Evan Davis says keep it 'casual', but what's the best way to come out as gay to your parents?

The Independent speaks to Stonewall about the Do's and Don'ts

Evan Davis, the Radio 4 Today programme and Dragon’s Den presenter, has given a candid interview about coming out to his parents and colleagues as gay.

One of only a handful of openly gay broadcasters on television and radio, he told his BBC colleagues about his sexuality two years after joining the corporation. “It was around the time I joined Newsnight in 1997/1998 that I decided I should definitely be publicly gay,” he told R U Coming Out.

“It wasn't a courageous choice, it just felt to me that it was going to be slightly better for me to control the process of coming out by being up-front about it…The climate was always going to be very favourable for me. I never expected any kind of backlash.”

The journalist told his family that he was gay one Christmas Day when he was in his mid-twenties. Leaving it until after he had had formative relationships and life experiences is something he regrets.

“The longer that you leave telling people, the harder it gets. You end up having to break two bits of news if you leave it too late; the first being that you're gay and the second that you have been leading a double life for quite some time,” he said.

The Independent spoke to Wes Streeting, head of education at Stonewall , an LGBT rights lobbying charity, about the best ways to approach your parents.

I’m coming out! Tips and advice:

  1. Don’t approach it blind: Find ways to bring the topic up in more general terms, ie a television show where a character is gay, or stories in the news. Try to suss out your parents’ general views on homophobia. Remember that if you are gay you are probably more sensitive to comments around you on the subject and can misinterpret the views of friends and relatives. Just because a parent of family member has made a glib remark in the past does not mean they won’t support you.
  2. Don’t take the first reaction as a given: There are all sorts of horror stories about parents asking the wrong questions immediately after their child comes out to them. Is it just a phase? What about my grandchildren? Just be patient with them. They might ask insensitive questions but actually be well-meaning so give them time to respond more appropriately.
  3. Forget finding ‘the right moment’: Most families have specific times/environments that are good for talking: dinner times or big get-togethers. I wouldn’t worry too much about spoiling Christmas dinner. Just pick a time you are comfortable with. There isn’t an ideal age to come out. Many people tell their families in their late teens and early twenties but others wait until they are well into their 30s, 40s or later. It really is up to you.
  4. Allow your parents to see the real you: There are people who have had awful experiences coming out. It is important to acknowledge this. But sometimes we don’t give our parents enough credit. Sometimes we forget that our parents love us unconditionally – and that they might feel hurt and excluded from our lives. Talking about relationships with our parents, whether straight or gay, is important and helps to normalise a situation and make them feel included.
  5. Be open-minded: There are definitely generational differences but don’t expect your grandparents to stop loving you just because you are gay. Equally, if you’re worried about telling younger family members we’ve found that young children find it a lot easier to accept the idea of people being gay than a lot of adults, actually. It’s essentially about love. The most important thing is about your relationships with your family and your partner.

So…you think your child is gay?*

  1. I have an inkling my child might be gay, but how can I be sure? Until your son or daughter comes and tells you that they are, or might be, gay or bisexual, you can’t know. Just like straight people, gay people come in all shapes and sizes. So don’t make assumptions. Steer clear of prying though; you want them to come and tell you in their own time. If you try and pressure them, it’ll probably make them close up - the opposite of what you want.
  2. Create an environment where your son or daughter feels able to tell you they’re gay, knowing you’ll be supportive.  Say positive things about gay people when they’re on TV and don’t allow people to say negative things about gay people under your roof. If your child is - or thinks they might be - gay, they’ll probably be very alert to attitudes about gay people in your home.
  3. How can they be sure this isn’t a phase? We all know that growing up is confusing, particularly where feelings are concerned. Some young people might take a long time to come to terms with being gay; others will be clear about it very quickly. Sometimes someone goes out with someone of the same sex but may not be sure they’re gay. Some young people may be bisexual. This means they’re attracted to both sexes. This is not a phase on the way to becoming ‘fully gay’. Let them define themselves.
  4. Did I do something wrong? ABSOLUTELY NOT. There is no link between ways of parenting or a young person’s experiences and the likelihood of being gay. Gay people grow up in all sorts of families and come from all sorts of backgrounds and there’s nothing you could have done to influence it. You can influence how likely your son or daughter is to tell you about it, and how they feel about it, by creating the sort of environment where they think they can.
  5. But I don’t agree with it. (Or at least some of my family don’t). The truth is, if you’ve got a problem with the idea of your child being gay, you’re going to have to live with it and accept it. The best thing you can do is to put your feelings about ‘being gay’ to one side and remember that, regardless of your son or daughter’s sexuality, you love them and want them to be happy. The fact that they are gay or lesbian doesn’t change that.
  6. There’s no way to ‘turn them straight’. If you reject it, all you’ll do is damage your relationship with your child, hurting you and them. Rejecting it also denies you the opportunity to share in a really important part of their life. As for your relatives, some family members, particularly older relatives, might need some help getting their heads around the issue (although older people are often a lot more accepting than we give them credit for). If they don’t react well initially, put some rules in place and establish what can and can’t be said in front of your children. It’s not always easy, but often, it is.

*Taken from Stonewall’s So…you think your child is gay? leaflet

For further advice and support please contact 08000 502020 or info@stonewall.org.uk

Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Shenaz Treasurywala
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there