Resources for the parents of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered youth...

My Child is GAY! Now What Do I Do?

presented and maintained by Scott Bidstrup

What is happening to me? And to my Child?

What's happening is that you're finding out something very important about who your child is, and your child has revealed something very important to you about who he or she is. This can be a shattering experience for a parent, or it can be a growing experience. It depends on you.

There are some definite stages to the process you have embarked upon, whether willingly or not. They involve learning and growing. Sometimes it will be painful, sometimes joyful. What you get out of it depends on what you're willing to put into it, and how open you can hold your mind.

Some parents hold their prejudices more dearly than their children and actually reject their children outright, and simply disown them and throw them out on the street. You probably haven't done that, or you wouldn't be reading this. Right there, that puts you statistically ahead of fully one fourth of parents of gay children.

Now if you want make the best of this and know what sort of things you are going to go through as a parent of a gay child, read this letter from Jim Lokken to learn a little more about the process and what you'll learn.

Why did my child have to tell me?

Your child wants to be honest with you. Trying to pretend to be something he or she is not, is a tremendous burden, one that carries with it a great deal of guilt and shame. You've tried to teach your child honesty, and now your child has shown that he or she loves you enough to be honest with you about who he or she is, even at great personal risk of rejection. In making this revelation, your child has lifted a great burden of guilt and shame from his or her shoulders, and you need to understand what a great relief it is to not have to lie about who you are.

As a parent, you doubtlessly value honesty in your child a great deal. It is a mark of his or her character. And the fact that your child has entrusted you with this information is an indication that your efforts in teaching him or her honesty and integrity have paid off.

While this is undeniably a great burden for you, it is also an opportunity. The opportunity lies in the fact that you now know your child better than you ever did, and so this situation affords you the opportunity to get closer to your child than you have ever been. If you can be honest with your child about your own feelings, and how you love him or her in spite of this revelation, you can use this situation to draw closer to your child and become more important to him or her than you have ever been. Isn't this what you want as a parent?

Is it my fault?

Wondering if you did something wrong? Wondering if there is something you didn't do right? Why has this happened to you?

Don't feel guilty. You didn't do anything wrong. Chances are you're a wonderful parent, and your gay child is going to be a wonderful adult like yourself. Your gay or transgendered child isn't that way because of anything you did, nor anything anyone else did, for that matter.

As science learns more about the origins of homosexuality and transgenderism, it is becoming increasingly clear that these orientations have their origins very early in life. Most gay men and a large number of lesbians will tell you that they knew early in life -- in some cases, awareness of being "different" are among the earliest memories. Some evidence even indicates prenatal influences, even genetic patterns are involved.

The old claim by psychologists that homosexuality indicates a weak father and a domineering mother have long since been disproven by study after study. The only psychologists that still maintain such positions are those who have a hidden agenda -- usually a religious agenda, or a deeply homophobic attitude. Objective science has long since abandoned the idea that parenting styles has any significant influence on homosexual or transgendered orientations.

The most important emotional contribution any parent can make to their childrens' lives is to love them. Like most parents, you've done that, and continue to do so, or you wouldn't be here reading this. And now that you know about your child's orientation, they need your love and support more than ever. That's what this web page is all about -- helping you love your child and giving him or her the support he or she needs.

Who recruited my kid?

Nobody. Your child was gay from a surprisingly young age, and never made a conscious choice to be gay, so no-one could have recruited him or her.

It's tempting to go looking for scapegoats. This is a deeply emotional issue for parents, and one that brings out all the protective instincts in good parents.

It is impossible for anyone to recruit anybody to "be gay." The reason for this is simple -- being gay isn't a choice anyone consciously makes.

Dr. Jack Weinberg, president of the American Psychiatric Association, said in a public statement on October 6, 1977, that fears of "catching" homosexuality or being "recruited" at school or elsewhere are "... utterly without scientific foundation."

Stop and ask yourself -- when did you make a conscious decision to be heterosexual? To be attracted to only persons of the opposite sex? Of course you never did.

Can you pick and choose who excites you physically? Of course you can't. And neither can your child. Since he or she can't consciously decide who to be attracted to, being told that attractions to the same sex are wrong or evil can really be painful, because he or she can't prevent those feelings. They just happen. Over time, that guilt, fear and anger can build to create depression to the point of suicide. As a parent, you need to be sensitive to the feelings of guilt and fear.

Your child is gay not because of anything you or anyone else did. While science can't explain precisely what causes homosexuality, leading researchers in the field have shown that both genetics and environmental influences play a part (see the bibliography section for more information).

What about the law?

The laws of just under half of the states in the United States criminalize gay sex to some extent. No laws prohibit the mere status of homosexuality (as is the case in some countries). About half of all other countries criminalize gay sex. Even though the criminalization varies from non-existent all the way to felony, these laws are rarely enforced.

That doesn't mean they are benign. They are often used as an excuse to discriminate. Lesbians and particularly gay men are often told things like, "We don't rent property to unconvicted felons!" Such a declaration can be rather hurting to a young couple looking for an apartment. The same excuse is used to deny employment, service in restaurants, rooms in motels, etc. So these laws are used for evil purposes, even if they aren't enforced. This is why the bigots stubbornly oppose the repeal of these laws, even though they know they aren't being used to put gay people in jail.

As a parent, you should know if anyone does, that your child is fundamentally the good person you raised him or her to be. He or she does not deserve such treatment. For this reason, it is your responsiblilty to your child to work for the repeal of such laws, and see to it that this kind of discrimination is ended.

Should we tell the family? What about the neighbors?

The decision to tell anyone else really belongs with your child. He or she has an enormous investment in many relationships that could be damaged or destroyed by such revelations, and for his or her own psychological well-being, it is important for him or her to be in control of who is told.

This is often difficult for a parent to realize, but it can often be extremely difficult for a child to tell someone he or she has known most or all of his or her life about such matters, when the very real chance exists that the person being told will reject him or her and refuse any further contact.

Another consideration is the fact that the child may have more experience in dealing with the issue of prejudice and discrimination than you may realize. He or she may have been out to trusted friends for years before you were told. And in so doing, your child may have learned far more about how to handle this kind of revelation than you may suspect.

You cannot make your child be honest, particularly when the consequences can be as devastating as outright rejection. Your child will grow far stronger morally if he or she does this on his or her own, or you make the revelation with his or her permission, than if you simply tell others without asking.

But I want some objective information!

Here's what the
American Psychological Association says about homosexuality, and some of the current scientific understandings of what it's all about.

The American Psychiatric Association, the American Medical Association and numerous other professional medical and mental health groups have all issued statements to the effect that homosexuality is a normal human variation, and should not be stigmatized or discriminated against. Here's the statement of the American Psychiatric Association.

For those looking for scientific information...

In May of 1994 (page 44), Scientific American published a pair of articles on the origins of homosexuality. These discuss the genetic differences that have been noticed in some gay men, as well as the anatomical differences that have been noticed in certain brain structures in gay men. The articles discuss some of the research that has been done on the subject.

The premier book on the subject is probably "The Science of Desire: The Search for the Gay Gene and the Biology of Behavior" by Dean Hamer and Peter Copeland. It discusses in great detail not only their own research, but that of others, and discusses both the strengths and weaknesses of that research.

Another book is "Evidence for a Biological Influence in Male Homosexuality," by Simon LeVay and Dean H. Hamer. It discusses two pieces of evidence, a structure within the human brain and a genetic link, which point to a biological component for male homosexuality.

There are many more books which touch on this subject, some of which are listed in the bibliography section of this web page.

But the bible says this is a terrible sin!

Not so fast... Biblical scholars aren't quite so quick to rush to judgement as are many local preachers and televangelists. Here's what the bible experts have to say.

The whole tone of the bible on the subject of homosexuality has been misconstrued. The ancients weren't anywhere near as concerned about it as modern interpreters imagine. This link will give you an overview of what the ancient writers of scripture really had in mind.

About Sodom and Gommorah...

