Leicestershire Anti-Bullying Team
Advice for Parents
This information was provided by Betty Walker and the Leicester Parents Support Group, a support group for parents and friends of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual people.

What is happening to me? And to my Child?

What’s happening is that you’re finding out something very important about who your child is and your child has revealed something very important to you about who he or she is. This can be a shattering experience for a parent, or it can be a growing experience. It depends on you.

There are some definite stages to the process you have embarked upon, whether willingly or not. They involve learning and growing. Sometimes it will be painful, sometimes joyful. What you get out of it depends on what you’re willing to put into it, and how open you can hold your mind.

Some parents hold their prejudices more dearly than their children and actually reject their children outright, and simply disown them and throw them out on the street. You probably haven’t done that, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Right there, that puts you statistically ahead of fully one fourth of parents of LGB children.

Why did my child have to tell me?

Your child wants to be honest with you. Trying to pretend to be something he or she is not, is a tremendous burden, one that carries with it a great deal of guilt and shame. You’ve tried to teach your child honesty, and now your child has shown that he or she loves you enough to be honest with you about who he or she is, even at great personal risk of rejection. In making this revelation, your child has lifted a great burden of guilt and shame from his or her shoulders, and you need to understand what a great relief it is to not have to lie about who you are.

As a parent, you doubtlessly value honesty in your child a great deal. It is a mark of his or her character. And the fact that your child has entrusted you with this information is an indication that your efforts in teaching him or her honesty and integrity have paid off.

While this is undeniably a great burden for you, it is also an opportunity. The opportunity lies in the fact that you now know your child better than you ever did, and so this situation affords you the opportunity to get closer to your child than you have ever been. If you can be honest with your child about your own feelings, and how you love him or her in spite of this revelation, you can use this situation to draw closer to your child and become more important to him or her than you have ever been. Isn’t this what you want as a parent?

Is it my fault?

Wondering if you did something wrong? Wondering if there is something you didn’t do right? Why has this happened to you?

Don’t feel guilty. You didn’t do anything wrong. Chances are you’re a wonderful parent, and your gay child is going to be a wonderful adult like yourself. Your LGB child isn’t that way because of anything you did, nor anything anyone else did, for that matter.

As science learns more about the origins of homosexuality, it is becoming increasingly clear that these orientations have their origins very early in life. Most gay men and a large number of lesbians will tell you that they knew early in life -- in some cases, awareness of being “different” are among the earliest memories. Some evidence even indicates prenatal influences, even genetic patterns are involved.

The old claim by psychologists that homosexuality indicates a weak father and a domineering mother have long since been disproved by study after study. The only psychologists that still maintain such positions are those who have a hidden agenda -- usually a religious agenda, or a deeply homophobic attitude. Objective science has long since abandoned the idea that parenting styles has any significant influence on homosexual orientations.

The most important emotional contribution any parent can make to their childrens’ lives is to love them. Like most parents, you’ve done that, and continue to do so, or you wouldn’t be here reading this. And now that you know about your child’s orientation, they need your love and support more than ever.

Who recruited my kid?

Nobody. Your child was gay from a surprisingly young age, and never made a conscious choice to be LGB, so no-one could have recruited him or her.

It’s tempting to go looking for scapegoats. This is a deeply emotional issue for parents, and one that brings out all the protective instincts in good parents.

It is impossible for anyone to recruit anybody to “be gay.”  The reason for this is simple -- being LGB isn’t a choice anyone consciously makes.

Dr. Jack Weinberg, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said in a public statement on October 6, 1977, that fears of “catching” homosexuality or being “recruited” at school or elsewhere are “... utterly without scientific foundation.”

Stop and ask yourself -- when did you make a conscious decision to be heterosexual? To be attracted to only persons of the opposite sex? Of course you never did.

Can you pick and choose who excites you physically? Of course you can’t. And neither can your child. Since he or she can’t consciously decide who to be attracted to, being told that attractions to the same sex are wrong or evil can really be painful, because he or she can’t prevent those feelings. They just happen. Over time, that guilt, fear and anger can build to create depression to the point of suicide. As a parent, you need to be sensitive to the feelings of guilt and fear.

Your child is gay not because of anything you or anyone else did. While science can’t explain precisely what causes homosexuality, leading researchers in the field have shown that both genetics and environmental influences play a part

Should we tell the family? What about the neighbours?

The decision to tell anyone else really belongs with your child. He or she has an enormous investment in many relationships that could be damaged or destroyed by such revelations, and for his or her own psychological well-being, it is important for him or her to be in control of who is told.

This is often difficult for a parent to realise, but it can often be extremely difficult for a child to tell someone he or she has known most or all of his or her life about such matters, when the very real chance exists that the person being told will reject him or her and refuse any further contact.

Another consideration is the fact that the child may have more experience in dealing with the issue of prejudice and discrimination than you may realise. He or she may have been out to trusted friends for years before you were told. And in so doing, your child may have learned far more about how to handle this kind of revelation than you may suspect.

You cannot make your child be honest, particularly when the consequences can be as devastating as outright rejection. Your child will grow far stronger morally if he or she does this on his or her own, or you make the revelation with his or her permission, than if you simply tell others without asking.

I have no problem with my child being gay. It doesn’t matter to me!

Are you sure? Here are some questions to ask yourself. If you answer them honestly, it will reveal to you just how accepting you really are.

  • Are you uncomfortable around your child’s partner?
    This says a whole lot about your acceptance of your child’s homosexuality. If you are uncomfortable with your child’s partner, stop and ask yourself why you are uncomfortable. If the partner were of the opposite sex, would you be comfortable with him or her? Now, be honest -- if you would be comfortable around that same person if he or she were of the opposite sex, you aren’t quite so accepting, are you?
  • Does your child’s openness bother you?
    If your child wears rainbow jewellery or has a bumper sticker on his or her car? Are you embarrassed to be around that
    kind of display? Figure she or he is “fl aunting” it? Consider the constant “fl aunting” heterosexuals do -- holding hands and
    even kissing in public, the advertising for ‘bluejeans’, perfume, gift items and a thousand other things. In your child’s eyes,
    that’s fl aunting, but it doesn’t seem that way to you. So try to see yourself through your child’s perspective -- and realise that “fl aunting” to you is simply being open to him or her. Do you try to keep your heterosexuality a secret? Of course not. So why do you think your child should be asked to keep his or her homosexuality a secret? If that still bothers you, maybe you do have a problem with your child’s homosexuality
  • Are you having trouble with the idea of gay sex?
    Consider that most of the sexual practices engaged in by gay couples are also sexual practices of many hetersexual couples.
    If that doesn’t bother you just as much, maybe you ought to think about the difference for a minute. Is there any? If you
    consider there to be a difference, then that indicates you have a problem with homosexuality itself.
  • Are you bothered by the words “homosexual,” “gay,” “lesbian,” or “queer?”
    If so, stop and think about why. It is probably because they have some bad connotations in your mind. Where did those connotations come from? Do they apply to your child? Your child is the same as most other gay persons -- so why the evil connotations?

It is vitally important that you assure your child that he/she will not be disowned or dispossessed by you, because your child is more important to you than your fears or prejudices could ever be. Make this clear -- and give him or her a hug! Let them know you still love him or her as much as ever!

Can my child be cured of homosexuality?

Lots of people promise “cures,” but none can deliver.

There are lots of groups and individuals around who will promise you that they can “cure” your child of homosexuality. The fact is, they can’t.

The American Psychiatric Association has looked into the issue of so-called “reparative therapy” and “conversion therapy.” The result was their statement on homosexuality. Though carefully worded to avoid controversy, it makes no bones about the fact that such therapies have not been shown to be particularly effective, and can actually be harmful. The draft statement, stubbornly opposed and eventually defeated in convention by a small but very vocal minority of fundamentalist Christian psychiatrists, is much more strongly worded.

Because homosexuality is such a deeply ingrained, even biological aspect of your child’s being and identity as a human, no one, no matter how sincere, can change it. It’s like trying to change hair colour or handedness.

Scientists who have studied this issue say that claims of a “cure” don’t stand up to scrutiny. The few studies claiming success have been shown to be fatally flawed. Usually the sampling of “cured” homosexuals is flawed or those claiming a “cure” really aren’t “cured” when questioned closely.

There are a number of Christian groups around, most of them associated with particular sects, who claim to be able to “cure” homosexuality. What they really succeed in doing is to merely repress it. Repressing sexuality usually makes it come out in another form. Witness the problems the Catholic church is having with paedophilia among its priests. So attempting to repress your child’s sexual orientation in this way is only asking for trouble later on.

There are a number of therapists, mostly psychiatrists, who claim to be able to “cure” homosexuality. Again, the studies they point to invariably turn out to be fatally flawed. Steer well clear of any therapist who makes such a claim. The problems that can be created by attempts to cure homosexuality can last a lifetime, and can be scarring, even debilitating.

My child couldn’t possibly be gay.
He doesn’t fit the image!

Don’t count on it. You’d be surprised at who’s gay!

It’s a common saying in the gay community that if all the faces of gays in church on Sunday suddenly turned purple, you’d be amazed at all the purple faces around you! On and off the pulpit! People you never suspect -- accountants, welders, ranchers, doctors, mechanics, lawyers and even conservative politicians!

Many gay people live “in the closet” all their lives and never tell anyone except their lovers.

What a tragedy! Their families never know them, their co-workers and colleagues never really get to know who they are. Friendships are based on a lie. Trust and acceptance are a function of deceit.

Now that gay people are coming out of the closet, the old stereotypes are slowly breaking down. People are discovering that people they had known all their lives are gay, whom they had never suspected.

Does this mean my child is going to be wildly flamboyant, offending everyone I know?

Not necessarily. The vast majority of gay persons live lives indistinguishable from anyone else except for who they come home to. Learn here about their lives. Even if your child is flamboyant, don’t you still love him or her? Of course you do.

Diversity is what flavours our culture and gives it richness and beauty. Your gay child may or may not be flamboyant, screaming to the world about what makes him/her different. Of course you wouldn’t want to dress or behave like that, but your child is a sovereign person who has the right to express him/herself. As a parent, sometimes you just have to step aside and let them do “their own thing.” As long as no one else gets hurt...

But chances are, your child is just like every other kid on the block. He or she probably runs around with the same crowd as all the other kids, enjoys pizza and hamburgers, and goes to the same school activities as all the other kids.

The point is, that whatever your child is now, don’t expect that to change. Your child is the same person he or she always was, and your new understanding of him or her won’t change that. If you are a good parent, however, your understanding of your child’s sexual orientation should actually help improve your relationship to each other and closeness as a family. Whether that happens or not depends on you. This new revelation can be a starting point for a whole new level of parent child interaction and closeness, or it can be a point of contention and arguement. It all depends on how accepting you choose to be.

This is awful! It means my kid’s
going to live a lonely,  miserable life!

You’ll be surprised! Most gay and lesbian youth grow up to be as well adjusted and happy and emotionally fulfilled as anyone. Most have successful careers and happy family lives. Read some of their stories in the books discussed below.

There are many books about the lives of gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

A really wonderful book about a successful gay couple is “Straight from the Heart,” by Bob and Rod Paris-Jackson, a pair of champion weightlifters who met in a gym and fell in love and made a life together. It is a really touching story.

“Stranger at the Gate” is an autobiography by Mel White, a former speechwriter for Pat Robertson, and a very successful Christian film maker.

“Coming Out Conservative” is the autobiography of Marvin Leibman, who was one of the founders of the modern Conservative political movement. It is the story of his life before and after coming out to his peers.

“Uncommon Heroes” by Samuel Bernstein and edited by Phillip Sherman is a book about the lives of dozens of highly successful gay persons who have made a significant difference in the communities in which they live. There’s no reason your child couldn’t be just as successful.

But I’ll never have any grandchildren!

Don’t count your gay child out! Many options are available to gay, lesbian and transgendered people for raising children, both their own and children they adopt. If your gay child wants children, he or she can have them, and that makes you a grandparent!

The options for lesbian couples
They include artificial insemination and adoption. In most states, sexual orientation is no longer a barrier to either option.
Artificial insemination is an option practiced with increasing frequency. Many lesbian couples seek sperm donation from men, often gay men, who they admire and respect and are close to, and who they would like their children to emulate. Of course being asked is quite an honour for the biological father. Many other couples choose to seek sperm from an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.

The options for gay men
Gay men often come to a gay marriage with child from a failed attempt at a heterosexual relationship. When this happens, both partners usually raise the child as their own, both showing equal commitment to the child.
Childless gay male couples have the option of either adopting or surrogate mothering, often by lesbian couples who perform this service out of love for the gay men who are part of their community. This is happening with increasing frequency. The surrogate mother is inseminated either with the gay man’s sperm or with an anonymous donor’s sperm.

