeing your child fit into the mainstream and succeed…if the child is “different”, well, you must have screwed up!
Part of the problem is that no one can say for sure what “causes” homosexuality so therefore the cause must be the parents. Frankly, I believe in common sense. And since homosexuality exists in all living things then I cannot believe that humans are exempt. The current thinking is that homosexuality itself is a result of nature, we are born that way and the type of person or personality that we are attracted to is in large part a result of nurture or our life experiences.
I often ask parents when they suspected that their son or daughter might be gay or lesbian. Frequently the answer is, “Well, when they were age 5 or 6 but we hoped it would go away. I myself discovered many years after her death, that my aunt who raised me had asked a friend if she thought I was gay. I was 15 when the question was asked and 32 when I heard about it!
If your parent(s) are having trouble with your coming out suggest they contact the local chapter of PFLAG at 716.883.0384