Gay and Lesbian issues - a guide for parents and families

It can be a shocking moment for a parent when their child reveals that he or she is homosexual, and reactions can be driven by prejudice and fear at exactly the moment the child most needs love and support.

A guide for parents and families...

In this three-part article, adapted from the work of Rose Robertson, who was a pioneer in the Parents' Movement, we discuss the way reactions can be driven by prejudice and fear at exactly the moment the child most needs love and support. Part one deals with the nature of homosexuality and dismisses some widely held misconceptions.


Many books have been written, much has been said, and many theories have been advanced about homosexuality, but from all this, only one fact emerges: no one has conclusively proved what causes it. Yet, unhappily and wrongly, homosexuals continue to be discriminated against.

The weight of evidence increasingly suggests that sexual orientation is genetic. Just as a random genetic pattern dictates that one member of a family may be blond-haired or left-handed, so a similar random pattern can produce a lesbian or gay orientation.

However, this and other theories are of little help to people, particularly parents, who are suddenly confronted with the news that a person they love may be homosexual.

What is it?

To explain homosexuality in simple terms is probably impossible. It is a whole emotional pattern, present from early years, which the child develops as he or she matures. It need have no affect on their lives beyond the fact that their deepest relationships will be formed with people of their own sex. Like all of us, lesbian and gay people want and need to give love and to have that love returned. Lesbian and gay people can relate to others, who are not homosexual, in every way except sexually. In sex itself, they are no different from the rest of the population; some have a great interest in sex, others have very little interest, and most are somewhere in between.

It’s not an illness

The question is often asked, "Can this condition be cured?" The answer is that homosexuality is not a ‘condition’; it is not an illness. It’s a natural state of being for lesbian or gay people. They do not choose this any more than anyone else chooses to be heterosexual or, for that matter, to have green eyes or blue, to be 6’ 4” or 5’ 1” or to be introverted or an extrovert.

It is not a ‘lifestyle choice’

t cannot be repeated often enough that sexual orientation is not chosen, that instead, it is an emotional pattern which is present from the beginning and which develops as the child grows.

As with all children, sexual awareness comes as the body develops. At this point, it’s very important to make a distinction between a lesbian or gay experience, which many children have, and lesbian or gay orientation.

The first is sexual play, a purely physical experiment without any emotional involvement; the second is a complete way of relating and involves very deep emotional experiences.

Early difference

It is, however, at this early stage of sexual awareness that the lesbian or gay child first feels different; first feels attracted emotionally and sexually to the same sex. In the present climate of hostility, discrimination and prejudice, and perhaps in fear and confusion, a son or daughter will often deny their sexual orientation, even to themselves.

In Part two of this article, we’ll examine how a child feels when they first become aware that they are gay or lesbian.

Related links

  • My Son is Gay: From the files of Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (FFLAG), the following letter demonstrates how a mother coped with the revelation that her son is gay… and reveals that social prejudices still cause him problems.

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