My Son Came Out to Me. Now What?

I am an ally for LGBTQ people.  In the past few years, I have been educating myself on these issues and all forms of oppression, exploring diversity in its many variations and definitions.  And just when I was getting pretty comfortable – don’t do that because it means you’re getting smug – life threw me a curveball. My teenaged son came out to me two weeks ago.  BOOM.

It’s still early in the process, and I am still waiting for the shock to wear off.  In the meantime, I’ve poured my energies into educating myself now that I have a son who is not straight.

Let’s start at the beginning.

We had had a serious family discussion concerning the future of Kyle’s future schooling.  I sat Kyle down to discuss what was going on with his studies, why he had slacked off this year, lost his focus, etc. He was still doing well, but was clearly preoccupied with other matters, and from what I gathered it seemed to be too much socializing with his pals and a secret girlfriend.  He went into teenaged silent mode.  Until I gave him an ultimatum: you must tell me or we don’t leave for school.  I stared at the bookshelf, avoiding eye contact, so he would feel less self-conscious.

Heavy sigh and then, “I think I’m pansexual.”

Oh. OH.  A million thoughts. How did I miss this?  He’s not gay? Not bi? Pansexual – that means he picked up the term from me, so he was listening after all.  Oh crap, I still haven’t given him the birds and bees talk yet, been working my way to it discussing many other tangential topics. AUGH!

I kept my eyes focused on the shelf of paperbacks as he poured forth his pent-up frustrations.  There was some fear mixed with nervous relief in his voice.  I cut in with a few questions, but didn’t press the issues too hard.  For every question I asked him, I had ten more for myself.  Then it was time to leave for school.  I spent the rest of the day in that proverbial haze, still fretting over my fight with my husband, but now my son’s sexual identity issue clouded everything, colored all thoughts.  A good friend told me to separate the issues, and I tried, but clearly I went into Mommy panic mode.

For the record, I come from a stereotypical background of a being a yuppie.  My husband’s family is even more traditional and conventionally-minded than mine.  I live in a part of the country that is opposite poles away from San Francisco, culturally speaking.  I worried for my son who knew his father is not as open as I am about many matters, so we decided to keep this our secret for now. Fear, guilt, confusion, and, yes, sorrow coursed through my body, turning my nerves into electric eels and my legs into lead.

I sought out a friend who is also the dean who handles these issues at my son’s school.  I sat down with her and her assistant for an impromptu meeting.  They gave up their Friday afternoon to soothe my nerves, dry a couple tears, give four long hugs, and commend me for teaching my son – and them – the term “pansexual,” and gave specific advice on what to do next.  A meeting between my son and the dean was arranged.  I spent the rest of the afternoon running silly errands with Kyle to buy chat time with him.  I knew that if we had headed straight for home he would have clammed up, so walking through the shops provided a good distraction.  He shared more information with me, and I asked more questions, but tried not to press him despite my overwhelming lioness instincts.  The one thing I did urge him – and the dean had backed up my concern – was to tell my son to stop discussing these matters with his school friends.  If my son was not ready to share this news with the world, then he could ensure that the secret would remain a secret now that he had opened his mouth. It wasn’t that his friends aren’t wonderfully loyal, but at 14 years of age they do not possess enough life experiences to handle such a responsibility. Additionally these friends do not have parents who are LGBTQ allies.  He agreed.

A week has passed.  My son had a wonderful talk with the dean. He revealed many details, how long this has been an issue, “several years,” she told me. They plan on meeting again after the spring break, to continue their discussions. I went into over enthusiastic/interfering Mom mode and tried to glean information from him.  So the talk was good?  Did she mention the Gay/Straight Alliance?  Do you feel more relieved?   Any questions you want to ask me?

(Strong, deep voice) “MOM, I said it’s fine now.  I don’t need to talk anymore.”

Okay, that was my cue to STFU.  Got it.

What I am feeling now, what’s going through my head.

