“My son just came out to me, and I am very supportive. Ever since he came out, though, I’ve noticed he has become more quiet and reclusive, and I’m getting concerned. Is it ok to ask him if he wants to go to therapy? I don’t want the suggestion to seem like I don’t want him to be gay!”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Grace Manger
Hi there, Anonymous! First, you seem like a very thoughtful and compassionate parent, and I want to thank you for being supportive and understanding of your son during this time. Coming out and therapy can both be touchy subjects on their own, so I think you are right to think this through. Lucky for you, I have tons of experience with coming out and going to therapy!
In my humble yet experienced opinion, therapy is the absolute best. I have seen various therapists on and off since I was 15, and I honestly cannot imagine what my life would be like had I not had those people in my life. I also think that everyone—regardless of their sexuality, gender identity, or even mental health status—should be in therapy at some point in their life. We all have insecurities, obstacles, or past trauma that are inhibiting us from being our happiest selves. Having a non-judgemental space to unpack those things can literally be revolutionary for so many people.
That being said, there is a lot of stigma and fear that keep people away from therapy. Much of our society still thinks that there needs to be something deeply “wrong” with you if you need to go to therapy, or that you are weak if you can’t handle your problems on your own. This is, of course, completely and utterly untrue. See above re: why everyone should be in therapy.
All of that is to say that I definitely think it is ok for you to ask your son if he would like to see a therapist. I think you can be really honest and clear with him, just like you were with me! Tell him you are not suggesting therapy because you disapprove of his sexuality, and that you’d like to work together to find a therapist who has experience working with gay clients in positive and affirming ways. Be sure to emphasize that there is nothing wrong with going to therapy, and that lots of people do. He may have already soaked in the anti-therapy stigma I mentioned earlier, so it may take some work to break that down. I also suggest you take a look at these suggestions for finding an LGBTQIA-inclusive therapist.
Let him know that it is absolutely ok to struggle, in whatever capacity he may be struggling right now. Struggling in no way makes his identity invalid, and these feelings will not last forever. While I hope for this to not be the case someday, coming out is a really big deal. Having complicated and overwhelming feelings is totally, 100% normal.
Alternatively, you could have him just read this post, so he can hear it straight from a super cool 23-year-old queer woman: Hey! Therapy is great! There is nothing wrong with going to therapy! I go to therapy! There is nothing wrong with being gay! I’m gay! There’s nothing wrong with struggling with the fact that you’re gay! I struggled with the fact that I’m gay (but I don’t anymore because I went to therapy)! Hooray!
Finally, I think the last piece of this scenario involves respecting your son’s decision. He may truly not want to go to therapy at this time, and that’s totally ok. Ensuring that he has other support systems in place—like family, friends, teachers, and coaches—as well as activities and hobbies that he enjoys are paramount. And, if he ever changes his mind and wants to give therapy a try, make sure he knows the offers still stands.
Good luck! Thanks again for being a great parent.