Picture this: your grandson has just told you he’s gay. You’re not sure how to react, you’re probably feeling some combination of self-blame (did I/we do something wrong?), stigma (what will people think of my child? Of me?), religious confusion, or even relief (now I know what’s been bothering them for all this time!). Your dreams for him are flashing by your eyes, and you’re probably struggling to adjust them to not include a female partner for him. Now, take a deep, calming breath, and listen to what he’s saying. When your grandchild chooses to come out to you and be openly gay, it may be the most courageous choice they will ever make.
After the rollercoaster of emotions they go through, many families actually look back and find that you are grateful for the experience of having a gay or lesbian child. Explaining this, Dr. Michael LaSala says, “Well, in my study of 65 families of gay and lesbian youth for the book, Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, I found that some parents get to the point where they believe that the experience of having a gay child actually made them a better person – more open minded and sensitive to the needs of others, particularly those in other minority groups. Others grew to be proud of their children’s sexual orientation. Yet others found that their relationships with their children grew to be closer, stronger, and more honest than ever before.”
A great example of how to set an example for your family when your grandson tells you he’s gay is this letter of support written by a grandfather that went viral worldwide a couple of years ago. The grandfather was very clear how proud he was of his grandson and how disappointed he was in the choice his daughter has made. The accolades this letter received was in large part due to the fact that the grandfather was not only accepting of his grandson, but that he wanted to change the way his daughter thought. There is enough ill-will in this world without having it propagated it within families, and humans need to accept each other for who they are.
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Another example of supportive families was from Suzanne Brockmann about her son Jason. She said that she already knew her son was gay, as did her 81-year-old mother, and that when he decided to come out to them, her mother wanted her her daughter to “tell him we love him too.” She remembers, “Jason’s announcement at age 15 was met with hugs and high fives and a mini pride parade in our living room. Our family and friends showered him with love, reveling in the good news that this sweet child was embracing an honest, happy, and sunlit life. Jason noticed that his elderly grandparents were among his most vocal supporters. He knew that their joy for him was real, and it meant the world to him.”
While it is okay to admit that this news might be hard for you, it is important to educate yourself. There is a lot of information out there, so any questions you might have, you’re bound to find an answer. It’s also important to have an open conversation with your grandchild, about how you’re both feeling, and how you’re going to get to the stage of acceptance together.
We want our grandkids to talk to us, to be honest, to live with integrity. Coming out and living openly is all of that. Keep in mind that you have begun a journey too and like all journeys, it is important to keep moving.
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