Telling Your Parents You're Gay or Lesbian

People often feel the greatest self-doubt before being able to tell their parents they are gay or lesbian. And when they do decide to talk about it, they often fear they'll lose the love of their parents or destroy family relationships.

Talking about sexual orientation is easier for some than others. Many people, however, no longer crave parental approval in every aspect of their lives. Once you're sure of yourself, you'll feel more secure about how you'll handle the discussion with your parents.

Most people report a highly emotional experience followed by great relief. Let your parents know you need and value their support.

Initiating the Discussion Choose a calm, quiet time -- don't decide to bring it up during a stressful period or family crisis. If you've always felt at ease talking with your parents about sex and other sensitive issues, telling them about your sexual orientation may not be as difficult. But the discussion will be difficult if you've always had rocky communications with your parents. They may be more understanding if they have gay friends.

Some people report improved parental relationships after revealing their sexual orientation. Others aren't so fortunate. Even if your parents sensed you are gay or lesbian, hearing it from you can be big news. You may choose to tell one parent first-maybe the one you trust the most not to hurt you or tell others before you're ready. Your relationship with your parent might change, for better or worse.

Preparing for Reactions Your parents also will have to deal with several other issues in addition to what you've told them. They may grieve over the loss of some of their dreams for you, such as marriage or grandchildren. They may feel guilty and wonder if they "did" anything to "make you gay." They might worry about how their friends will react.

You probably have done some reading about sexual orientation. Sharing some supportive materials or resources with your parents could help them learn more about homosexuality. They probably will have concerns about your health, especially the risk of HIV/AIDS. (If you're sexually active, it's essential that you practice safe sex and always use protection.)

But be psychologically prepared for reactions to your discussion. In extreme cases, parents have asked their children to move out. Assure your parents that you're the same son or daughter they've always known. Remind them you're still family and you're not trying to punish them.

Sometimes families absorb the news and move on. In other cases it takes years for families to reconcile. Be patient. Be strong. Be proud of who you are. Trust your instincts and be your own best friend. And don't be afraid to seek professional help if you need more support.