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Friday, April 07, 2017

A homosexual in the family

He was a tough military man, an officer who had spent his life as a soldier, and now he was very angry with his son. The boy was 14 and had admitted to his mother that he thought he was gay. He confessed that he had no interest at all in women but felt strongly attracted to males.

He had kept this to himself, with the exception of a few similarly oriented friends. It was precisely his band of friends (all gay) that had alerted his father and caused him to confront his son. Trembling with fear, the boy nevertheless was able to tell his father the truth about how he felt. His dad was furious and belittled him and told him to “grow up and be a real man.”

The situation threatened to get out of hand and I was called in. The dad refused to listen and kept insisting that all the boy needed was to get into sports and have a few women and he would be just fine. In the meantime, there was no way that he could or would accept that his only son was gay.

There are few problems that cause more distress in parents than the discovery that their son or daughter isn’t “normal.” It is a shock for them to learn that Juan is a homosexual, or that Pilar is a lesbian. Long after all the evidence is in, parents will still remain in denial for quite a while. And some go to the grave without ever accepting the reality of their child’s sexuality.

The rejection of the child’s homosexuality is soon interpreted by him as a rejection of his person. It is difficult to imagine just how painful is the agony that young people experience as they deal with the reality of their own sexual orientation and the overt hostility they feel coming from a parent who is unwilling to accept the teenager’s homosexuality.

When a youngster is faced with the thought that he might be gay, he will initially go into denial. He instinctively knows the consequences of being gay. He is aware that if indeed he is gay, his lifestyle will be very different from most boys. He understands that he will be in the minority. A minority that is all too often mocked and scoffed at, made fun of and openly rejected by many.

He wonders too about his standing in the Church, which is quick to say that it condemns homosexual behavior but not the homosexual. This even if the Church expects him to refrain from any homosexual acts, never mind that he feels no urge to have sex with women. In fact, for many homosexuals, the thought of having sex with a woman is as abhorrent as is the prospect to a heterosexual man having sex with a male.

He fears the reaction and rejection of family, friends and strangers if and when they come to know the truth about himself. He worries even if God will understand him.


We don’t really know what causes homosexuality. Some say the causes are genetic. Others maintain that it is learned behavior. I think it is a combination of both genetics and learned behavior.

How do you explain the homosexual who has had no desire for women since the day he was born? Genetics. Then, later on when he gravitates toward like-minded young people, he learns behavior.

Homosexuality, however, isn’t something that parents do. Still, many parents feel guilty and ask themselves what it is they did to cause their son to become a homosexual.

The American Psychiatric Association believes that “innate characteristics contribute to sexual orientation cannot be changed through medical or psychiatric treatment.” Still, many parents, upon learning that their child is a homosexual or lesbian, will try to change him or her. Unable to accept the reality confronting them, they feverishly look for ways to make things right. And making it right usually means doing what it takes to get them back to normal.

That might mean getting the boy to go out with a woman. I know of instances when fathers have brought the gay son to a prostitute in the hope that sex with a woman will do the job. It doesn’t, of course. What it does, however, is to further traumatize the youngster. Or, the pressure is on for him to get into sports and “act like a real man.”

In many cases, there is a subtle (or not so subtle) rejection of the homosexual son or lesbian daughter. This is reflected in the feelings of the children who find it difficult to feel one with their parents.

We parents have expectations of our children and it is inconceivable that a parent wishes to have a homosexual son or lesbian daughter. So when it does happen, parents have a lot of adjustments to make.

But before making adjustments, they will need to do battle with their own feelings. They will need to face their own reality and their own unfulfilled expectations. Fathers feel guilty for not teaching masculine values.

They naturally see their sons as reflections of themselves and they don’t like what they are seeing.

There is a measure of shame. What will friends and the extended family think? And there is anger that things worked out this way. Anger with God even. Why did He let this happen?

Then, there is great confusion as this mix of feelings gives rise to a sense of increasing helplessness and hopelessness as nothing seems to work when trying to change the youngster.

It is not surprising that parents get so disturbed when they are faced with the reality of a homosexual child. Not surprisingly, their feelings run the whole gamut, from hope for change to despair that nothing will ever change.


What to do when reality sets in and you are faced with a child who is a homosexual or lesbian? First, you need to spend time getting the facts. There are so many falsehoods going around about homosexuals and homosexuality that you need to sort out the true from the false. Learning as much as you can will make things a lot easier for you.

Then you will need to be ready to listen. Listen to how your son feels about the mix of confused feelings he is experiencing as reality sets in his life as well as yours.

Keep the lines of communication open. This is a time of crisis for your child and he needs you badly to listen to him and understand him more than ever. So keep talking. Get to know what is in his mind.

Be sensitive. Don’t sermonize him about the “evils of homosexual activities.” You don’t want to shut him off and not know what’s in his heart and mind.

Support him. You may have difficulty accepting that he is gay, but keep in mind that he is still your son and deserving of your love. Things have not worked out as expected, but then, much of life holds surprises (many unpleasant) for us all.

Keep in mind that there is a lot more to a person than his sexual orientation. A lot more to your son than his homosexuality. You need to focus on his person and the beauty that emanates from within. I have fine friends who are gay. Many of them are very talented, kind-hearted and generous persons. This is what should be focused, just as one would with the heterosexual son or daughter.

We do not choose our sexual orientation. Someday, no doubt, science will unlock the mystery about why some are born gay. Until then we can only accept and continue to love our gay children as if it doesn’t matter what is their sexual orientation.

Just as we would teach our heterosexual children to live decently, so, too, must we show our gay children the way to a happy life.

There will be, however, some very difficult issues for which there are no easy answers. Like, how the Church views homosexuality. The official stand of the Church is that it’s okay to be a homosexual as long as he does not engage in sexual activities. But then, the homosexual’s orientation is precisely geared to the same sex. It’s what makes him homosexual. So does the Church require him to be chaste for life? It seems so, since he isn’t drawn to the opposite sex. Now that’s a very tall order indeed. It is like asking the heterosexual to refrain from having sex with the opposite sex and instead being restricted to the same sex activity.

Still, through it all, the gay youngster needs the love of the parents. Understanding and acceptance are crucial to keeping love alive and healthy between parent and child.


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