Emily Rizzo

July 1998

Q. I'm 19 and a sophomore in college. I told my mother that I'm gay and she took it okay except she's worried that I have AIDS. I told her that I've never had sex but she still insists that I get tested.

A. Unfortunately, there's still a lot of people who equate being gay with having AIDS. Included in this group, of course, are those people who think that only gay men can get AIDS and that no one else has to practice safer sex.

The first thing you can do is make sure she is educated about AIDS; pick up a pamphlet for her at your college's student health center. While you're at it, make sure that you yourself are informed of the facts so you can answer any questions she may have.

Sometimes parents will fixate on a particular concern, such as AIDS or gay bashing, instead of dealing with all their other feelings about having a gay child. It's so easy to worry about just one thing!

Since your mother seems accepting of your sexual orientation, try to get her to talk about her feelings. Let her know about how you felt when you first realized you were gay. It probably took you a while to feel good about yourself -- after all, we all grow up somewhat homophobic, even gay people because that's what we hear around us. Let your mother know that it's okay for her to have mixed emotions. After all, what it took you months or years to understand she has to deal with all of a sudden. Parents often go through a period akin to grieving, as they must let go their original set of "straight" dreams and expectations for their gay children.

See if you can get your mother to a local PFLAG meeting. Go to www.pflag.org for a complete listing of all chapters, including contact information. Just being with other parents who are dealing with the same issues, and some of whom may have children who are HIV positive, will help her gain some perspective.

Please send your questions to Emily.Rizzo@nyu.edu All questions will be answered confidentially.

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