It is more than 20 years since I learned that my son John is gay. He told both his father and me when he was a 16-year-old schoolboy, and that was the day that changed my life.
Neither my husband nor myself had the slightest idea. He’d been through all the normal stages of a boy’s life, just like his brother who is 14 months older. I suppose we took it for granted that they would both find girl friends, get married and have children. Homosexuality was something we knew nothing about, and something we never expected would touch our lives.
This suburban dream of domesticity was shattered on the day when John told us there was something he thought we should know. "I’m gay," he said boldly. I remember it clearly as if it were yesterday. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. He was only 16 and I thought he was too young to know. I have to say, I found the news hard to take in, but I suppose I was no different from any mother in these circumstances.
My initial reactions were twofold. I was ashamed that my son had been forced to cope with the burden of this secret on his own and obviously had to screw up his courage to tell us.
The other feeling I experienced was sheer blinding terror at what he was likely to meet in life, by way of prejudice, once people knew he was gay.
Of course it was a terrible shock. There were tears on my part and on his. I tried to appear calmer than I really was. We hugged each other, I told him I loved him and we cried and cried. His father, who is very quiet and calm no matter what happens, accepted it more easily than me, as did his elder brother.
Time went on and I went through every emotion I can think of. I felt a deep sense of isolation, and I was unable to talk to anybody about the situation. I was afraid of rejection.
Eventually I realised that he was just the same son I had always loved. He didn’t choose to be gay, he was born gay, and there was nothing he could do to change that. It was me that had to change, and that the best help I could give was to try to understand. I set about reading about homosexuality and educating myself and I did eventually come to understand better.
There were no parents groups when I first found out my son was gay. It wasn’t until several years later that I discovered Manchester Parents Group, and started attending the monthly meetings. After all those years of feeling on my own, it was a wonderful relief to be amongst so many parents of gay children, who were able to speak openly without fear of prejudice, and learn from each others experiences. By this time I had accepted my son’s sexuality and I wanted to help other parents do the same. I didn’t want them to feel the isolation I did all those years ago, so I became a volunteer for the group.
My work for Manchester Parents Group is now a very important part of my life, and very fulfilling. Having a gay son has certainly changed my life for the better. With support and help, it is possible to turn the situation into a positive experience. I can now say I feel very privileged to have a gay son.
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