Photo by: Jessica Higgins

Cleaning Out My Closet | What Happens When Your Child “Comes Out”

by Denise Lee Porter
Photo by: Jessica Higgins

It’s summer, I’m traveling, I have Marching Band camp and I’m launching a new application at work. Finding myself in this blogging topics dead zone I checked Mamapedia to see if there were any questions that struck a chord. I stumbled upon a Mom whose 18 year old son told her that he is gay. I thought to myself “Well there’s a topic with teeth”; Why? because I have been there and done that and quite a few years of experience that I can bring to the table.

I don’t recall exactly how long ago it was that my handsome boy came to me and said “Mom, there’s something I have to talk to you about”. I had no idea where the conversation was going to lead when we sat down in my “meditation room” to talk. He was very straightforward and said “I’m gay”. I don’t remember my reaction (resignation?), I recall asking a lot of questions and being a little hurt that I was not the FIRST person that he told.

I do remember telling him to never forget that I gave birth to a boy and not a girl and I’d better not catch him being a flamer. In retrospect that was probably a mean thing to say, but he has honored me by respecting that one request. Of course I worried about him being out there in a world that can be so mean to people who are different – after all as hard as it can be to be a black hip-hop looking kid, how much harder to be a Gay black hip-hop looking kid?

When I told my husband and older son they gave me a “so?” kind of look, they always knew and wanted to know why I didn’t. I think that helped me to get through the process faster than a mother who is on her own with a revelation like this. And, yes, I think that I probably knew all along but was in denial about it. I think Moms know their children better than anyone else and when a child “comes out” they’ve really just voiced what we’ve known for a very long time.

Well back to the Mother on Mamapedia, she’s devastated, upset because she will never have grandchildren from this child (she has others), and has actually removed his pictures from the house because she can’t stand to look at him. I fully understand how she is feeling. You see as parents we tend to see our children as both an extension of ourselves and the path to fulfillment of our unrealized hopes and dreams. We think our children and their lives are about us, when really it’s about them. And that’s where we go wrong.

Imagine how hard it is to sit down with your mother (your first love, your lifeline, your shelter in all storms) and tell her something that you hope will not cause her to cast you away. How does the child feel when their Mommy does exactly that? Throws them away, letting them know without words that they are useless and worthless because they’ve made a “bad choice” (yeah like a kid would choose to be a pariah).

My son told me that he’d known since he was young that he was probably homosexual. He said that when he was 15 he tried to kill himself because of the kids at school and his own confusion. I didn’t hear the whole story because blood rushed to my head and i blacked out with my eyes open at the very idea that I could have lost him and never known why. My children are undeniably the loves of my life, I would never for any reason stop loving them. Being gay is small stuff, being dead… well that’s pretty final.

For some, a child coming out of the closet is in some small way like a death in the family, you will go through the phases of grieving:

1. Shock – you may experience feelings of disbelief or may be momentarily unable to feel anything at all. 2. Denial – this is where you decide that it’s ” just a phase” and send your teen to counseling or a church “re-training” program. 3. Bargaining – usually with God, but you may try to bargain with your child too (”I’ll buy you a new car if you promise to stay away from your homosexual friends”) 4. Guilt – “What did I do wrong?”, “Was he too much of a Mama’s boy?”, “I shouldn’t have let her play sports” 5. Anger is another totally natural part of the grieving process. Unfortunately, in these cases all of the anger tends to be directed at the child, mainly because parents think this is a choice they made out of defiance or some such. 6. Depression – this can be alleviated by remembering that your child is still here, they didn’t die, it’s only one of your expectations for them that died. Remember that Gay men and women do become parents, they go to college, they attend church, they live the same types of lives that we do. 7. Acceptance – I have read of parents who refused to speak to or see their children after they’ve come out. What an absolute waste.

I have never been to a meeting (never thought about it actually) but I hear that PFLAG can help parents through to acceptance. Check their site for a chapter near you.

While having babies doesn’t come with a “contract” like marriage and business relationships, the act of conceiving, birthing, and keeping your baby creates a binding contract. You promise to love that baby unconditionally, treat it fairly, and set it free when it’s time. People who deny their children based on a condition (sexual orientation, choice of marriage partner, not meeting expectations) did not deserve those children in the first place.