The prophet Ezekiel discusses at some length the sins of Sodom, and makes it clear that the sin of sodom wasn't homosexuality, it was inhospitality towards travelers from the desert (Ezek. 16:48-50). That this was the interpretation of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah held by Jesus is clear (Matthew 10:14-15, Mark 6:11, Luke 10:11-12); in using Sodom as an example in these scriptures, Jesus is making reference to the interpretation of the event by Ezekiel. Some versions of the bible even have Jesus quote Ezekiel in this context.

An excellent book on this whole topic is "What The Bible Really Says About Homosexuality", by Daniel A. Helminiak, PhD. (ordering information in the bibliography section)

Check the bibliography for others, and if you're really interested, check the bibliography on the bible and homosexuality.

Gay people in the bible

Gay people see themselves portrayed positively in several places in the bible. In the Old Testament, the entire book of Ruth is one of the most beautiful stories of love between two women that has ever been written. How ironic it is that many passages from this beautiful scripture have been used over the years in heterosexual marriage ceremonies!

The story of David and Johnathan in the book of I Samuel is also a beautiful gay love story (I Samuel 19:1 through 23:29). In it, each shows the committment and sacrifice for each other that every gay couple has experienced and can instantly recognize.

Even Jesus was unquestionably aware of homosexuality, and yet there is no record that he ever condemned it. In at least one instance, he praised the faith of a gay man! In the original Greek version of the beautiful story of Jesus healing the centurion's servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:2-10), the words used to describe the centurion's companion isn't "servant" at all. They translate accurately as "beloved boy," a phrase that clearly connotes the common practice at the time of older gay men or gay men in positions of authority keeping younger men as their lovers and partners.

But isn't homosexuality an unnatural perversion?

Homosexuality is a normal part of human behavior, apparently biological in origin, and can't be changed. It appears with about the same frequency in all cultures. Homosexuality is more about love than it is about sex.

The hatemongers out there would love to have us believe that homosexuals are all perverted sex addicts, out to destroy every vestige of family life and childhood innocence. The reality is quite different.

Being gay isn't about sex as much as it is about love. Being gay means loving persons of the same sex. For most gay men and lesbians, sex is an adjunct to love, just like it is for most heterosexuals.

Why should love between two consenting persons be considered wrong?

Read Jerry Albrent's story of his love for his partner, and his grief at his loss. It is a very moving story.

Simply being gay does not mean there is an overwhelming drive to have sex as often as possible, nor is there any drive to have sex with children or with the unwilling. Such notions come from another age, when nothing was known about homosexuality other than rumor and stereotypes. Yet it is surprising how often those notions are still presented as fact.

A few years ago, the American Psychological Association undertook a study to find out just how common pedophilia is among gay men. The results of the study indicated that it was actually less common among gay men than among hetersexual men matched for age and background. The result was so startling that they redesigned the study and did it again -- with the same result! So it's true! Gay men are not any more likely to be pedophiles than are heterosexual men!

Homosexuality is quite natural, too. It is cross-cultural, meaning that it appears with about the same frequency in all cultures. How those cultures handle it, of course varies substantially. Many Native American cultures celebrated it -- and considered it a great spiritual gift, even making great spiritual leaders of their gay men. Even today, there are many cultures around the world where it is considered quite normal and natural.

Our response to homosexuality and transgenderism in this culture is the result simply of cultural influences. Many other cultures, greatly admired by our own (such as the ancient Greeks for example), were highly supportive of their gay, lesbian and transgendered members. Our own discrimination against the homosexuals in our midst says more about us than about others!

I have no problem with my child being gay. It doesn't matter to me!

Are you sure? Here are some questions to ask yourself. If you answer them honestly, it will reveal to you just how accepting you really are.

  • Are you uncomfortable around your child's partner? This says a whole lot about your acceptance of your child's homosexuality. If you are uncomfortable with your child's partner, stop and ask yourself why you are uncomfortable. If the partner were of the opposite sex, would you be comfortable with him or her? Now, be honest -- if you would be comfortable around that same person if he or she were of the opposite sex, you aren't quite so accepting, are you?

