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. 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.


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 (, 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
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
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.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

    £40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

    Guru Careers: Software Developer

    £35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

    Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

    £25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

    Day In a Page

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
    Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

    Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

    Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
    Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

    Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

    Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
    Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

    Join the tequila gold rush

    The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
    12 best statement wallpapers

    12 best statement wallpapers

    Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
    Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

    Paul Scholes column

    Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?