The adoption possibilities
Child welfare agencies, even when they are homophobic, realize that placing a child in the home of a gay or lesbian couple has to be more nurturing for the child than an endless succession of foster homes or life on the streets. So many, if not most states now allow lesbian couples to adopt children. Nearly all states allow lesbian couples to act as foster parents.
Currently, there are only a handful of states where gay or lesbian couples are precluded by law from adopting or fostering children. A surprising number of gay men and lesbians have children from previous attempts at heterosexual relationships and marriages. In many cases, failed marriages result in the gay spouse having custody of the children. It’s a tough way to get a grandchild, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, but it does happen with surprising frequency. The courts in many states now allow gay partners to adopt the children of their gay spouses when it can be shown to be in the best interests of the child. It’s not unlikely that your child will become a partner in such a relationship.

What about AIDS?

This is the bad news. But there’s hope.

Here are some grim statistics (for 1999) from the Centre for Disease Control, the U.S. government’s primary public health agency dealing with this epidemic: Adolescent gay men are infected with the virus at a rate approximately three times that of the straight population (though heterosexuals are catching up fast). In urban areas of the United States, between 5 and 8 percent of all adolescents are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And AIDS is now the leading cause of death of young men between the ages of 25 and 44. It beats out cancer, traffic accidents, handgun violence and all other infectious diseases.

Your child doesn’t have to be part of this grim reality. Here’s what you can do to prevent it:

  • Rule number one:  DON’T NAG. Your child has heard it all before, believe me. You aren’t the first to raise this issue with him or her, and believe it or not, you won’t be the last. It’s OK to express your concern, but don’t keep bringing it up. You’ll only make it sound like you’re covertly trying to “cure” him or her of homosexuality. That is a sure-fire way to lose influence.
  • Know the facts yourself.  The best way to know what your talking about is to visit one of the many safe sex pages on the web, and just look around, even if you are uncomfortable with it. You’ve gotta know the facts if you want to have any credibility with your son or daughter
  • Be honest at all times when discussing this issue.  Don’t try to be the expert if you’re not absolutely certain of what you’re talking about. If you’re ignorant of the answer to a question your child asks, don’t be afraid to admit it. Doing so will build credibility with your child, and trying to be the expert when you’re not will destroy credibility faster than anything. Remember, this situation is much more personal to your child than it is to you, and he or she has probably been collecting information that will enable him or her to detect ignorance on your part.
  • Be supportive. This is the flip-side of rule number one. Let your child know you love him and want his or happiness as much as your own, but not in the context of moralizing (that’s just nagging again). Encourage long-term, monogamous relationships. With teens, admittedly, this is hard to do. Gay teen males especially love to “sleep around” and “sample the goods” and “see what’s out there.” Many are actually sexually attracted to members of high-risk groups. But if you encourage long-term relationships with quality partners, not only will you be fostering their emotional growth, you’ll be reducing significantly the chances of their becoming HIV infected.
  • Don’t forbid. The words “I forbid you to...” is a sure-fire guarantee your son or daughter will do it anyway, particularly if he or she is still adolescent. Your child will almost certainly have sex, whether you want him or her to or not, and forbidding them to do so will only alienate him or her. Your child is smart enough to know that no one gets pregnant from homosexual sex, and that, in his or her mind, is the number one reason for not having sex in the first place. I guarantee you that if your child is adolescent, your child figures he or she is immortal and the AIDS epidemic only applies to old, fossilized perverts. The way to break down this kind of thinking is to know the facts and, without nagging, encourage the behaviours that allow them to grow emotionally without putting themselves at risk. You can do that by being knowledgeable and earning respect rather than demanding it.
  • Get involved. Getting involved in your local AIDS care project and encouraging your child to help is the best possible way to educate him or her. By setting this kind of example, your child will quickly learn that you take this really seriously. And by teaching your child to volunteer, you will contribute greatly to his or her self-esteem, which is a primary prerequisite to self control in this epidemic. If your child meets real AIDS patients, he or she will quickly learn that this thing is real, and that he or she is vulnerable, especially when he or she meets young people near his or her age. It will do more to break down the “I’m immortal” mindset than anything else you can do. Yes, it takes time, effort and commitment, but isn’t your child worth it?
  • Encourage Sex Education in the public schools. Yes, this is very controversial. But the statistics by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and many others show very clearly that thorough, frank sex education significantly delays the onset of sexual activity and promotes the use of condoms when sexual activity does begin to occur. Where sex education is the most thorough, both teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents are significantly lower. For example, in the Netherlands, where sex education begins early and is a constant through the public educational process, the teen pregnancy rate is one fifth the rate in Utah, where there is no meaningful sex education in the public schools. The message couldn’t be clearer. Sex education is needed in the public schools, and could do a lot to slow the spread of AIDS. Reason enough to support it.