  • Does your child's openness bother you? If your child wears rainbow jewelry or has a bumper sticker on his or her car? Are you embarrassed to be around that kind of display? Figure she or he is "flaunting" it? Consider the constant "flaunting" heterosexuals do -- holding hands and even kissing in public, the advertising for bluejeans, perfume, gift items and a thousand other things. In your child's eyes, that's flaunting, but it doesn't seem that way to you. So try to see yourself through your child's perspective -- and realize that "flaunting" to you is simply being open to him or her. Do you try to keep your hetersexuality a secret? Of course not. So why do you think your child should be asked to keep his or her homosexuality a secret? If that still bothers you, maybe you do have a problem with your child's homosexuality

  • Do you find the thought of your child actually marrying his or her partner to be abhorrent? This one's a biggie. More than 70 percent of the U.S. population is opposed to the idea of gay marriage. And that's mostly because of the nonsensical ideas about marriage they have -- families are for raising children, etc. Well, the reality is that we all marry because we are in love or think we are. Should your child be denied the opportunity to marry the informed, consenting adult of his or her choice? When Denmark began allowing a form of gay marriage in 1989, most of the population was opposed. Now, most of it is in favor, overwhelmingly, in fact, including 89% of the church clergy that originally opposed it. Why the dramatic change in attitude? Because it has proven to be such a good thing -- just like heterosexual marriage!

  • Are you having trouble with the idea of gay sex? Consider that most of the sexual practices engaged in by gay couples are also sexual practices of many hetersexual couples. If that doesn't bother you just as much, maybe you ought to think about the difference for a minute. Is there any? If you consider there to be a difference, then that indicates you have a problem with homosexuality itself.

  • Are you bothered by the words "homosexual," "gay," "lesbian," or "queer?" If so, stop and think about why. It is probably because they have some bad connotations in your mind. Where did those connotations come from? Do they apply to your child? Your child is the same as most other gay persons -- so why the evil connotations?

  • Being supportive of your child requires accepting your child fully. If you answered yes to any of the questions above, then you've flunked the acceptance test and have got some homework to do. Your assignment is to check out
    PFLAG, an organization set up with the idea that parents who've been where you are now are the best people to help you understand what your child's homosexuality is really all about.

    What on earth is going on in my child's mind?

    If your child came out to you voluntarily, it might surprise you to learn some of the matters your child considered before coming out to you.

    If you'd like to understand some of the questions your child asked him/herself, read Justin's Letter to a Friend. It is a really touching letter written by a gay youth to a friend to help him understand who he is.

    If your child came out voluntarily, your child had a lot to consider before coming out to you. If you'd like to gain some insight into what your child was considering, read What You Should Know Before You Come Out To Your Parents, a brochure written by the parents of gay children who have already been where you are now.

    A book has been written that has been written specifically to help you understand what has been going on in your child's mind. "Homosexuality: The Secret a Child Dare Not Tell" by Mary Ann Cantwell (San Rafael, CA: Rafael Press, 1996) tells the story of her own son's coming out to her, her realization of the pain he had suffered, and her study of the pain and fear that children suffer trying to keep their homosexuality a secret. It is important for you to understand how painful this has been for your child, and how difficult it has been to keep this secret.

    Even now, now that your child has come out to you, your child is justifiably frightened about how you will react in the long run. Your child is no doubt aware that approximately one in four teens in the United States who come out to their parents end up dispossessed and living on the streets, surviving usually by selling drugs or their bodies. A large percentage of these young people don't survive long enough to register to vote. If your child is still a teen, he or she doubtless has at least some fear of this happening.

    It is vitally important that you assure your child that he/she will not be disowned or dispossessed by you, because your child is more important to you than your fears or prejudices could ever be. Make this clear -- and give him or her a hug! Let them know you still love him or her as much as ever!

    Can my child be cured of homosexuality?

    Lots of people promise "cures," but none can deliver.

    There are lots of groups and individuals around who will promise you that they can "cure" your child of homosexuality. The fact is, they can't.

    The American Psychiatric Association has looked into the issue of so-called "reparative therapy" and "conversion therapy." The result was their statement on homosexuality. Though carefully worded to avoid controversy, it makes no bones about the fact that such therapies have not been shown to be particularly effective, and can actually be harmful. The draft statement, stubbornly opposed and eventually defeated in convention by a small but very vocal minority of fundamentalist Christian psychiatrists, is much more strongly worded.

