We often encourage our children to be the best version of themselves and through that encouragement, many will find themselves at the crossroads of addressing their sexuality–both to themselves and their families. A 27-year-old friend of mine named Shawn — last name withheld for privacy — gave me some insight into how this experience was for him and how parents can best handle it when their own children come out.
How old were you when you came out to your parents? How did it go?
“My story was not a typical coming out that you see in movies or TV shows, nor is it like the ones that most gay men have. I was asked. I did not lie. And that was the end of it. There was no scorn, no bad feelings, no tears.
“It was a testament to how they felt about who I really am because the conversation was as mundane and anticlimactic as a conversation about the weather. It showed me that my being gay wasn’t earth shattering for them. No characteristic of mine could detract their love they have for me.”
Has anyone said anything to you during the process of coming out that really helped?
“My friend Kelly was my confidant during the weeks in which I first came out. When I uttered the words ‘I’m gay’ to Kelly, she smiled. She looked at me and said, ‘I figured.’ When I asked her why she figured that she replied, ‘Well look at me. No wonder you never tried to get in my pants.’
“We both laughed, something I hadn’t done in weeks up until that point. Then she dialed it back in and said, ‘I became friends with you when we were 16. I became friends with YOU; whatever you are, whoever you are. That won’t change.’”
What part of coming out made you anxious–did any of those things come to fruition?
“I worried the most about how my straight guy friends would take the news. One of which was one of my best friends, Zack. When I came out to him, it seemed like he was trying to talk me out of it or debate the point. We didn’t talk for a while after that.
“After about a month, we had a conversation about everything. He apologized for his silence and told me that it shook him, but that he had been friends with the same person this whole time and that my being gay was not going to be an issue.”
Do you think being gay and coming out during your younger dating years had an impact on the way your parents handled those first relationships? Did they feel protective or caution you against being out and proud?
“I have always been the independent one of my family. My parents hovered over my older brother when he was a kid, but after I was born, they relaxed a bit. When I did not-so-great things in high school, my parents took a loving yet hands-off approach on parenting me. There have been many things that they have cautioned me about, but relationships has always been my own department.”
What should parents do during their day-to-day interactions with their kids to help foster an environment where these conversations can take place?
“Parents should always encourage and foster an environment in which there is openness and honesty. This can be difficult to do with a teenager. When I came out, the world was more tolerant than it was 20 or 30 years prior. Times change.
“I have met out-and-proud middle school and high school kids. This is something I wish I could have had when I was that age. Having an open dialogue with your kids when they are young will pay off years down the road when the conversations are heavier and the topics more emotional and more important.”
Originally posted to © CharlotteFive