A Family’s Guide To Handling Anti-Gay Harassment

1. Take pride in your child’s trust.

  • Only half the young people who experience anti-gay harassment feel safe going to their families for help. Your child clearly sees you as a resource.

2. Support your child

  • Listen. If you ask questions, try to make them supportive, not blaming, questions.
  • Make sure your child knows that you ...
    • Love and believe in your child, no matter how you may be feeling about the fact that he or she is gay or lesbian (or may be gay or is perceived to be gay).
    • Don’t blame him or her for what happened or think he or she “deserved” what happened.
    • Are upset that it happened – but angry not at your child, just at the offenders and those who let them think it was OK to hurt someone they thought was gay.
    • Will do what you can to make sure school is a safe place for him or her.

3. You may want to gather information and support for yourself:

  • Call a trusted school nurse, teacher, youth worker or social worker.
  • Contact LLGBC (Leicester Lesbian Gay and Bisexual Centre)
  • Contact another parent. GALYIC are in touch with several parents or you could contact FFLAG (Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) 01454.852418.

4. Next, you may want to talk with your child’s teacher, if the problem is confined to a specific classroom:

  • Explain what happened and what makes you think the harassment or violence was bias-based.
  • Explain that you want the teacher’s help to ensure your child’s emotional and physical safety at school and in transit.
  • Discuss with the teacher ...
    • How the investigation will be handled and how your child’s safety might be considered in that process.
    • What the possible disciplinary outcomes are, if the offender(s) is/are identified, and whether that is consistent with the way other forms of malicious harassment are generally handled.
    • What the teacher will do to stop the harassment from continuing ... by the same offender(s) or any others.
    • What the teacher will do to reduce the chances of retribution against your child for speaking up and what to do if there is retribution despite his/her best efforts.
    • What the teacher will do to avoid a recurrence of the harassment ... against your child or anyone else’s child next year or next year.
    • Send the teacher a letter thanking him/her for meeting with you and spelling out your understanding of what was agreed upon. Keep a copy of the letter.

If meeting with the teacher doesn’t stop the abuse, or if it is happening in the halls and on the playground rather than in a single classroom, you may want to go through exactly the same steps.

  • With your head teacher,
  • and if that doesn’t solve the problem, with the chair person of the school board,
  • and if that doesn’t solve the problem, the Group Director, Schools and Children’s Service and finally, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment. Of course, you can also contact your local M.P. If you do find yourself climbing this ladder of responsibility,
  • Keep in mind that each new individual with whom you speak must care about children or s/he probably would not have become an educator. You have this in common, although of course you know and love your own child better than anyone does.
  • Keep track of all the events, including dates, times, and witnesses to each act of harassment and each meeting of adults.
  • Do not hesitate to involve the police if your child is the victim of a crime ...
  • if, for example, his or her belongings were damaged or stolen or your child was threatened or physically injured because the offender thought she or he was gay or lesbian.
  • If anti-gay slurs were used in the course of the incident, you could contact the Hate Crime Officer
  • Describe in detail the hate or prejudice that was expressed and what caused your child to fear harm. For example, “They called him ‘faggot’ and said they would ‘kick his butt’.” Or, “They asked her why ‘dykes’ liked other girls and said they would, ‘teach her to like boys’.” If your child has any physical pain, make sure it is written down in the police report. Get the incident number from the officer and ask how to get a copy of the police report. Get the officer’s name and number.
  • Or you can contact Child Protection Services: ring Social Services and ask to speak to a Customer Service Adviser or Child Protection Unit or contact the Education Welfare Service.
  • Some people also decide to:
  • Contact a lawyer about bringing a “civil case” against the offenders: Victimisation and harassment are illegal (The Prevention of Harassment Act 1997). The local authority may be taken to court for not doing “all that it reasonably can to prevent, crime and disorder in its area.” (Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Section 17). The school and local authority may also be liable to prosecution under the Human Rights Act 1998, Article 2, Protocol 1 - the right to education (failure to provide the right to education to LGB young people). And the teacher might be liable to prosecution under the 1974 Health and Safety Act if it can be proven the teacher was negligent (insurance will not cover cases of negligence). If the Equality Bill is passed in Parliament, attacking or threatening a person or damaging their property because of their sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, disabilities, etc., will become illegal.

The bottom line is ...

Your child deserves a safe education no matter what his or her race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, language of origin, or physical or mental abilities. You obviously agree or you wouldn’t have read this far. Your child is lucky to have you for a parent. Together, you can help your school become a safe place.

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