    Because homosexuality is such a deeply ingrained, even biological aspect of your child's being and identity as a human, no one, no matter how sincere, can change it. It's like trying to change hair color or handedness.

    Scientists who have studied this issue say that claims of a "cure" don't stand up to scruitiny. The few studies claiming success have been shown to be fatally flawed. Usually the sampling of "cured" homosexuals is flawed or those claiming a "cure" really aren't "cured" when questioned closely.

    There are a number of Christian groups around, most of them associated with particular sects, who claim to be able to "cure" homosexuality. What they really succeed in doing is to merely repress it. Repressing sexuality usually makes it come out in another form. Witness the problems the Catholic church is having with pedophilia among its priests. So attempting to repress your child's sexual orientation in this way is only asking for trouble later on.

    There are a number of therapists, mostly psychiatrists, who claim to be able to "cure" homosexuality. Again, the studies they point to invariably turn out to be fatally flawed. Steer well clear of any therapist who makes such a claim. The problems that can be created by attempts to cure homosexuality can last a lifetime, and can be scarring, even debilitating, as this letter on conversion therapy by a psychiatrist to his professional association makes clear. It describes his experience in dealing with reparative therapies, and the results of such misguided attempts to change a basic behavior.

    Here is the story by Liz Armstrong about how her son tried to cure himself.

    The reason I use quotes in talking about a "cure" is that it implies a disease state. I, for one (and I think the American Psychological Association, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association will all back me up on this) feel it is not a disease. It is merely another variation in the diversity of humanity that makes us all so unique.

    My child couldn't possibly be gay. He doesn't fit the image!

    Don't count on it. You'd be surprised at who's gay!

    It's a common saying in the gay community that if all the faces of gays in church on sunday suddenly turned purple, you'd be amazed at all the purple faces around you! On and off the pulpit! People you never suspect -- accountants, welders, ranchers, doctors, mechanics, lawyers and even conservative politicians!

    Many gay people live "in the closet" all their lives and never tell anyone except their lovers.

    What a tragedy! Their families never know them, their co-workers and colleages never really get to know who they are. Friendships are based on a lie. Trust and acceptance are a function of deceit.

    Read Nancy Lampkin Olsen's story of her son's coming out, and how it has affected their relationship. Now that gay people are coming out of the closet, the old stereotypes are slowly breaking down. People are discovering that people they had known all their lives are gay, whom they had never suspected. Read Laura Siegel's story and learn how she has become a champion for her son.

    Does this mean my child is going to be wildly flamboyant, offending everyone I know?

    Not neccessarily. The vast majority of gay persons live lives indistinguishable from anyone else except for who they come home to. Learn here about their lives. Even if your child is flamboyant, don't you still love him or her? Of course you do.

    Diversity is what flavors our culture and gives it richness and beauty. Your gay child may or may not be flamboyant, screaming to the world about what makes him/her different. Of course you wouldn't want to dress or behave like that, but your child is a soverign person who has the right to express him/herself. As a parent, sometimes you just have to step aside and let them do "their own thing." As long as no one else gets hurt...

    But chances are, your child is just like every other kid on the block. He or she probably runs around with the same crowd as all the other kids, enjoys pizza and hamburgers, and goes to the same school activities as all the other kids.

    The point is, that whatever your child is now, don't expect that to change. Your child is the same person he or she always was, and your new understanding of him or her won't change that. If you are a good parent, however, your understanding of your child's sexual orientation should actually help improve your relationship to each other and closeness as a family. Whether that happens or not depends on you. This new revelation can be a starting point for a whole new level of parent child interaction and closeness, or it can be a point of contention and arguement. It all depends on how accepting you choose to be.

    This is awful! It means my kid's going to live a lonely, miserable life!

    You'll be surprised! Most gay and lesbian youth grow up to be as well adjusted and happy and emotionally fulfulled as anyone. Most have successful careers and happy family lives. Read some of their stories in the books discussed below.

    There are many books about the lives of gay, lesbian and transgendered people.

