“I accidentally found out about my son’s secret boyfriend. Do I just pretend like I don’t know anything? I really want to talk to him, or at least talk to someone. I feel alone in this, and I can only imagine how alone my son feels.”

Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Steve Reaugh

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Steve Says:
The wisest thing to do here is to give him a box of condoms and a great big smile.
I’m kidding, of course. It’s more serious than that. Your son is exploring his sexuality and you want to show him that you’re there for him, but you don’t want him to feel embarrassed, right?
I know if I had had a secret boyfriend when I was younger, and my mother—or my father, had he been there back then—had found out about it, I would’ve been bright red for weeks. But I know my mother would have sat me down, and as embarrassed as I would have been to talk to my mother about sex, it would have shown me that she was always there one step ahead of me. It would have shown me that she still paid such acute attention to my comings and goings, to my behavior from sun-up to sun-down, and to all the little things I thought she couldn’t see. And it would have showed me that she did all that because she was looking out for me, taking care of me, and loving me just like parents do.
But what kind of talk am I describing, exactly? Therein lies the key to your question. I think you should sit down with your son and have a talk, however it is that you two best spend time together (cooking a meal, playing games, stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate, etc.). Talking to your son will keep him, I hope, from feeling that his sexuality needs to be a secret from himself and from others. It isn’t shameful to have a boyfriend, no matter your gender.
That part, I think you know how to do. Love is love, even if you think you’re not getting through.
But the other part of this is that you’ve been hit with the parental double whammy: the “sex talk” and the sexuality talk at the same time. I don’t mean to understate either—rather, I think they’re so valuable to both parents and kids as steps toward meaningful and mature adult relationships. What I mean is that parents often have some measure of worry about these talks: Am I going to do it right? Will my child listen to me? What do I say to keep us both from getting too embarrassed?
There’s some good help out there for the sex talk, as well as what to do after you have it. The important thing to do is to have that talk, if you haven’t already, or to continue having that dialogue. Your son may not know all that he needs to know in regards to safe sex and relationships—and, if it gets that far, love. Let him know that you accept him as he is—as he always was—but that there are responsibilities when it comes to relationships. Perhaps, if he’s willing, you might even invite his boyfriend over for dinner, or volunteer to drive them to a movie. Whatever you can do to be the caring and always-one-step-ahead parent you are and always have been will show him that his sexuality isn’t going to ruin anything between you. Instead, I hope it brings you so much closer.

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Steve Reaugh is a third-year candidate for an MFA in Creative Writing in prose at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. His writing, a hybridized blend of drama and memoir, focuses on the depictions and performances of an LGBTQ self in the public sphere, and how that self changes based on both acceptance and non-acceptance. In addition to teaching English and Creative Writing at the University of Alabama, he volunteers with the Tuscaloosa chapter of the Writers in the Schools initiative, which introduces creative writing instruction to Title I schools in Tuscaloosa and the surrounding area as a complement to academic success. He currently resides in Tuscaloosa, with his fiancé of 3 years, Josh, and their dog, Brooke.

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