[oasis] [columns]

Emily Rizzo

March 1997

The Parents' Corner

Q. My boyfriend and I have been going together for two years and I love him very much. He recently told me he thought he might be gay and he wants my permission to explore this side of himself. I’m afraid that if he tries it, he’ll like it and dump me for some guy. I love him very much and don’t want to lose him, what can I do?

A. First a little background before I answer you specifically: as you know we live in a very homophobic society, for the majority of people being gay is not something acceptable or desirable. This homophobia extends to gay people as well as straights; after all, gay people grow up listening to anti-gay remarks from their parents, peers and often religious leaders and politicians as well. They quickly come to understand that being gay is something to hide and many young gay people go through agonies of trying to “change.”

The reality is that sexual orientation is probably fixed early in childhood or even before birth — no one really knows for sure — and in spite of what you might hear to the contrary, there is absolutely no evidence that sexual orientation can be changed or that gay people can be converted to heterosexuality.

Sometimes gay people who really do want to conform to society and please their families and friends will try to ignore their homosexual impulses. It’s not so much a conscious deception as an avoidance of a rather painful truth. They believe that if they find the right member of the opposite sex then they can somehow conquer their natural feelings and live a heterosexual life, just like their parents.

The problem is that this doesn’t really work, which is why there are so many Straight Spouse and Gay Fathers Support Groups. Gay men who get married and sire children generally end up recognizing somewhere down the road that it just isn’t working and then end up coming out as gay later on in life. It’s a lot easier to come out when you are 18 or 20 than at 40 or 50! Plus they often leave behind an angry and embittered spouse and confused children.

So getting back to your situation, the odds are that if your boyfriend says that he is gay, he most likely is. If you ask him about it, he’ll probably tell you he’s been attracted to men for years before admitting to himself or to you that he is gay. It’s highly unlikely that his not acting on his impulses and staying with you is going to result in a long-term happy marriage. Don’t forget that being gay is a lot more than just physical attraction, it’s also about falling in love in the most complete and fulfilling way.

My suggestion to you is to give him the freedom he needs to find himself but try, if you feel you can, to stay friends. Remember, that his being gay has nothing to do with you; there is absolutely nothing you could have done or said to have changed the situation. Many gay men do end up having deep, non-physical friendships with straight women, including ex-girl friends or even ex-wives. It may not be your ideal relationship but it may realistically be all that you can expect from him.

Be sure to check out the unofficial PFLAG web page for a list of chapters, PFLAG pamphlets, and other resource material.


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