“I would really like to go to my local PFLAG meeting to learn more about how to better support my gay son, but he is not ready to be out to everybody and would be very embarrassed if I went. I really think I need that extra support and opportunity to meet other people going through the same thing, but I also want to respect his request. What should I do?”
Question Submitted Anonymously
Answered by Polly Kim
PFLAG meetings are an excellent source of information and would be a wonderful place for you to go to meet other parents of LGBTQ kids and discuss your journey – when your son is ready for you to go. You may be tempted to go without telling him, but he trusted you by coming out to you, and you would risk jeopardizing that trust he has in you, so you are right to respect his request. His relationship with you and your support of him is what is most important to him now while he is getting used to being out to you and deciding who else he wants to tell.
You do need support too, and PFLAG can provide support in other ways besides their monthly chapter meetings. You can go to their website, pflag.org, to get information and resources. You can find a link to your local chapter’s website, email them or call their hotline, and someone will be happy to talk to you on the phone or meet with you. Having someone to talk to is very important for you—it’s hard being in the closet as a parent. Gently let your son know your feelings and ask him if there are people close to you—friends or family—he would feel comfortable with you telling so that you can have a confidante to talk to until you start going to PFLAG and develop a wider circle of friends for support. You can slowly work on changing your son’s mind about your attending a meeting. Tell him that PFLAG has a confidentiality policy. No one there will out him or you. He may eventually feel comfortable attending a meeting with you—my chapter often has teenagers attend, sometimes enough to have their own circle during the “rap session.”That’s the time when everyone has a chance to share whatever they want to talk about—their coming out story, something happening lately in their life, feelings about a current event—or they can choose to pass. It’s wonderful being in such an accepting, welcoming group where you know people are not judging you and you all have something in common as members of the LGBTQ community and allies.
You mentioned in your question that one reason you want to go to a PFLAG meeting is to learn more about how to support your son. The best way is to tell him you want to be supportive and to ask him what he would like you to do. Since he would be embarrassed if you went to a PFLAG meeting, it sounds like he would not want you to start wearing rainbows and attending Pride parades. But you can show your support of the LGBTQ community in more subtle ways that can let him know you care and help him realize being gay is nothing to be embarrassed about. Educate yourself and share resources you find from websites like this one, your local LGBTQ center, and books. Make sure he knows you are ready to listen, and be patient if he doesn’t feel like talking about it now. Most importantly, tell him how much you love him and that there is nothing wrong with him. For most kids, telling their parents is the scariest part of coming out. Let him know that now you are in this together and you are there for him.
Polly Kim is the mother of 19-year-old twins, including a daughter who came out at age 15. Polly joined PFLAG Los Angeles soon after and is now a board member. She has been a science teacher for over 25 years, teaching high school biology, elementary school science, and high school science research.
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