As I watched my son walk toward me across the school lawn to my car, I studied his face and posture in anticipation of his report on how his day had gone at middle school. The afterschool pick-up routine had come to include a conversation about the mean remarks, dirty stares and shoves he’d received from the other students; boys he had grown up with since Kindergarten. Remembering the helplessness I felt in those moments causes my chest to tighten. Day after day after day after day my son’s school experience was impacted by these painful emotional encounters. I tried to understand what was going on, but I didn’t know whether to tell him to ignore the bullies or to hit them back. I didn’t know the real reasons the boys were picking on my son. I didn’t know the extent of damage the bullies were inflicting. I didn’t know my son was gay.
Twelve years later my ignorance is replaced with pride for the man my boy has become. This month he turns 25, and I count my blessings he is happy and healthy despite the scars and emotional wounds that were inflicted on him during his K-12 years. But I know that is not the case for a handful of his friends. Nor is it the case for millions of others who continue to suffer unable to shed or even recognize the shame they internalized during their formative years.
And it’s not easy for parents either. Hospitals don’t provide manuals for parents of newborns. And if they did, I doubt there would be a chapter titled, “How to know if your child is gay” or “Tips for determining the true gender of your child.” These are inquiries parents experience alone, in the dark hours before dawn, when all the day’s upsets and uncertainties flood our minds so often leaving us feeling inept, confused and concerned.
And when a child finally musters up the courage to share their identity secret, parents usually stumble, crumble, and experience shock and other difficult emotions as the shifting realities of a “new normal” come in to view. But the going doesn’t always get easier, once things start to feel comfortable, the landscape shifts again as the decisions and dangers of the teen years, give way to more sophisticated problems and risks of college, career, and young adulthood.
This blog is dedicated to parents who are on an identity journey with their child. My goal is to provide insights, guidance, compassion, and resources to help you support your child as they let go of the secrets and fear, and step into honesty about who they truly are (gender identity) or who they feel attracted to (sexual orientation).
If you are beating yourself up for not knowing sooner, wrestling with deeply held religious beliefs, are married to a non-supportive spouse, are struggling to accept that the son you raised is now your daughter, or are grieving the loss of a child you thought you knew; please check back for entries that address these topics and others. My hope is that these writings will smooth the trail and provide support for sure footed travel toward the joy you will experience knowing your child is happy.
Linda K. Reeves, MA, LMFT
Linda is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes in working with LGBTQ clients in her Hermosa Beach office..She also serves as Director of Parent & Family Services at Paradigm Malibu, and is the Co-Founder of Prism Institute, a full-service training organization that specializes in working with schools and academic institutions, mental and medical health care service providers and programs, businesses and municipalities to provide customized trainings and other critical information unique to the LGBTQ community.