Why didn't we seek help from our parents when we first wondered if we were gay?

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    Jul 28, 2008 10:24 PM GMT
    I know it's not universally true, but in the various discussions about "when did you know you were gay" and coming out stories, both here and elsewhere, it's almost always the case that we struggle in our "cocoon", usually on our own, and do not seek the help of our parents. Why is that? How do we know, even as small children - and for better or worse - to stay quiet about ourselves and enter the closet?

    As I related, I definitely remember liking boys as far back as preschool (even if it wasn't sexual then) and I was always "smart" enough to know that girls didn't really have coodies. With some variations and exceptions, I've heard similar stories from others. As teenagers (give or take) we all started checking out other guys in the showers, etc, sometimes associated with experiences.

    Yet not a word to mom and dad? Not a peep to an older sibling? Not a question to a cousin or (heavens to Betsy!) a grandparent? If we scraped our knee, were scared of the dark or wanted a candy bar... we had no problem approaching these people we (generally) loved.

    Obviously the period may contribute (was it the 50s? 70s? 80s? 90s... now?), but in all the many anecdotes that doesn't really enter the picture (maybe someone in the 50s was less likely to come out at all, getting married, etc.)

    So how did society let us know that being gay/homosexual - even when we barely knew what those words really meant - was "wrong"? And has the environment, at the ~teenager level, changed throughout these decades?
  • brain5brawn

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    Jul 28, 2008 10:29 PM GMT
    For me, it wasn't so much the concept of asking my parents about being gay, it was asking them about anything sexual. War, politics, religion, everything else, was ok, but you just didn't discuss sex. I walked in on my parents once having a little fun, and basically just left the room, and went about the day like nothing had happened.

    Even now that I'm out to them, I don't dicuss that I'm gay, not so much out of them looking down on it or something of that nature (which they don't, they're quite supportive) but just because telling them I'm gay implies something; that I've had sex, with men, and in all likelihood, at some point it involved certain things they'd rather not imagine their son doing.

    So maybe its not so much about being gay for some, but just talking about sex with their family?
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    Jul 28, 2008 10:34 PM GMT
    Are you kidding? It didn't take me too many years to realize how narrow minded my parents (and many others in East Texas) were about people in general, much less someone who might (God forbid!) be different from them. My intuition to not talk about sensitive topics with them has served me well throughout my life.
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    Jul 28, 2008 10:36 PM GMT
    My parents were open to discussion. We had several lengthy discussions about religion when I told them I became an atheist. But my sexuality was different. My own private shame that I didn't discuss with anyone. I was a stupid kid and if I could do it all over again I would have come out much sooner than I did 17).
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    Jul 28, 2008 10:36 PM GMT
    I believe now would be easier than for most of us and that is all great sounding in Black and White however in reality it's hard; most kids don't have that strong of a bond with their parents.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Jul 28, 2008 10:37 PM GMT
    My Parents???

    They were middle class people from the suburbs back then who had ZERO experience with anything that could have been construed as gay

    I would have gotten boxing lessons from my father
    and at every diner table my mother would have asked

    "Is it me? Did I make you gay? Because if it's me I want you to tell me. Is it me? Did I do this to you?"
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    Jul 28, 2008 10:43 PM GMT
    The answer you get depends on the age of the gay man, and the culture they grew up in. When I was a teen (the 1970s) homosexuality was considered a perversion, a mental illness, something to be treated and cured(almost at the same level as pedophilia).

    Furthermore, if you grew up in a small city or town there were wasn't an internet, or gay help phonelines, basically no support structures. You really felt like an alien visiting planet earth, and just hoped by some miracle it would go away. Of course it didn't so you would suppress your natural desires and hope nobody would find out.

    If I had told my parents in 1972 or 1973 I am sure they would have been tempted to ship me off to a psychiatrist, which may have resulted in further complications.

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    Jul 28, 2008 10:49 PM GMT
    Because my mother is crazy and any advice she would have to give would have nothing to do with my actual happiness and everything to do with her hysteria.
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    Jul 28, 2008 10:50 PM GMT
    innerathlete saidBecause my mother is crazy and any advice she would have to give would have nothing to do with my actual happiness and everything to do with her hysteria.


