What should a parent say when a child comes out as gay?
“Kids are coming out younger, while they’re living under the same roof with their parents,” says Wesley C. Davidson, who wrote the new book “When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need to Know” (Sterling, $14.95) along with Manhattan psychiatrist Jonathan L. Tobkes. “In days past, a gay child waited until after they were out of the house and then announced it to their parents.”
When any child comes out to the parents, he or she is looking for unconditional love and reassurance that you will always be there for them, Davidson says. “You want to tell them you’re glad they expressed this important aspect of themselves and you’re proud of them for coming forth with this,” she says.
Both Davidson and Tobkes have Long Island connections — Davidson, whose 32-year-old son is gay, spends five months a year on Fishers Island in the Town of Southold, and Tobkes, who is gay, graduated from Baldwin Senior High School.
During that first conversation, parents can ask their child how they feel about being LGBTQ and assure them that if they are apprehensive about anything, you’ll help them figure it out through support groups or therapy, Davidson says. “It’s a good idea to ask them who else knows they’re gay,” she says. Their pediatrician? Other family members? Best friend? “The child may not want everybody to know. It’s their story and they may not want the entire family to know, especially if there are homophobic relatives.”
Keep the door open for further conversations, Davidson says. If you feel you didn’t respond well during the initial coming out conversation, revisit it, Davidson advises, saying, “I didn’t have the time to respond properly” or “I needed to digest this.”