Parenting Openly Gay Teens

My friend Robin is one of the most amazing parents I know. When her daughter told her she was a lesbian, Robin showed her support in every way possible, even encouraging her daughter to publish a blog called Oy Vey, I’m Gay.

Ours is the first generation to really parent openly gay teens because in past generations, teens were much more secretive. I had a close friend in high school who didn’t want to be secretive. He told his Cuban-born parents he was gay. His macho dad went nuts and through him out of the house. I don’t think that would happen today. Or, would it?

I was excited to see that Nick News With Linda Ellerbee will feature a half-hour special, “Coming Out,” premiering Tuesday, Oct. 7, at 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) on Nickelodeon.  The special follows the everyday lives of gay kids as they face fear, acceptance, bullying, isolation, encouragement and ignorance, and shows how straight and non-straight teens can come together to triumph over bullying.

Here’s what the press release says:

“It takes bravery for a kid to come out,” says Ellerbee. “Being accepted by straight people is not a given.  Being young and ‘different’ is not easy. This may be tough to talk about, or hear about, but this is important stuff.  Not addressing it doesn’t make it go away.”

“In elementary school, I knew I was different from the other guys,” says Bradley, 16.  “When I realized I was gay, the biggest problem I faced was wondering if my family would accept me or not.  I’d heard stereotypes about families kicking their kids out and I was wondering, ‘Oh gosh that might be me.’”

“I’ll take a chance. With one heart-wrenching throwback out of this closet, I’ll say the words I’ve been meaning to say my whole life. I’m lesbian,” says Christine, 14.

“Coming out isn’t going to be a one-time thing.  You’re going to meet new people every day, says Lia, 16.  “You’re going to always have that burning question in the back of your head: Am I going to come out today? Am I going to come out tomorrow?”

“I’m not a special case,” Marcel, 13, said.  “There are many people who are my age, and are gay. And you (kids) can say, ‘Well, I don’t know any gay people.’ You probably do, but they’re probably not out to you.”

My daughter has a handful of friends — male and female — who have discussed with her their struggle with sexuality and their conversations with their parents.  She’s convinced that parents who react like idiots mess their kids up.

Here’s what my friend Robin wrote to me: When my daughter came out to me, it was a relief in a way because I knew she was struggling with something, I just didn’t know what. I was not at all upset or disappointed. I was thankful that she felt close enough to me to share. My advice to her was not tho let that one part of her define her. I told her I’m a mom, wife, flight attendant, volunteer…but not one of those things defines who I am.

Robin also says: I try to empower my daughter in every way as I do my other two daughters. I set the same boundaries for her in any relationships.

Robin is awesome, but not all parents are as comfortable with the news.

I’m sure that having a child who is gay is scary and emotional. I’m sure it takes some self-introspection.  Still, I can’t see myself rejecting my own child for who he or she loves — could you? If you’re parenting an openly gay teen, what are the emotions you went through and what advice was most helpful to you?

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