Virginia Ironside’s Dilemmas: My son says he might be gay and I am not sure how to handle it.


Dear Virginia, I am a single parent, with no partner on the scene, and I've had a very open relationship with my son, who is now 13. But I was taken aback when he recently confessed he thought he might be gay. I have no idea how to handle this, and I'm worried it might be something to do with the fact that we are so close. Do you have any advice on how best I should react to make him feel comfortable about the situation?



Yours sincerely, Martha

Ever since I can remember, people have been trying to come up with a plausible explanation for why some people are gay and others aren't. Years back, there was a thought that an overbearing, over-loving, smothering mother might have something to do with it (a typical male blame tactic, that) but nobody could seriously think that these days. So don't worry, Martha, it seems pretty clear that gay people are born, not made. I remember my mother, who had impeccable "gaydar", declaring a relation of hers was gay when he was only three years old – and she was spot-on.

Then there was the theory that the youngest son in a family that already had son was likely to be gay, apparently with the implication that the younger sibling had been created with fewer heterosexual attributes in order to enable his brothers to reproduce more adequately. I always thought that theory was a bit bonkers. Or how about the theory that it is all to do with testosterone: boys are created by adding testosterone to a fertilised egg in the womb. A gay person, it was postulated, was someone who had too much of the hormone pumped into them in the womb. Again, it doesn't seem very likely.

The truth is that gay people just exist and will continue to do so, unless society practices some kind of anti-gay eugenics in the future. They exist in the animal world, too – there are gay monkeys, gay dogs, gay birds and, for all I know, there could be gay fish and gay mosquitoes too.

So please, Martha, remove yourself from the blame game and instead start congratulating yourself on producing a son who feels comfortable confiding such very private anxieties (if they are actually anxieties) to you at such a difficult stage in his life.

I would say that it is likely that if he thinks he's gay now, he probably will be gay in later life. However, if he's in an all-male environment and finds himself constantly getting mutual sexual satisfaction with other boys, then who knows? I know that in all-male boarding schools, during adolescence, when testosterone is probably at its highest, there can be masses of homosexual behaviour – but much of that is simply because some boys find it difficult to keep their venting of sexual frustration to the privacy of their own bedrooms.

The way to get your son to feel comfortable is simply to keep an open mind. Reassure him that his sexuality is of no real concern to you at all, because you love him for what he is, not for his sexual preferences. And reassure him that no one really knows for certain about their own sexuality until they are a little older than he is now.

You could also direct him to reputable and established gay organisations for advice. Pacehealth.org.uk is an organisation set up by the Home Office to help family members with issues around gay, lesbian and transgender matters – and they will be happy to discuss things with your son even though he's under 16.

If I were you I'd do my own research first, because there are lots of creeps prowling about the internet who, if contacted, might well frighten him or lead him into areas that might be threatening and abusive.

Ultimately, if you don't treat the issue with anxiety, guilt and as if this is the end of the world – which it isn't – then neither will your son.

Readers say...

Reassure your son

At 13, your son is probably still working through his feelings and I doubt either of you know for sure what his sexuality is yet. But it's great that he has come to you and the fact that you are so close is unlikely to be the reason why he may be gay. You need to reassure your son, tell him that things will not change between you, he will always be your son and you will love him unconditionally. Just be accepting. Don't judge him and continue to be supportive. For more advice, you can contact The Lesbian and Gay Foundation.

Diana Otten

London, W6

***

It's part of growing up

I am reminded of the jest: A: "My Mother made me a homosexual." B: "Really, do you think she would make one for me?" I don't intend to trivialise the dilemma. Please, Martha, do not believe that, should your son turn out to be gay, it is anyone's "fault". Rather, be reassured that the quality of your relationship has meant that he is able to confide in you. A boy's teenage years, particularly regarding sexual development, are fraught with ifs, buts, hows and whys. This is all part of growing up. Help him understand this and let him know, as you probably have already, that you will be there to support him, whatever transpires.

Christina

by email

***

Being gay is not a crime

Why do you say your son "confessed" to you? It's not a crime to be gay. Your son is showing great bravery in telling you how he feels, and you must have given him the confidence to do so. He may or may not be sure about his sexuality at this age, but above all he needs your unconditional love and support in the face of any negative comments and attitudes he might encounter. Contact FFLAG (www.fflag.org.uk), a mine of information for young gay, lesbian and bisexual people and their families.

Jennifer Cowan

Speen, Bucks

***

Close support is vital

Your closeness to him has no bearing on his sexuality, as I believe this is predetermined at a much earlier stage. But your close relationship is absolutely vital and he needs your support, understanding and love if he is to grow to be proud of who he is. I also had a close relationship with my mother, who was divorced and single when I discovered my gayness at 13. However, we didn't talk about such intimate things and as a consequence I'm only just coming to terms with it at 45!

Neil Masey

by email

***

Don't deny his feelings

Contrary to what many people believe, it is quite common to find homosexual behaviour in the animal kingdom, so humans aren't alone in this. But it is quite possible to repress and deny these feelings and urges for many years, to be involved in a heterosexual partnership, to marry, and to bring up children; as did a friend of mine. He came "out" to himself at the age of 60 and later, to those around him. If he had done so much earlier he could have been much healthier and happier.

Name and address supplied

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Travel
Flocking round: Beyoncé, Madame Tussauds' latest waxwork, looking fierce in the park
travelIn a digital age when we have more access than ever to the stars, why are waxworks still pulling in crowds?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Poet’s corner: Philip Larkin at the venetian window of his home in 1958
booksOr caring, playful man who lived for others? A new book has the answer
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
News
Matthew McConaughey and his son Levi at the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Houston Astros at Fenway Park on August 17, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.
advertisingOscar-winner’s Lincoln deal is latest in a lucrative ad production line
Life and Style
Pick of the bunch: Sudi Pigott puts together roasted tomatoes with peppers, aubergines and Labneh cheese for a tomato-inspired vegetarian main dish
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, Brokerage)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    UNIX Application Support Analyst- Support, UNIX, London

    £45000 - £55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: UNIX Application Support Analyst-...

    Day In a Page

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

    Waxing lyrical

    Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

    Make the most of British tomatoes

    The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

    Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

    The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
    La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

    Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape