parenting journey >> Our son is gay - what do we do? Our 25-year-old son came home this weekend and told us that he is gay. My husband is devastated and doesn’t want anything to do with our son right now. At this point, I’m not sure we can even have him here for the holidays. This is tearing our family apart – what specific things can we do to salvage some kind of relationship? Our expected life histories In the 1970s, sociologist Ray Bortner wrote about the tendency to form expectations regarding our life journeys. Bortner men tended to die in their 40s of heart attacks, and so Ray was ready to die young. However, when he learned he was dying of cancer, his expectations were violated; death wasn’t “supposed” to happen that way. Your husband’s future is intertwined with that of your son. Perhaps down the road your husband pictured a grandson carrying on the family name or a granddaughter learning a hobby at his side. His life has suddenly taken an unexpected path. How are some ways to cope? • Allow time to let go of the expectations for the future and accept the accompanying feelings of sadness. • Find out if your diocese has a support group, such as Encourage, that you could attend. • Given the range of typical emotions, sorting through these issues with a therapist may be useful. “Always our children” Your son is the same little guy you carried in from the car after long trips. He’s the boy you helped with multiplication tables and the adolescent you cheered from the sidelines. Now, as a young adult, he wants you to share his life on a deep level rather than having you become superficial outsiders when it comes to a central part of his identity. In 1997, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops published “Always our children: A pastoral message to parents of homosexual children and suggestions for pastoral ministers” (visit www.usccb.org for more information.) Among the many messages were: • “There seems to be no single cause of a homosexual orientation. A common opinion of experts is that there are multiple factors - genetic, hormonal, psychological - that may give rise to it.” • “...don’t break off contact; don’t reject your child.” • “...concentrate on the person, not on the sexual orientation itself.” Spend time in prayer, clinging to God and asking for guidance. Remain active in your parish community. Plan visits at ordinary times without the stress of holiday traditions. Then make decisions about holidays together.
– Dr. Cathleen McGreal is a psychology professor and certified spiritual advisor.