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
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
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

    Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

    £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

    Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

    Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

    £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

    Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

    £18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?