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Emily Rizzo

May 1997

The Parents' Corner

Q. I'm 15 and still in high school. I came out to my mother but she says I can't be gay and every time I talk to her we argue about it and she ends up crying. I need help to work things out with her.

A. 15 is a difficult age because there are so many other conflicts going on then between a parent and child that when sexual orientation becomes an issue it can serve as a lightning rod for all other problems. It's also hard to engage your parents as an adult because they are still looking at you as a child. You've got to be extra careful to present your point of view in a calm, rational fashion if you want them to take you seriously.

What you need are some pamphlets or books for your mom so you can help her understand that being gay is more than just a form of rebellion against her. There are a number of books written just for parents of gay and lesbian children; also PFLAG puts out some pamphlets as well. Check the PFLAG-TALK web site at http://www.critpath.org/~pflag/ for on-line pamphlets and ordering information or you can contact your local PFLAG chapter.

I strongly suggest that you read the pamphlet called "Read This Before Coming Out to Your Parents" (even if you're out already) because it's the best guide I know to the various emotional stages that parents go through when their child comes out. All of us parents have gone through those stages, although some of us get through them a lot more quickly than others! It's sounds to me that your mom is firmly stuck in denial.

Meanwhile, in your discussions with your mother try to make her understand that you are the same person you always were, but now she's seeing all of you, including the part you've had to keep hidden from her.

Can you sit down with her and tell her about your personal history of coming to understand that you are gay? Most gay people say they know from an early age that they are somehow different but that it takes years to understand exactly who they are. Perhaps if she comes to realize that this is not a sudden impulse on your part but something you have been living with for years, she might be a little more understanding.

Also, can you contact your local PFLAG chapter? For a complete chapter list check out the Official PFLAG web page at http://www.pflag.org then click on your state. Let your mom know that a group exists and even if she doesn't feel like going to a meeting, she can call up and speak to another mother who's been in her shoes. Or if she won't go, you might consider going yourself. All PFLAG chapters welcome gay and lesbian folk and some even have mini-coming out workshops for gay youth.

And finally give her time. After all, it took you years to come to terms with your being gay so don't expect her to reach acceptance over night. She will have to go through the same process of education, understanding and acceptance that you did for yourself. Remember, her motivation for making this journey will be her love for you.


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