    Are we related somehow? icon_eek.gif
  • joggerva

    Posts: 731

    Jul 28, 2008 10:58 PM GMT
    Actually, I tried that and it only led to many more years in the closet. I came home from school one day (3rd or 4th grade) crying because the kids at school were calling me 'gay' and 'faggot'. I asked my parents what they meant.
    So, they told me that being gay is a very bad thing that two men did (obviously they didn't go too far into detail given my age). And that it is a sin, and gays are going to hell. They asked why I thought people were saying this, and I said because all my friends were girls. My dad came up with the genius excuse that I was simply getting a head start on understanding girls and would be quite the ladies' man later on.
    Then I cried some more, and we all prayed, and the denial sunk ever deeper.
  • GQjock

    Posts: 11649

    Jul 28, 2008 11:05 PM GMT
    Also when I was growing up..
    my parents would repeat some really off color bad gay jokes every once in a while
    They had no idea really what they were saying
    But I'd hear them and I'd think.... Is that what they think of me?
    and Guys in junior and senior high... would joke around and call that guy a fag
    or him gay... if he couldn't catch a ball
    after all of that taken in it only served to make me all the more closeted for years to comeicon_sad.gif
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    Jul 28, 2008 11:11 PM GMT
    Here's why . . . up until the 7th grade I made straight 'A's on my report card most every time. Hardly ever a 'B', even.

    Then in the 7th grade, I got a. . . 'C'. . . OMG!!!!(in math). AND YOU WOULD'VE THOUGHT I HAD KILLED SOMEBODY. They treated me like garbage for weeks afterwards. (Actually they were always crappy to me, this was simply worse).

    Can you imagine what would've happened if I had told them I WAS GAY?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    My dad was an alcoholic and my mother BEYOND INSANE, so there was no way I'd tell them.





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    Jul 28, 2008 11:24 PM GMT
    SurrealLife said
    innerathlete saidBecause my mother is crazy and any advice she would have to give would have nothing to do with my actual happiness and everything to do with her hysteria.


    Are we related somehow? icon_eek.gif


    yes you are. in fact, i think i'm related to both of you too icon_eek.gif
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    Jul 29, 2008 12:39 AM GMT
    That's an interesting question, but I think before we decide we didn't go to our parents because we're gay, it's important to look at the other side. Do straight guys go to their parents when they're young and discover to whom they are attracted? Perhaps when we are older (teens maybe) we realize what society thinks, but even then do straight (or gay) people talk to their parents about sex? I have studied human sexuality very little and only in relation to religion, but my guess is that you'd see only a slight increase, if any, in the number of straight people who talk to their parents at a young age when compared to gay people. But it really would be interesting to find out how children view homosexuality based on their age.
  • Aquanerd

    Posts: 845

    Jul 29, 2008 12:42 AM GMT

    Even now that I'm out to them, I don't dicuss that I'm gay, not so much out of them looking down on it or something of that nature (which they don't, they're quite supportive) but just because telling them I'm gay implies something; that I've had sex, with men, and in all likelihood, at some point it involved certain things they'd rather not imagine their son doing.

    I completely agree. While I never heard anything from my parents indicating that I'd be "shunned" if I came out, I'd seen and read enough in the media, to think that it wasn't worth the perceived drama.

    When I finally came out to them in my 30's, the only tears came when my mom said that she hoped that I hadn't passed up an opportunity for the "right guy" for fear of what it would do to them. Even, my simple, country father's only response was "what ever makes you happen," and "We love you and support you no matter what."

    If any younger guys, or any closeted guys out there, are worried about what it will do to your parents, or what will they think of you, give them more credit. If they loved you before they will love you after.
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    Jul 29, 2008 12:55 AM GMT
    conversion camps, 'nuff said
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    Jul 29, 2008 1:07 AM GMT
    aquanerd> When I finally came out to them in my 30's, the only tears came when my mom said that she hoped that I hadn't passed up an opportunity for the "right guy" for fear of what it would do to them.

    One of my mom's initial reactions, coming out to her at 24, was that "you poor thing, you struggled with this yourself all this time" (and it's part of what got me thinking about this topic).


    Brain5Brawn> it was asking them about anything sexual

    txsoccer16> do straight (or gay) people talk to their parents about sex?

    I think brain5brawn and txsoccer16 are both on to something when they say it has more to do with the taboo of talking about sex with parents. (Is that a Puritan legacy? Any comments from our European or Asian members?)

    But what about siblings and cousins?

    I also think that heterosexual children can broach the topic to some extent. Not so much the intricacies of the plumbing, but what is going on in my partner's niece's 6-year old head when she says she wants to marry me? I had a distant cousin (about 8 years younger) who insisted she'd marry me probably until she was about 10.

    I suppose we couldn't say such a thing because we weren't exposed to the model of gay marriage. We had no Disney character who rode off into the sunset with another guy. We knew, even in our single-digit years, that we were the square peg that didn't fit in the round (pigeon-) hole.


    GQJock> They were middle class people from the suburbs back then who had ZERO experience with anything that could have been construed as gay... off color bad gay jokes

    You know this now, and maybe at 16, but at 8?


    LittleDudeWithMuscles> Can you imagine what would've happened if I had told them I WAS GAY [compared to getting a "C"]

    OK, crazy parents seems to be a running theme, and yet I'm hoping that most of us didn't have crazy parents. Then again, it sounds like the time you got your first "C" was probably a few years after you potentially couldn't have asked your parents, in the voice of an innocent 10 year old, "mommy, why is it that most of my friends seem to like girls but I like boys?"


    SurrealLife> When I was a teen (the 1970s) homosexuality was considered a perversion, a mental illness

    And you knew this when you were 8?


    HRGUY> It didn't take me too many years to realize how narrow minded my parents (and many others in East Texas) were

    But how many years past your initial feelings/suspicions of being "different" was that? Why didn't you say anything before you realized that?


    MunchingZombie> My parents were open to discussion. ...But my sexuality was different. My own private shame that I didn't discuss with anyone.

    How did you know to be shamed?


    joggerva> they told me that being gay is a very bad thing that two men did (obviously they didn't go too far into detail given my age). And that it is a sin, and gays are going to hell.

    OK, obviously we have a case (and I'm sure there will be others) of negative reinforcement (sounds like an understatement, hell and all). But this stands out because, so far, it is different than what others have retold - where there was no explicit anti-gay references at an early age.

    Yet, for most of us, we were shamed and knew to keep it to ourselves?
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    Jul 29, 2008 1:15 AM GMT
    Hmmm lets see right-wing Pentecostal ministers, they were not gay-friendly at all. You try to tell yourself all will be OK then you get exorcisms, counseling, Summer Jesus camps, set-up dates with chicks....Is it a surprise Im not religion friendly now?icon_rolleyes.gif

    I will make sure I am the complete opposite in terms of all this with my own 4 kids someday...if any are gay I welcome that, what's the big deal anyway?
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    Jul 29, 2008 1:19 AM GMT
    For me, I started having sexual feelings before I know what they were, and so couldn't express how I felt when confronted with them. Compounded by the society we live in, where everyone expects us to be straight, I was in the closet (living a literal lie) before I even knew I was. Telling my parents (or telling anyone) was difficult because it felt like confessing a lie.

    I think being in the closet is practically the only case in which a person can end up telling a lie they aren't really responsible for starting, because I think other people also start having sexual feelings before they know what they are and can't express themselves accurately when they need to, in the beginning.

    Ever tell a white lie that just kept snowballing, growing bigger and bigger without you really meaning it to, but because you don't take a stand and decide to tell the truth at any given moment, you just kept on lying, and the lie kept on getting bigger? That's what it was like for me developing as an early teenager when everyone expects you to be straight.

