When our only son announced, at the age of thirty, that he was gay, I did not know very much about homosexuality. I had been aware that Adrian was holding something back from me. But the very last thing that I was expecting was for him to tell his father and me that he was homosexual.
Although confused and struggling to accept what he was telling us, I was relieved that he was not ill or involved in some kind of trouble. But my world had been shaken hard and turned upside down.
That Adrian was gay was not a problem - ours is a very close, loving family - but I felt a physical ache that he had kept his "secret" from us for almost twenty years, for fear that he hurt or disappoint us, and we had been unable to help him.
In my mind I had made plans for my son - an engagement, a happy marriage, christenings - all the family celebrations which most parents anticipate. I had to recognise now that his life had been and would be vastly different from what I had wanted for him. And I grieved.
Adrian had a normal enough childhood and adolescence. He was quiet, never keen on rough games or sport, but that was not unusual in our family. He had many friends but never a special girlfriend.
At eighteen he went to university, then found work away from home. I knew nothing about his social life. It was understandable that he would want to concentrate on his career before settling down. Anyway, few members of our family had married young.
When he came back north to work, Adrian didn't mix much socially. He moved into his own house and it was then that I began to sense a lone-ness in his life.
We are a Christian family. Adrian and his sister were brought up as Anglicans. At first I could not reconcile a loving God with my son being born gay - many people still hate and despise gay people. There is prejudice, even hostility towards them within some religious groups. But even though, at first, I felt angry and questioned God, I do feel that my faith has strengthened and supported me.
Like gay people themselves, parents need time to 'come out'. For two years I was just too emotional to be able to tell anyone. I needed time to adjust but I was determined to learn everything I could about homosexuality and its impact on lives. And for me it was a very steep learning curve. It was deeply shocking to realise just how widespread is homophobia within many parts of society. I wanted also to meet Adrian's gay friends and to become part of his community.
One day I read an article in a magazine about F.F.L.A.G. - Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. I went along to a meeting in Manchester. It was a wonderful release to talk openly for the first time, knowing that I was supported and understood and to listen to the experiences of parents like myself. We meet monthly and the bond of friendship within the group is very firm.
Our church family has always been important to my husband and to me. I wanted our Christian friends to know that Adrian is gay. Not talking about his life, when others were talking about their families, was as if, after all those years growing up, taking part in church activities, singing in the choir, he had now become almost invisible. I need not have worried however about their reaction. We found incredible understanding and acceptance.
Many people do not seem to realise that gay people come from ordinary, loving families like ours: that many do grow up in isolation, afraid of rejection by their families. Some become victims of bullying, verbal and physical abuse, even murder. Others self-harm, attempt suicide, or sadly even succeed in committing suicide. And all for what - a different sexuality from the majority!
I hope that, in the telling of my story, I have made some difference to the way in which many regard homosexual people and their families.
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A Guide For Families And Friends of Lesbian and Gays
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How do I Tell My Parents I'm Lesbian or Gay?
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