    A really wonderful book about a successful gay couple is "Straight from the Heart," by Bob and Rod Paris-Jackson, a pair of champion weightlifters who met in a gym and fell in love and made a life together. It is a really touching story.

    "Stranger at the Gate" is an autobiography by Mel White, a former speechwriter for Pat Robertson, and a very successful Christian film maker.

    "Coming Out Conservative" is the autobiography of Marvin Leibman, who was one of the founders of the modern Conservative political movement. It is the story of his life before and after coming out to his peers.

    "Uncommon Heros" by Samuel Bernstein and edited by Phillip Sherman is a book about the lives of dozens of highly successful gay persons who have made a significant difference in the communities in which they live. There's no reason your child couldn't be just as successful.

    But I'll never have any grandchildren!

    Don't count your gay child out! Many options are available to gay, lesbian and transgendered people for raising children, both their own and children they adopt. If your gay child wants children, he or she can have them, and that makes you a grandparent!

    The options for lesbian couples

    They include artificial insemination and adoption. In most states, sexual orientation is no longer a barrier to either option.

    Artificial insemination is an option practiced with increasing frequency. Many lesbian couples seek sperm donation from men, often gay men, who they admire and respect and are close to, and who they would like their children to emulate. Of course being asked is quite an honor for the biological father. Many other couples choose to seek sperm from an anonymous donor from a sperm bank.

    The options for gay men

    Gay men often come to a gay marriage with child from a failed attempt at a heterosexual relationship. When this happens, both partners usually raise the child as their own, both showing equal commitment to the child.

    Childless gay male couples have the option of either adopting or surrogate mothering, often by lesbian couples who perform this service out of love for the gay men who are part of their community. This is happening with increasing frequency. The surrogate mother is inseminated either with the gay man's sperm or with an anonymous donor's sperm.

    The adoption possibilities

    Child welfare agencies, even when they are homophobic, realize that placing a child in the home of a gay or lesbian couple has to be more nurturing for the child than an endless succession of foster homes or life on the streets. So many, if not most states now allow lesbian couples to adopt children. Nearly all states allow lesbian couples to act as foster parents.

    Currently, there are only a handful of states where gay or lesbian couples are precluded by law from adopting or fostering children. A surprising number of gay men and lesbians have children from previous attempts at heterosexual relationships and marriages. In many cases, failed marriages result in the gay spouse having custody of the children. It's a tough way to get a grandchild, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but it does happen with surprising frequency. The courts in many states now allow gay partners to adopt the children of their gay spouses when it can be shown to be in the best interests of the child. It's not unlikely that your child will become a partner in such a relationship.

    I'm desperate to talk to somebody!

    You're in luck! There is a wonderful, loving support organization for people in just your situation, and there's most likely a chapter near you.

    Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, known as PFLAG, is an organization that was put together by parents who have been through what you are going through, for the purpose of supporting parents and family members in just your situation. Here is a list of local PFLAG chapters numbering nearly 400 at last count, so there's probably one near you.

    If there isn't (or even if there is), consider joining PFLAG's unofficial "virtual chapter" here on the Internet.

    There's no substitute for talking things over with a parent whose been there before you. PFLAG will go a long way towards easing your fears and addressing your concerns. Give it a try!

    What about AIDS?

    This is the bad news. But there's hope.

    Here are some grim statistics (for 1999) from the Center for Disease Control, the U.S. government's primary public health agency dealing with this epidemic: Adolescent gay men are infected with the virus at a rate approximately three times that of the straight population (though heterosexuals are catching up fast). In urban areas of the United States, between 5 and 8 percent of all adolescents are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. And AIDS is now the leading cause of death of young men between the ages of 25 and 44. It beats out cancer, traffic accidents, handgun violence and all other infectious diseases.

    Your child doesn't have to be part of this grim reality. Here's what you can do to prevent it:

  • Rule number one: DON'T NAG. Your child has heard it all before, believe me. You aren't the first to raise this issue with him or her, and believe it or not, you won't be the last. It's OK to express your concern, but don't keep bringing it up. You'll only make it sound like you're covertly trying to "cure" him or her of homosexuality. That is a surefire way to lose influence.