    "Who do you like?"
    "Huh?"
    "Do you like Jen? Or Meghan? I think Meghan likes you."
    "Uh... Meghan."

    From there the lie just kept on growing. I didn't realize I wasn't being truthful about my sexuality, because I didn't even realize I was gay. By the time I started actually questioning my sexuality, the lie of being in the closet had been going on for so long (really, in hindsight, only a year or 2) I felt it had gotten so big I couldn't expose it. I assume many guys get stuck in the closet the same way: unintentionally. And many people feel apprehensive about confessing a lie (even about homosexuality in non-homophobic environments) to their parents, or "siblings or cousins" or anyone else.
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    Jul 29, 2008 3:39 AM GMT
    mine told me at a very early age that gay people were sick in the head. i remember my sister talking about fred phelps, and how he was wrong for picketing soldier's funerals. then she made a joke about how the only people going to hell are fags. needless to say, they aren't very accepting people.
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    Jul 29, 2008 4:10 AM GMT
    i really wished i had seeked help.....my parents were more supportive than i had ever dreamed...dont get me wrong they dont like it...but their love for me is too strong to let any social, or religous barriers(restrictions), separate us,....if i wasnt so ashamed of myself, or so afraid i wish i had come to them for help and support...it would have saved me from alot of heartache, lonliness, and unbearable isolationicon_cry.gif
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    Jul 29, 2008 4:16 AM GMT
    I'm a Nigerian. As an only son, I'm expected to marry a Nigerian woman, "make" Nigerian babies icon_lol.gif, teach them my native dialect, etc. With such unattainable expectations looming over me, I never considered coming out as a child. And today I am still closeted to my family, though my mom, who is one of my closest friends, has let on that she knows something is up. (Good mothers know their children.) Because my parents are old, I intend to do everything I can to make their final years as pleasant as possible. It hurts not to be able to share this part of my life with them, but I've gotten used to it. Plus, I have some wonderful friends and belong to a large network of gay Nigerians.
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    Jul 29, 2008 4:30 AM GMT
    Sex was a taboo subject in my household, my parents would not allow me to take sex ed. They would not even call the class,"sex ed, just that class instead".

    I wish I could have counted on them, but had to keep my chin up, and trudge on. I transformed from an exuberant boy to an introverted teen. Never really made it all the way back.
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    Jul 29, 2008 4:36 AM GMT
    Had my mom not passed away when I was young, perhaps she would have been there to help me to explore my confusing feelings of attraction to males. She even had a gay friend (although we didn't get to see him very often). Instead, my father joined a Baptist singles group (thus our indoctrination began), and soon afterward, he married a woman we affectionately referred to as "step monster." That began over a decade of violence and chaos. When peers began to bully me in 9th grade because they suspected that I was gay, I had nowhere to go and no one to turn to -- least of all, the "church people." Now, in all fairness, the church did become a second family to me. They were always available to comfort and shelter me during the many crises that colored my youth; however, my experiences with peers led me to conclude that being gay was anathema and social suicide. I figured that, so long as I didn't act on my feelings, I wasn't gay. That served me well until my early 20's. But, before I had even had a full taste of the forbidden fruit, the religious right swept in and "rescued" me. Multiple deliverance sessions later, I naively got married, thinking that God had "cured" me. So, what was the question, again?

    By the way, it wasn't until much later in life that I figured out that "queer" and "fag" were synonymous. I was so completely clueless about homosexuality. You think parents have a hard time discussing the birds and the bees? Add icky butt sex to the conversation and you have a surefire recipe for closed communications.
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    Jul 29, 2008 4:53 AM GMT
    i was never sure about how my folks felt about homosexuality. even though thry're both fairly open, mom being from amsterdam,i only found out my uncle had been gay when i was about 20. he died of AIDS when i was 5 or 6. and my folks never spoke about him. so when my sister told me he was gay, i thought maybe they didn't talk about him because of that so i kept it to myself for another 4 years. though now that i'm out, my dad is even more open to talking about it, and even making jokes about me, and i assume it's because he regrets my uncle was never comfortable enough to talk to his own brother about it.