“My 18-year old son came out to me a few years ago, but he has not yet told his father, my husband. I support my son and have allowed him to handle this at his own pace; however, I feel horrible keeping such an important aspect of our son’s life from my husband. My husband has asked me several times about our son’s sexuality and my reply is that he needs to ask our son. I know deep down that my husband knows our son is gay. I feel stuck in the middle.”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Kristin Russo
(GET IT?! Because you are a mom and you are anonymous…)
First of all, thank you for writing to us.
Second of all, this is a really, truly difficult situation to be in, and it makes complete sense that you are feeling stretched mighty thin between two people who you love dearly. Luckily, Dannielle and I answered a very similar question in our book, This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, so I have some already-thought-out advice to offer you!
The long and short of it is that, in order for you to take care of your children or your husband (or anyone, really), you have to always take care of yourself. Yes, your son deserves autonomy in his coming-out process. Yes, your husband deserves honesty from his partner. And, as you’ve noticed, those things contradict each other in this case. Life is pretty messy sometimes, and this is one of those experiences where there are two right answers…but you need to figure out how to choose just one.
The way you do this is through respect and compromise. A few years is a very, VERY long time to keep anything from someone, let alone your husband. You cannot keep this to yourself for much longer—it isn’t healthy (and remember, you have to take care of yourself if you want to help those around you!). So, here is what you do:
1. Sit down with your son and explain that you want him to be able to tell his father on his own time, but that you have given as much time to him as you can, and that it is putting a strain on your relationship and your day-to-day life. Let him know that you love him, but that you are concerned for your own well-being.
2. Explain to your son that you do not want him to feel forced to come out, but that you have to leave this conversation with a plan. That means he can have a few more weeks, or even a couple months, if he needs. He can take that time and talk to you as much as he wants and prepare for the best way he’d like to tell his father.
3. Let your son know that you believe your husband will be supportive, even if it takes him some time to understand, and that you will be there, in your son’s corner, every step of the way.
4. If your son refuses to tell his father, you have to firmly explain that on [set date] you are going to tell him yourself, because in order to be a good parent and a healthy person, you cannot lie any longer.
It can be so, so scary to tell a parent about our identity. We feel afraid that maybe they won’t accept us, or that they will view us differently. It is scary to think that this might mean nothing will ever feel the same again… but the truth is that, by not telling his father, your son is likely also feeling a horrible strain that he may not even be able to acknowledge yet.
Talk to him with love, and ask him to please work with you so that you can be together as a family again—a family that grows and changes and bends over time.
If you give him that respect, I hope that he will give you the same respect in return.
Much love to all of you,
Kristin resides in Brooklyn, and holds a Master’s in Gender Studies from the CUNY Graduate Center. She has a BA in Theatre Performance, and has been working with LGBTQ young people for over 6 years, first volunteering at the Hetrick-Martin Institute in NYC, and then co-founding Everyone Is Gay in 2011. She recently co-authored the book This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids, with business partner, Dannielle Owens-Reid.
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