I feel calmer now; am past that mourning stage.  Yes, there was some mourning. It does stem partially from the cultural bias towards heteronormativity. There are no members of my extended family or my husband’s family who does not identify as straight.  If so, then they have been banished from public gatherings or family discussions. No, not a single known soul. Therefore, although I’ve had friendships from college and young adulthood, my truly intimate relationships with non-straight people has been nil. I fell into that common trap.  And my son was excellent at revealing only his attraction to girls.

Besides the default heteronomative way of thinking there was something else at play, which ties into my protective lioness mode. I personally believe we are animals at heart and retain some basic instincts.  My quick shot of sadness came from a primal urge that my offspring did not fit into the typical standards of our clan.  You see how misfits animals are moved to the fringe of packs, sometimes completely cast out to fend for themselves.  I was reacting to my son proclaiming his feelings towards both genders in very specific circumstances, and his feelings were so complex I did not know how to process this information so quickly.

Whom to talk to: me and my son.

I do have lesbian friends, but I know my son needs a male adult figure who can provide guidance, share personal experiences, and be a symbol that says, “Hey, look at me, I was you once, you’re okay, we’re all okay, be proud.”  No real life allies have been found, yet, but I am searching. Arrangements might be made for him to speak with Dr. John Amaechi via Skype.  I had the personal fortune of meeting Dr. Amaechi when he spoke at a local function a few years ago.  Back then, I had no idea then that my son was already confronting feelings and questions about his sexuality.

If only I had known.

I thought I had gaydar, should I have had queerdar?  Bi-dar?  I’m going nutso trying to contain this situation.  Calm the freak down now. The protective lioness had a difficult time not being able to roar out loud, so I kept emailing my friend at all hours of the day.

She assured me in her always calm and reliably soothing ways.  The protective lioness wants to stand in front of the cub and shield him from future pain he will probably endure for being different.  Especially the shock when he reveals his true nature to the extended family.  But I can’t fight all his battles, so I must remain centered and wait. Wait for him to give me signals, just be a silent but steady presence.  In the meantime, though, I will pour my energy into PFLAG and do loads of reading and researching.  Gotta keep these lionness paws busy.

The irony is for years I have been secretly wishing that a relative would out himself/herself so I would have a real life ally.  Never did I guess it would be my baby boy.

11 thoughts on “My Son Came Out to Me. Now What?”

  1. This is a great article.

    On my Mother’s side of the family there are at least four out relatives: two are bisexual, one lesbian and one gay man. Then you have the couple of relatives who have not decided to come out yet. I can’t say I blame them, because the out members of my family have faced a lot of opposition, teasing, prejudice and othering from people who should be understanding and compassionate. It has not been an easy road for them. You’d think with so many gay people in one family that they would band together and form some kind of solidarity, but it hasn’t really happened.

    Because of this I’ve vowed that if my son grows up to be gay, bisexual, transgendered or whatever the case may be, I will do everything I can to make him feel accepted and loved. I do everything I can at every opportunity to promote GLBT rights and I’m extremely open minded. After all, I was raised by a gay Mother.

    Even despite that, though, there is always the teeny tiny fear that despite everything I feel and say, if the situation were that close to home, would I react badly? Would I be disappointed? I’d like to think not, but who can really say until they are faced with it?

    All I can do is raise my son with good values and show him at every opportunity that I love him no matter what, and will support his choices in life.

  2. My 15-year old daughter came out to me recently, too.

    I’m sorry you’re having a tough time of it. Me, I don’t really care that she considers herself pansexual (and has a girlfriend). My only real worry is that she is not mature enough at her age to have sex – with anyone.

    I commend you on remaining open to dialogue, but knowing when to back off, too.

      1. Thanks for the link! I was having a minor freakout, as a bi girl, going WAIT WHAT AM I IN RELATION TO THIS AHHH (because I’m ridiculous).

        To the writer, you rock. I will never be able to come out to either of my parents and can only hope to do better with my children one day.

  3. Love this.
    Somehow, no one ever thinks it’s gonna be their kid who’s not straight. When I was talking to my dad, who came out of the closet at age 45, with a wife and two kids about a girl I was seeing (and yes, I’d mentioned before that I wasn’t straight), he briefly freaked. Go figure.

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