News - June 1996

A gift for parents of gay children: a wake up call from mother of ten

SAN RAFAEL, Calif.--Mother's Day is always one of the biggest holidays of the year for Mary Ann Cantwell, a 74-year-old retired teacher who is the mother of 10 children.

This year's event marks a special celebration for Mary Ann and her fifth son, Mike, who is gay -- the publication of Mary Ann's book about the resolution of her painful parenting relationship with Mike, and her son's revelation that he knew he was different from the age of four.

Called: "Homosexuality: The Secret A Child Dare Not Tell," (Rafael Press), the book discusses a subject once taboo, the guilt-ridden childhood of most gay youngsters, and the lengths they go to keep their homosexuality a secret from their parents.

Approximately one in 10 children is homosexual, and many of these kids know they are profoundly different at a very young age, said Mary Ann Cantwell. "Homosexuality is usually a natural unfolding that occurs during the early years of childhood," she said.

Through her own experience, she tells parents how to recognize signs their child may be gay, how homosexual children protect parents from the truth, and why parents who ignore the truth can cause lifelong problems for their children.

A sensitive parent and a teacher of emotionally disturbed kids, Mary Ann failed to recognize that Mike was gay. "Without words, without warning, without knowing it," she writes, "we teach many of our children that there's something wrong with them. We teach them so well that they hide themselves to protect us from discovering that they are something unacceptable to us."

Mike, now a 40-year-old Los Angeles writer, said he left home as a young adolescent still unwilling to tell his parents of his homosexuality. In his mid-twenties, Mike revealed he was gay, but he waited until he was 40 to tell his mother he had recognized his homosexuality as a four-year-old. Mary Ann dealt with years of parental pain and guilt before attending her first Gay Pride parade and becoming an activist in PFLAG, an organization for parents and friends of gays and lesbians.

"This book is my Mother's Day present to all of the parents who struggle with this issue, and to all of the children and adolescents who grow up hiding what they believe is a terrible secret," she said.

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