  • Know the facts yourself. The best way to know what your talking about is to visit one of the many safe sex pages on the web, and just look around, even if you are uncomfortable with it. You've gotta know the facts if you want to have any credibility with your son or daughter. I'd suggest you check out the safer sex page. A safer sex page is available in Spanish if that is easier for you to read. The best place I've found on the net for information on HIV/AIDS is the Virtual Library AIDS Page. It has dozens of links! Another great place is Critpath.Org.

  • Be honest at all times when discussing this issue. Don't try to be the expert if you're not absolutely certain of what you're talking about. If you're ignorant of the answer to a question your child asks, don't be afraid to admit it. Doing so will build credibility with your child, and trying to be the expert when you're not will destroy credibility faster than anything. Remember, this situation is much more personal to your child than it is to you, and he or she has probably been collecting information that will enable him or her to detect ignorance on your part.

  • Be supportive. This is the flip-side of rule number one. Let your child know you love him and want his or happiness as much as your own, but not in the context of moralizing (that's just nagging again). Encourage long-term, monogamous relationships. With teens, admittedly, this is hard to do. Gay teen males especially love to "sleep around" and "sample the goods" and "see what's out there." Many are actually sexually attracted to members of high-risk groups. But if you encourage long-term relationships with quality partners, not only will you be fostering their emotional growth, you'll be reducing significantly the chances of their becoming HIV infected.

  • Don't forbid. The words "I forbid you to..." is a surefire guarantee your son or daughter will do it anyway, particularly if he or she is still adolescent. Your child will almost certainly have sex, whether you want him or her to or not, and forbidding them to do so will only alienate him or her. Your child is smart enough to know that no one gets pregnant from homosexual sex, and that, in his or her mind, is the number one reason for not having sex in the first place. I guarantee you that if your child is adolescent, your child figures he or she is immortal and the AIDS epidemic only applies to old, fossilized perverts. The way to break down this kind of thinking is to know the facts and, without nagging, encourage the behaviors that allow them to grow emotionally without putting themselves at risk. You can do that by being knowlegable and earning respect rather than demanding it.

  • Get involved. Getting involved in your local AIDS care project and encouraging your child to help is the best possible way to educate him or her. By setting this kind of example, your child will quickly learn that you take this really seriously. And by teaching your child to volunteer, you will contribute greatly to his or her self-esteem, which is a primary prerequisite to self control in this epidemic. If your child meets real AIDS patients, he or she will quickly learn that this thing is real, and that he or she is vulnerable, especially when he or she meets young people near his or her age. It will do more to break down the "I'm immortal" mindset than anything else you can do. Yes, it takes time, effort and commitment, but isn't your child worth it?

  • Encourage Sex Education in the public schools. Yes, this is very controversial. But the statistics by the Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, the World Health Organization and many others show very clearly that thorough, frank sex education significantly delays the onset of sexual activity and promotes the use of condoms when sexual activity does begin to occur. Where sex education is the most thorough, both teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases among adolescents are significantly lower. For example, in the Netherlands, where sex education begins early and is a constant through the public educational process, the teen pregnancy rate is one fifth the rate in Utah, where there is no meaningful sex education in the public schools. The message couldn't be clearer. Sex education is needed in the public schools, and could do a lot to slow the spread of AIDS. Reason enough to support it.

  • Special help for the transgendered

    Being transgendered creates a special set of unique problems for your child. Here are some resources.

    First, it's really helpful to understand what being transgendered means. If you're a typical parent, you probably have lots of questions about your transgendered child you haven't any idea how to go about getting answered. Well, you're in luck! Here's an FAQ (frequently asked questions) list developed just for the parents of the transgendered by some PFLAG parents who've been where you are.

    The kind folks at PFLAG have put together a special place on the web just for the transgendered. It has some really helpful stuff, and it's evolving all the time, so check it often.

    Here is a great page of resources and book reviews just for the transgendered. It might help you to understand your child's mindset a bit better

    For resources outside the U.S., an especially helpful directory is the IFGE International Transgender Resource Directory. It has tons of resources, especially European.

    Are there some books I can read?

    Yes. Tons of them. Here's a list to help you get started, and you can obtain them by simply following the links.

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