I did not personally go through all of the stages of grieving, I’m a pretty modern woman, have been lucky to have fantastic Gay friends (yes even in the Marine Corps back in the 70s) and was able to get over myself fairly quickly. My son has been with the same person for almost a decade and they plan to make it official some time next year – and of course I will be there :-)

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29 Comments

This is a great blog!!! I loved reading every word of it, and hope and pray that any mother (or father, or family member for that matter) would react in the same way (sans the flamer part! lmao). When my first son was born, the first thing that popped into my head was "He's going to be gay". I said it to myself and was ok with it. It was really weird to me, and it was just a statement that was said in my head, and I was ok with it...

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Well first let me say congrats to your son for feeling confident enough to come out to your family. My son came out to me when he was 12 years old and I always knew that he was gay so it was a bit of a surprise when he tried "dating" a girl...

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Excellent article. My brother in law is gay. Although I was not around during the coming out process I know from stories my husband told me his parents went thru all of the steps you described. It has been over 20 years now and everyone is doing great. My brother in law and his partner are two awesome people who love each other and live a happy fulfilled life. Our family, including his parents, are very accepting of the situation and have come to terms with all of it...

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My precious baby son is gay. He is close to 40 and such a magnificent person! I cannot imagine the circumstance that might cause me to not love him with my whole heart. His relationships are his and not anybody else's. After watching him be engaged for 2 years then going through the process of self-discovery as an adult, I know this is NOT a choice. His half brother is also gay and what a blessing for the brother to have such a wonderful role model...

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I have been active in trying to convince people that homosexuality is not a perversion, not a choice of that person, but something they were born with. I have a couple of cousins and a nephew that are gay. I started thinking if I were gay what kind of life would I want for myself. And how would it be to be a young person and discover that I was gay. If you can put yourself in those shoes, you will understand why gay marriage and gays raising children is not bad...

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My 22 yo son came out last year also...we sat down and discussed it and I was glad he finally admitted it to himself and others. I have a daughter who is a lesbian and had no issues declaring it. Their dad--who im no longer married to-- is very conservative and believes it is a sin.
I am proud of all my kids and dont feel any different about them at all. I never grieved for their choice as it does not change who they are.

Your son is extremely lucky to have such a loving and understanding mother. I wish more people were as tolerate as you seem to be!

Thanks so much for the article. My child is not gay and I never had this experience; but with all the furror over gay marriage and such I have seen comments on other sites from parents who say they would disown their child and railing that homosexuality was a sin. I just don't understand how whom someone loves and chooses to sleep with rates a cast out and a removal of love...

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Hi!
I like your style! I am a Mom, and I have a very dear friend who I have always known was Gay, and my other dear friend, who just recently came out, after 20+ years of marriage and three boys. I have been exposed to the gay culture for a long as I can remember, my folks were swingers, and also in the military. I too joined the service, and again made a lot more friends who were Gay...

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What lucky people you are to have one another. I pray God the time comes when all His children know that love is the real deal --- your sons' love for whoever-he-loves and your love for him. You are wonderful, lucky people.

Blessings,
Old Mom - aka- Judy

My deceased baby brother "came out" as an adult. My mother and I loved him unconditionally. I can't imagine disowning my sons, I have two, for any reason. I am not ashamed of him, and never will be. I only wish he was still here, he was a wonderful son, brother, uncle. etc.
Any parent who has disowned a child should seriously rethink his or her position. It's not up to anyone to judge, leave that to God!

First of all kudos to you. Yes at first you were not so nice but you both got over it. I know how it is to come out. I'm bisexual and when I told my mother she just thought of it as a phase. When I got married to a man she believed that phase was over. Not so. I tried to tell her that I didn't stop being bi with marriage, I'm very faithful, as she did not stop being heterosexual. Another point I was to tell you, just because your son is gay doesn't mean you won't get grandchildren...

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Additional comments to Denise Lee Porter's blog about when your child comes out of the closet. There are some other things you will go through as well...if you choose to accept that your child is gay. You will lose friends and so will your child because there are just too many people that like to pass judgment on others when they need to look in their own backyard. Remember, this is still your child, no matter what.

How awesome to read this kind of healthy perspective. I know much of my family would read this blog in horror. It would be a nightmare to my mother if one of her children were homosexual. I too have had many friends over the years who are gay and some I have loved and been close with and others not so much but it was irrelevant what their orientation was, it was based on personality just like it would be with any other person regardless of skin color, or whether they happen to like boys or girls...

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It's good to read from the perspective of a suportive parent. My brother came out 8 years ago, and, like the author's husband & older son, my mom and I (and even my Alpha-Male boyfriend) knew. We were basically waiting for him to voice it, as well. My mom is super-supportive, quite often becoming the haven for those whose parents aren't supportive. I wish this article could be required reading for ALL parents of homosexuals.

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