Hi Good Enough Guy,
My 19-year-old son John came home from college a little while ago and came out to my husband Tyler and me.
I have suspected John was gay for a while and I am just happy he is finding himself and becoming more comfortable with who he is. But Tyler is having a hard time with it and things are strained between him and John.
Now John is saying he may try to get a summer job near his school and not visit us over the summer break and I know this has to do with my husband’s attitude.
I don’t want my son to start pulling away from us. What can I do to help my husband accept our son?
Carol, New Orleans.
One of my best friend’s sons came out to him about eight years ago, and he had a tough time with it at first. I remember talking to him about it, while we drank a beer (or thirty). He’s not a big talker and I don’t recall most of what was said (probably the beer), but I remember trying to listen more than I spoke, while he shook his head, shrugged his shoulders and tried to process what he was feeling. Reading your question took me back to that night, all that beer, and the look he had on his face; like he was trying to figure out something that couldn’t be figured out; and wouldn’t make any real difference if it could.
I called and talked to him about it yesterday to see what he’d come up with since then, and all he said was “At the end of the day, he’s still my son. Nothing else matters much.” As I said, he’s not a big talker, but is this case, what’s left to say?
The thing is, this situation is more about acceptance than homosexuality. It’s about the limit of what a child can tell a parent and still feel loved and supported. Where is the line drawn that, once crossed, turns our pride and joy into someone we find hard to be around?
“Dad… I’m gay.”
‘Mom, I’m pregnant, and I don’t know who the father is.”
“Dad… I think I have a drug problem and I need help.”
“Mom, my boyfriend’s Black (White, Latino, etc) and I’m scared of what dad will think.”
As forward-thinking as we like to believe we are, the sentences above, and a few thousand others like them, have sent parents scrambling for answers (and wine glasses) since biblical times. But none of this helps much, huh Carol? Well, here’s what I think:
So far, you’ve done a fantastic job: You say you’ve suspected this for a while and yet you didn’t try to “out” John. I bet it was hard for you to know that he was struggling with this, but you still let him come to his own conclusions, in his own time. And now that he’s decided to come out to you, you’ve adopted a perfect attitude about it, letting him know that you’re happy that he’s comfortable enough with himself and with you to open up and that you love him unconditionally. YOU’RE A GREAT MOM (just thought I’d tell you).
Your son is a really strong man: I consider myself a pretty tough guy, and yet being a teen-aged boy kicked my butt pretty good. I can’t imagine trying to endure all of the nonsense I went though in high school while struggling with an issue that intense, and not being able to go to my parents, for fear that my dad would act, well, exactly like John’s dad is acting. He had it rough. Kudos to him for hanging in there.
Tyler is gonna need to man-up: John didn’t go away to college and decide to be gay, any more than I could have woken up this morning and decided to be ten inches taller and white. What John did do was go away to college and decide that he was going to live his life, on his own terms and not hide who he was from anyone, including his father. He came home, faced down his fears, and told the truth. It takes some real cojones to do that. Now, it’s your husband’s turn.
What Tyler needs to understand: John is gay. He’s also a college kid, a son, a man, and a big list of other things and at nineteen, he’s just getting started. He’s strong enough to have made it this far, he’s smart enough to be making it in college, and he’s got enough heart to have decided that he’s going to do things his way. He’s got some good stuff going for him. These are the parts that make John who he is. Your husband doesn’t have to like every piece; what parent has the luxury of liking every single thing about their child? But he does have to accept them all if he wants to be a part of the rest of his son’s life, and it looks like there’s some great stuff coming up.
Your husband may just need some time to get his mind around everything. As men, we’re born with thicker skulls. It’s great for fending off attacks and opening coconuts and stuff, but it can take a little longer for things to sink in sometimes. If that doesn’t help, you may want to look into some family counseling. Those guys aren’t as funny as me, but they’re pretty good at what they do.
Good luck to you all… and I hope I helped.
William Jones is originally from the tiny town of Alton, Illinois, and now lives in the tinier town of Reisterstown, Maryland. He is a happy husband and a proud father of three, and writes as a hobby, in those few moments he finds between husbanding and daddy-ing.